Rifled Model 1842 Musket
The Model 1842 Percussion Musket marked the end of the flintlock era for US military longarms. Although the Ordnance Department had authorized the production of percussion arms as far back as 1833 those arms were generally specialty types, intended for mounted troops or riflemen. Unlike the previous percussion model arms the Model 1842 musket was intended for general issue to all line infantry units in the US army.
Work on the Model 1842 Musket began in early 1841. In March of that year two model locks were forwarded from the Springfield Arsenal to the Chief of Ordnance George Bomford. Changes were apparently made to the original lock configuration for in September of 1841 another lock was forwarded from Springfield.
The design of the Model 1842 musket was essentially identical to the Model 1840 Musket as produced at the Springfield Arsenal as well as the private armories of Lemuel Pomeroy and Daniel Nippes. Both muskets are .69 caliber arms with 42 inch barrels. The only real difference between the two models is of course their ignition systems and locks, as well as the profile of the stocks flats, which end in a pointed arc on the Model 1840 and is rounded on the Model 1842.
A letter dated November 23, 1841 from Chief of Ordnance Colonel George Bomford to Major Ripley at the Springfield Armory stated,
"The Musket is to be arranged on the same principle as the [Model 1841] Rifle, and with the least alteration from the present [Model 1840] pattern which circumstances will admit..."
Production of the Model 1842 Musket would begin in 1844 at the Springfield Armory and in 1845 at Harpers Ferry. Some small number of muskets were made for private sale by the firm of Waters and Flagg. Additionally some 6,000 Model 1842 type muskets were produced at the Palmetto Iron Works in Columbia, South Carolina.
As with all previous US military muskets several contractors sought contracts to produce them. Offers from Lemuel Pomeroy, who had produced Model 1840 Muskets, as well as Eli Whitney Jr., and Henry Leman were forwarded to the Ordnance Department although no contracts were forthcoming.
The Model 1842 Musket was an important milestone in US arms development as it was the first regulation percussion musket, as well as being the first arm fabricated at both National Armories with interchangeable components, and the last smoothbore musket. The second point was clearly illustrated in 1854 in the wake of a flood at the Harpers Ferry Armory. 6,000 Model 1842 Muskets were disassembled, cleaned, polished, and reassembled with no need for time consuming marking and remarking of components.
From 1844 to 1855 a grand total of 272,599 muskets would be produced at the two National Armories, with 165,970 (just over 60%) being delivered by the Springfield Armory. The muskets are all essentially identical except for their lock markings. The only other variance worth noting is that the thumb piece on hammers of muskets made from 1849 onwards are about 3/16 of an inch taller and .05 inch wider than earlier production muskets, and was done to help facilitate the carry of the muskets at "support arms".
When the decision to adopt rifled arms as standard general issue weapons was made in 1855 the Model 1842 Muskets were prime candidates for upgrading with rifling. The earliest known authorization to rifle arms dates to January of 1855 in a letter from Chief of Ordnance Henry Knox Craig to the Saint Louis Arsenal. Records, however, show the first M1842 Muskets to be rifled were completed at the Springfield Armory in 1856. American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume 3 shows that from 1856 to 1859 a total of 43,759 Model 1842 muskets were rifled, of which 20,076 (about 46%) were not fitted with rear sights.
The muskets rifled during this period were rifled with a 3 groove progressive depth rifling that makes one turn in 72 inches. The ramrods of the muskets were also cupped to accept conical ammunition. Muskets that were not fitted with long range rear sights received no additional modifications.
Additional Model 1842 Muskets are thought to have been rifled during the Civil War, although no complete inventory of those alterations is currently available.
The musket offered here is a nice representative example of a rifled and unsighted Model 1842 Musket as altered from 1856 to 1859. This particular musket was produced at the Springfield Armory in 1853; a total of 14,500 muskets were delivered by the Springfield Armory that year. This musket retains its original brass blade front sight, as is correct for unsighted alterations. The bore shows the proper 3 groove rifling, and the ramrod is properly cupped.
The iron parts of this musket have a mostly toned bright finish that is quite attractive. The barrel is marked with the proper V (over) P (over) eagle head proof used by the Springfield Armory. Additionally there is a small T stamped on the left breech flat. The barrel tang date of 1853 matches the lock date. The barrel is full length and complete with the correct under mounted bayonet lug. The rifling is also in very nice condition. Mechanically the gun is in excellent condition with a very crisp lock that hold well at both half and full cock.
The stock is in nice condition with a lovely dark color, and shows some feathering in the grain, especially around the wrist. There are the expected bumps and handling marks along the stock, but no cracks or splits. There is a scratch on the left stock flat that is worth noting, but based on the coloration it is from the period of use. There are however no visible cartouches on the stock, and judging from its good condition, it my have never had any.
All in all this is a very nice representative example of a fairly scarce altered Model 1842 Rifled Musket. The Model 1842 was an essential component of both Federal and Confederate armies, especially during the first half of the war. This musket would also likely make a very good shooter if one was looking for a nice original piece for skirmishing.