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Union Manufacturing Co. percussion altered Model 1816 type I Musket

Union Manufacturing Co. percussion altered Model 1816 type I Musket

SKU: FA-19-0013

     The Union Manufacturing Company was founded in the late spring of 1860 when 42 prominent Richmond businessmen operating under the name "Old Dominion Company" convinced John H. Lester, a Connecticut native, to move his Brooklyn plant for manufacturing planing machines, steam engines, and sewing machines to Richmond. After relocating to Richmond, the entity began operating under the name of Lester Manufacturing Company. Lester would withdraw from the firm on April 1, 1861 after a controversy over the manufacture of Elliptic sewing machines and from the overvaluation of Lester's machinery that had been moved to Richmond, and sew the firm for the value of his stock. The suit would be settled in December of 1863. Slightly before Lester's withdrawal, at least February of 1861, the company voted to reorganize, and changed its name to the Union Manufacturing Company. The company had two major branches; one for the manufacturing of sewing machines and the other for arms manufacture. Apparently, the firm also expended operations to also include Woodworth's Planing Machines as well as Steam Engines.

     Although Lester would later deny at his military tribunal, during February and March of 1861 he actively pursued arms making machinery and an arms contract for 5,000 to 10,000 Enfield rifle-muskets for the Commonwealth of Virginia. A March proposal from the firm offered to lease the Virginia State Armory for 10 years and commence to altering the existing flintlock muskets at a rate of $1.50 per alteration. After Lester's departure the firm would affect the alteration of muskets for Virginia, although at a much higher rate. In 1861 and 1862 the firm would receive payments totaling $45,550.00 for the alteration of muskets. No record survives detailing the exact price per alteration accorded to the Union Manufacturing Company, however, the forensic accounting of John Murphy and Howard Madaus an estimate of $5.75 per alteration, which is considerably more than what other contractors are known to have been paid. The $5.75 figure would account for the alteration of roughly 7,900 muskets. However, if the firm was paid commensurate to other contractors, at $4.00 or $4.50 an alteration, a total of 11,315 or 10,060 muskets respectively is reached. Records from the Virginia Chief of Ordnance indicate that the two main contractors for the alteration of muskets were to alter 10,000 muskets each, hence, $4.50 per alteration is probably a fairly accurate figure, and the extra money constitutes payments for extra cones and perhaps cone seats. 

     The Union Manufacturing Company was one of very few Confederate contractors to mark their arms. Those muskets altered by the Union Manufacturing Company bare a "U" mark struck on the inner face of the hammer, in association with an alteration number in Arabic Numerals (for example U over 169). The alteration number is often stamped on the underside of the barrel, and on the remnant of the inside of the flint pan. The latter number is often cut away due to the reshaping of the lock to accommodate the bolster, indicating the the number was stamped immediately after disassembly. The hammers are relatively tall, 17/16 to 19/16 inches, knurled cocking spur. The hammers are substantial and well made. Like most of the arms altered for Virginia the alterations by the Union Manufacturing Company are in the cone seat, or brazed bolster method. An iron bolster was fitted over the existing vent hole and brazed in place. A hole was then drilled through the face of the bolster into the vent. The hole was threaded and filled in with a screw that was brazed into place. Typically, this screw head was then milled flat, but on some examples it is still visible. A second hole was drilled into the upper portion of the bolster and then threaded for the cone. Union Manufacturing alterations also have a unique round bottomed bolster that generally resembles a comma.

     Some Evans contract M1816 muskets are marked with a reassembly number on the back face of the barrel between the left side flat and the breech plug. Murphy and Madaus speculated that these muskets may have been altered by the Confederate Government at the Richmond Arsenal with components purchased from the Union Manufacturing Company. Records show that no fewer than 2,752 hammers, 750 cone seats, and 3,500 spare cones were purchased by the Confederate Government from the Union Manufacturing Company between October 1861 and August of 1862. The Union Manufacturing Company was also contracted to for the "cleaning and repairing" of 765 muskets by the Confederate Government in April of 1862, and may have done more work, possibly including percussion alterations under government contract as well.

     The musket offered here is a textbook example of a Union Manufacturing Company alteration of a Brooke Evans contract Model 1816 type 1 flintlock musket. Presumably, this musket is one of 8,230 "U.S. muskets, flint, Evans' contract, bright." in the 1859 Adjutant-General's report on Virginia's arms. Evans had delivered 10,000 Model 1816 muskets assigned to him in 1821 on account of John Rodgers. When the alteration was performed the gun was marked in three locations as typical with Union Manufacturing alterations. On this example, the number “278” is stamped on the barrel’s breech face. The lock was also stamped “278” on the inside of the pan, although since the marking was applied prior to the lock being milled to accommodate. The hammer is marked on its inner surface with “306” with an inverted “U” above it. Although the hammer’s mating number does not match the other two numbers, given its matching patina and excellent fit I would wager that it has been with the gun since the war.

     The metal components of the musket have an untouched gray-brown patina that is slightly disturbed on the top of the muzzle from the fitting of a bayonet at some point. Generally, the metal shows only light scattered pitting, though the area on and around the breech is moderately pitted as one would expect of a well-used Confederate musket. The rear trigger guard tang extension is marked with an electro-pencil engraved number; “NYCD84172”.

     The stock is in about good condition with no major issues. The stock flat is marked with a faint “V” near the center, and another stamp that is illegible is found at its tail. There is a slight piece of more modern wood loss to the left upper corner of the buttstock, and another area behind the rear barrel band from where the band was forced on backwards at one point. Overall, the stock is free from major issues and has not been cleaned or repaired.

     The musket is mechanically excellent, with the lock functioning crisply at both half and full cock. The ramrod matches the patina of the musket, but is a “trumpet-head” style found on Model 1840 and 1842 muskets, and therefore is not perfectly original to this musket, though it certainly has the appearance of having been with it for a very long time. The rod lacks threads and measures right at 41.5 inches.

     Overall this is a nice example of a scarce Confederate percussion converted by a desirable firm. Muskets like this made up the backbone of Confederate ordnance in the first half of the war, and are an excellent way to include a genuine Confederate arm into your collection at a price that is hard to beat.

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