Vicksburg Captured Louisiana marked P1853 Rifle-Musket
Few nations in history have been as unprepared for war as the Confederate States of America in 1861. With domestic manufacturing incapable of supplying the arms required for the new Confederate armies purchasing agents flocked to Europe to purchase arms. English brokers proved to be all too eager to supply their American customers with arms and Confederate purchasing agents would eventually acquire in excess of 200,000 longarms from British manufacturers. Additional arms would be purchased in England by private speculators and resold in the South.
The majority of arms purchased in England were acquired by the Confederate central government, although numerous States also sent purchasing agents to acquire arms directly for their use. These State purchased arms are among the rarest and most desired imported arms by collectors today.
The State of Louisiana was no exception and records indicate that the State had a purchasing agent, a Mr. Tilton, in London as by August of 1861. Tilton managed to secure arms in fairly short order as by September 29 Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore reported that 1,600 arms had already been shipped to Havana.
On November 13, 1861 1,000 long Enfields belonging to Louisiana were delivered at Savannah as part of the cargo of the Fingal. These arms, based on the research included in "The English Connection" are believed to have been delivered to Louisiana. Further arms consignments included 500 Enfields on the Gladiator and 800 aboard the Stephen Hart, as well as 1,140 rifles were delivered by the Nashville at Wilmington. These later cargoes, plus additional shipments, were in turn requisitioned by the Confederate Ordnance Department. By June of 1863 a total of roughly 3,705 arms belonging to Louisiana had been diverted to other Confederate troops.
Additional shipments consisting of 1,540 rifles on the Nassau and 251 rifles on the Elizabeth were captured by the Federal Navy and apparently pressed into service.
In all, the arms purchased by Louisiana consisted of 5,000 Pattern 1853 Rifle-Muskets and "200 and odd" Brunswick rifles. Based on surviving records the cases of rifles belonging to Louisiana were marked with a "L" within a hexagram or with a hexagram "L" flanked by "F" and "R" in the case of the cargo delivered by the Nashville.
Although no Louisiana marked Brunswick rifles are known to survive, several P1853 Rifle-Muskets survive with a hexagram "L" struck twice into the belly of the stock just behind the rear extension of the trigger guard. None of the surviving muskets show engraved numbers on the buttplate tang, although some do exhibit a stamped number in a small numeral font at the top of the buttplate heel. Rifle-Muskets marked in this manner are thought to compose arms delivered early-on and, to my knowledge, are known only on 1861 dated muskets. All of the Louisiana purchased P1853's are Birmingham produced guns and show lock dates of 1861 or 1862.
The musket offered here is a very interesting example of a Louisiana marked P1853 Rifle-Musket. Unfortunately the rifle has been "sporterized" by shortening the forearm about 1/4 of an inch behind the middle barrel band position. The barrel has also been shortened to 37.75 inches and reamed out to about .60 caliber. The rear sight has been removed and the front sight has been filed into a small bead type sight. The only remaining barrel band, which does not appear to be an Enfield band, has had the top flattened to facilitate aiming.
The lock is well marked with 1862 over TOWER to the front of the lock and with a crown at the rear of the lock. The barrel shows correct Birmingham proofs. The lock is non-functioning although there is still mainspring tension. I assume the problem is related to the sear. The barrel's tang is also deformed, which may have occurred when the musket was modified into a shotgun. The wood that remains in in good condition, although it shows a number of handling marks. There is a slight depression on the left side of the buttstock. There is also a large hexagram carved into the right side of the stock. The center of the hexagram has a 6 pointed "starburst" carved into it. The belly of the stock has two clearly visible hexagram "L" Louisiana viewer's marks.
This particular example has a quite remarkable carving on the left side stock flat opposite the lock. The carving identifies the gun to a Private George Voorhees of Company B of the 124th Illinois Infantry. The bottom line of the carving also shows "VICKSBURG" indicating where Private Voorhees acquired the rifle.
George Voorhees was 18 years old when he mustered into the 124th Illinois on September 10, 1862 in Batavia, Illinois. Voorhees served with the regiment for the duration of the war, apparently avoiding any serious injuries and illness. He was present with his regiment for the Vicksburg Campaign including the battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, and Champion's Hill, as well as siege operations at Vicksburg. Following the city's surrender the 124th stayed in Vicksburg until November of 1863 at which point the regiment was sent to Louisiana for an expedition to Monroe after which the Regiment returned to Mississippi. On January 23, 1864 the Regiment was proclaimed to be the best drill regiment of the 3rd Division of the 17th Army Corps and was awarded an "Excelsior" banner which was attached to its flag until April 5, 1864 when it the Regiment reassigned to Malyby's Division, Department of Vicksburg, and then to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 16th Army Corps (New), Military Division West Mississippi in February 1865. The Regiment then participated in the Mobile Campaign and was involved in the sieges and battles of both Spanish Fort and Fort Blakeley. The Regiment then occupied Mobile before marching back towards Vicksburg where the Regiment was mustered out on July 28, 1865. The Regiment then returned to Illinois and discharged in Chicago on August 16, 1865.
Overall this is really an outstanding relic of the Vicksburg Campaign. Louisiana Enfields are among the rarest of all Confederate imported arms and even with the sporterization this is a nice example of one. With less than a dozen known examples of Louisiana marked P1853s it is unlikely that you will see another anytime soon. Some tasteful wood restoration work would greatly improve the displayability of this gun. As it is, the price is certainly "right" for a scarce piece that even the most advanced Confederate collections are missing.