SC Robinson altered 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Musket
In November of 1860 the Commonwealth of Virginia had in storage at its two arsenals a total of 48,187 flintlock muskets. A further 5,801 flintlock muskets were maintained at various militia regimental depots. Although the State Legislature had made commitments in 1859 after John Brown's raid on the Harpers Ferry Arsenal to update the State inventories of flintlock arms that vast majority of that work would be completed after Virginia seceded from the Union.
The percussion alterations affected for Virginia would be delivered from the fall of 1861 through the early summer of 1862. The work of percussion altering the vast stocks of flintlock muskets owned by the State of Virginia would fall to some ten contractors, although only 6 would alter significant quantities of arms. The most prolific of the Virginia contractors would be the firm of Samuel C. Robinson. Robinson, like most Southerners who would go on to found armories during the war, had no previous arms making experience. Rather, according to the 1859 Richmond Directory, Robinson operated the Belvidere Planing Mills at 9th and Arch Streets.
In the early Spring of 1861, Robinson took on John H. Lester on as a silent partner in his embryonic revolver manufacturing business which would soon be turned over to Edward Spiller and David Burr. After that, Robinson turned his firm's attention to percussion altering arms for the State of Virginia, and the later manufacture of copies of the Model 1859 Sharps carbine.
Robinson would deliver his first lot of 20 percussion altered muskets on August 5, 1861 while Lester was still securing machinery for the works. Work progressed rapidly and by the end of August Robinson had delivered a total of 160 arms, which would be followed by 600 in September and 1,320 in October. in September of 1861.Vouchers showing 15 payments made to Robinson November 1861 and December 1862 total $73,830.58, which equated to some 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.
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. The percussion hammer is new made and of a military pattern. The thumb piece is knurled with two sets of oblique lines that intersect in the center of the hammer. The knurling was done nearly, but not nearly to the standards of a northern or National Armory alteration. 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 musket offered here is a textbook example of a 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Musket altered to percussion by S.C. Robinson of Richmond, Virginia. The musket is clearly marked on the lock with an 1817 production date; one of 4,536 muskets completed that year. As correct for Virginia Manufactory muskets made prior to 1818, this example was fitted with an integral iron pan that was milled flush with the lock at the time of percussioning. The musket has a 41.75 inch barrel, which is within the accepted variations for Virginia Manufactory products. The under side of the barrel and breech plug are marked with a “777” mating number that is repeated on the inside of the trigger guard bow, as well as the inside of the lock and the lock mortise. Other Virginia Manufactory markings consist of the number “3” stamped on the forward extension of the trigger guard plate, as well as the rear sling swivel stud, rear barrel band, side plate, and bayonet lug. Typically this number would also be encountered on the buttplate and middle and upper barrel bands, but those components are devoid of markings on this example.
The inside of the hammer and underside of the barrel both show textbook examples of the S.C. Robinson alteration numbering system, which in this case consists of the number “13” stamped over the number “9”. The bolster and hammer are both typical Robinson parts and show a fair level of workmanship for Southern alterations.
The musket has some scattered pitting over the metal surfaces that is more severe around the breech and on the front projection of the lock. The lock pitting partially obscures the word “VIRGINIA” stamped forward of the hammer and leaves the script “Manufactory” almost illegible. The metal and wood have been cleaned at some point, but not it was not overly done, and the musket retains an attractive look. The musket is complete with a 42 inch iron ramrod with a cupped head that, while old, is not correct for a Virginia Manufactory musket. The musket's bore is dark and fairly well pitted, although the look could probably be improved by a vigorous scrubbing.
Mechanically the musket is in good shape with the lock holding well on bold half and full cock. I examined the internals of the lock and feel that the mainspring is probably a replacement, although it is quite old and may date to the Civil War era its self.
The stock is surprisingly good for a Confederate altered Virginia Manufactory musket and still retains reasonably sharp lock panels, as well as two small “W” or “M” inspectors cartouches, one behind the rear extension of the trigger guard and one on the stock flat. The stock is free from any major breaks or cracks. There is a thin crack from the nose of the stock that runs to the anti-twist lug mortise, and a small amount of wood loss to the left side of the nose, both of which are concealed by the upper barrel band. Other than that, the stock has typical handling marks, bumps, and bruises that one would expect.
Overall, this is a very nice example of a Confederate 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Musket altered to percussion by S.C. Robinson of Richmond, Virginia. This musket has a nice look to it and will look great in a collection of Confederate arms. This musket is priced quite reasonably compared to other Virginia Manufactory muskets I have seen lately and is a real bargain in terms of Confederate arms.