Musketoon cut M1816 Musket with S.C. Robinson Style Alteration
The Commonwealth of Virginia was, in terms of the number of arms she possessed, one of the better equipped States to join the Confederacy. These arms however consisted primarily of old flintlock muskets, more than 60,000 of them. In order to modernize them the State Legislature contracted with a number of private companies to alter these arms to percussion. The two largest contracts, for "no less than ten thousand" alterations would be given to the Union Manufacturing Company and to Samuel C. Robinson, both of Richmond.
Most of the arms manufacturers that operated in the Confederacy during the Civil War were novices at firearms production, and S.C. Robinson was no exception. Prior to the war he ran a wood planing mill and was a lumber inspector in Richmond. It is there that he met the recent transplant from New England, John H. Lester, who had machanical experience producing wood planing machines, sewing machines, and steam engines.
Following Lester's departure from the Union Manufacturing Company in late March or early April 1861, Robinson took Lester on as a silent partner in his revolver manufacturing business which would soon be turned over to Edward Spiller and David Burr. After that, Robinson turned the firm's attention to percussion altering arms for the State of Virginia, and the later manufacture of copies of the Model 1859 Sharps carbine.
For much of 1861 Robinson struggled to acquire the machinery necessary to complete the minimum 10,000 alterations required by his contract. However, by September the firm had completed its first batch of 600 altered muskets and delivered them to the State. Between November 4, 1861 and December 15, 1862 the firm would receive 15 payments totaling $73,830.58 for the delivery of an estimated 18,782 percussion altered muskets (although approximately 100 rifles are known to have been altered as well) along with an additional 1,260 percussion cones.
Concurrent with Robinson's work for Virginia the firm also was engaged with the Confederate Ordnance Department. Although no records survive indicating the alteration of muskets by Robinson for the Confederate Government we do know that Robinson sold component parts of his manufacture for percussion altering muskets. Between September 2, 1861 and September 10, 1862 the Confederate Ordnance Department in Richmond purchased no less than 1,700 hammers, 7,750 musket cones, 700 cone seats, 250 cone seat screws, 967 pistol cones, and 446 tumbler screws. Robinson also billed the CS Ordnance Department $200.00 for "cleaning & polishing 100 muskets".
Further work was done by Robinson for the State of North Carolina which purchased 500 sets of alteration components consisting of cones, hammers, cone seats, and cone seat screws as well as an additional 1,000 musket cones on May 2 and October 10, 1862 respectively. The final delivery of cones to North Carolina appears to have been the last of the component parts produced by Robinson.
Muskets altered to percussion by S.C. Robinson show a high quality of workmanship, although the parts may appear relatively crude when compared to Northern alterations. The alterations affected by Robinson are identified by the three faceted brazed bolster used in their alterations, which is very near identical to those of Model 1842 muskets. Robinson appears to have utilized two style of mating numbers on their alterations. Those styles consist of a pair of chiseled Roman Numerals, one over another, or more neatly stamped Arabic Numerals in the same configuration. The reassembly numbers are noted in "Confederate Rifles and Muskets" as being stamped on the bottom of the barrel and on the inside surface of the hammer. The authors also note that "A surprisingly large number of surviving altered muskets subsequently were shortened into musketoons for cavalry service."
The S.C. Robinson altered musket here is one of those muskets that was later cut down into a shorter, more serviceable, arm for mounted troops. The barrel on our example is 31.5 inches long. The forearm of the stock has been trimmed down accordingly to provide a 3 and 1/8 inch muzzle extension. The musketoon retains both the middle and rear barrel bands, and has a correspondingly shortened ramrod, complete with a threaded end.
Our musket was originally a Model 1816 type 1 produced by an unknown contractor, probably from surplus Springfield Arsenal components. The lock is marked with a rearward facing eagle over US forward of the hammer, with 1818 stamped vertically at the tail end of the lock. The barrel proofs consist of a large recessed P over V reading from the muzzle. No inspectors cartouches appear to have ever been present on the musket. The tang of the buttplate is also unmarked.
Additionally, the musketoon lacks the typical Roman or Arabic reassembly numbers seen on alterations performed by Robinson. The hammer is also atypical of Robinson manufacture, with a noticeably shorter thumb piece, although it is certainly of Confederate manufacture. Given these two features I am inclined to believe that this musket was not altered by S.C. Robinson, but rather with components purchased from that firm.
The musketoon is a very good shape, with a pleasant dark patina that shows some pewter colors in areas of wear. The lock functions smartly and hold well at both half and full cock. The left side of the percussion cone has some damage, it appears to be old damage, as the patina is consistent with the balance of the gun. There is also a small hole just behind the muzzle on the top side of the barrel. The origin of this is unknown to me, but I believe it is the result of a brass front sight being blown off of the barrel while firing. The condition of the stock is very nice as well. It appears to be 100% original and free from any sanding, refinishing, or restoration work. As noted, no inspection cartouches can be found.
Overall this is a very nice example of Confederate brazed bolster altered musket. Although it may not be an actual S.C. Robinson product, I feel strongly that it was altered with components, or at least a cone seat, manufactured by that firm. This is also a classic example of a CS Arsenal reworked cavalry arm. If you collect Confederate percussion alterations or cavalry weapons this is an excellent opportunity to add a very nice and affordable example to your collection.