Unpublished Hewes & Phillips percussion altered Model 1822/28 Musket
The work of Hewes and Phillips needs little introduction to the student or collector of percussion altered muskets. However, the story of the company is little known, and to my knowledge subject to no detailed scholarly publication save for Mr. James C. Altemus’ article “The Hewes & Phillips Story” as published by the American Society of Arms Collectors in Bulletin No. 33, Spring 1976. The brief outline provided here is supplied in more detail in that article.
Hewes and Phillips began their business manufacturing steam engines in New York City in 1845. A year later the firm relocated to Newark, New Jersey finally settling at the foot of Orange Street next to the Passaic River. At the onset of the Civil War the firm turned its hands to percussion altering muskets for the State of New Jersey as well as the Federal Government. The firm was also instrumental in manufacturing the turret rings, and armor for the USS Monitor in an astonishing 21 days.
The first work altering muskets that the firm engaged in was for the State of New Jersey. The State’s inventory of arms completed in January 1, 1861 showed 7,446 flintlock muskets on hand. Hewes and Phillips would agree to perform the alterations for $2.95 each. New Jersey Adjutant General records show that 7,481 muskets would be percussion altered for the State, some 7,000 of which are believed to have been done by Hewes and Phillips with the balance delivered by the firm of Field & Horton. After completing alterations for New Jersey the company began altering muskets for the Federal Government. Between December 11, 1862 and March 30, 1863, the firm delivered 12,127 muskets to the Federal Government. As sizeable portion of the muskets altered for the Federal government were actually re-altered from cone-in-barrel altered muskets.
The percussion alterations performed by Hewes and Phillips were all accomplished via the chambered breech method. To accomplish this the barrel was removed from the gun and the old breech section sliced off. The barrel was then threaded and a newly cast breech piece was screwed onto the barrel. The old flint components were removed from the lock and a new made percussion hammer was installed. The muskets were fitted with rear sights, backwards, usually of the Model 1858 pattern, though some 1861 pattern rear sights were used as well. The front sights of the muskets were relocated to the front strap of the upper band and enlarge to the iron type sight used on rifled and sighted Frankfort Arsenal Maynard altered muskets.
Hewes & Phillips alterations have been categorized into three types based primarily on the bolster’s shape, though hammer shape changed as work progressed. Type 1 alterations have a unique round bottomed bolster with a convex face and cleanout screw. They are equipped with Model 1855-esq hammers and found marked with the date 1861 and H&P stamped on the top of the breech. Type 2 feature a bolster that more resembles the Model 1842 musket bolster, though it protrudes further from the face of the lock and is also equipped with a cleanout screw. Type 3 alterations also have M1842-esq bolster, though it is more flush to the lock and lacks a cleanout screw. The H&P stamp is applied to the face of the bolster, though the date stamp, 1862 or 1863, is still applied to the top of the breech. Type 3 alterations also make use of a different style hammer that is much more similar to the Model 1842 musket hammer.
The musket offered here is very unique for a Hewes & Phillips alteration in that it does not conform to the established typology of Hewes and Phillips conversions. It is undoubtedly a Hewes and Phillips product based on the H&P stamp on the top of the breech. In fact, the alteration is typical of all early Hewes & Phillips except for the shape of the bolster, which appears to be a leftover from the Remington-Maynard alterations performed at the Frankfort Arsenal in Philadelphia. New Jersey had a good working relation with that Arsenal and had 1,978 muskets altered there in 1858. The use of surplus Remington-Maynard breech pieces is not unknown, as some number of guns were altered by, or at least sold by Joseph Grubb of Philadelphia to the City’s Homeguard in 1862.
I believe that this particular alteration represents the very first work accomplished by the firm in 1861 for the State of New Jersey. The musket itself is a Model 1822/28 musket by Marine T. Wickham. The barrel is marked on the left breech flat with an N.J surcharge denoting New Jersey State Ownership. The top of the breech is marked with the year of its alteration to percussion in 1861.
The musket has been lightly cleaned. The metal parts are taking on a dull gunmetal color. The stock has been slightly sanded, which has lightened the color of the wood, as well as making some of the assorted cartouches and inspectors stamps somewhat light. Mechanically the gun is excellent, with the lock functioning crisply at half and full cock. Although H&P fitted their alterations with rear sights, they did not rifle many of their conversions, and this musket retains its original smooth bore, which is in excellent condition.
Overall, this musket is in very good condition and is a scarce example of an unpublished variation of Hewes & Phillips work. Due to their popularity with skirmishers these muskets can be hard to find in good condition, and when found often command a premium as far as Northern percussion alterations are concerned. This musket is quite competitively priced.