Richmond Armory Rifle-Musket         


Description and Photograph




     The parts and machinery taken at Harper’s Ferry in April of 1861 were transported to Richmond, Virginia and set up in the old Virginia Armory.  The state of Virginia transferred the armory to the Confederate Government in August, 1861 and from that time forward the facility was known as the Richmond Armory.  The Richmond Armory was by far the most prolific maker of arms for the Confederacy.  The rifles and rifle-muskets made at the Richmond Armory are the most widely recognized and sought after long arm of the Confederate era.

     Slight variations in the profile, markings, and the materials used in the construction of the early Richmond rifle-muskets exist.  This variation allows the modern collector to more specifically calculate the date of manufacture of a particular arm.  In the case of this example, it has the year 1862 stamped into the low hump lock.  This of course dates its year of manufacture, but it can be dated more specifically than just by the year by its configuration.

     In February of 1862 the Armory changed the method of attaching the nose cap from a rivet to a screw and the high hump lockplate was still in use; the brass nose cap of this arm is screwed on.  In March, the Armory reduced the lock plate profile and made the last of the iron butt plates; this arm has the low profile lock.  April saw the first full month of lower profile lock production and the first of brass butt plates like that shown here.  May brought little change, but the Federal army’s glacial advance up the Virginia peninsula induced the authorities in Richmond to move the Armory’s stock making machinery to Georgia.  This of course took time and the Armory’s production plummeted by more than fifty percent in June due to lack of stocks.  In order to keep up all possible production, the Armory began producing stocks by shaping and sanding stock blanks by hand.  July brought new changes; with the stock making machinery out of service and progress on the handmade stocks slow, the lack of stocks seriously affected output; new production remained less than half of its earlier totals, and the Armory’s focus shifted to repairing arms picked up on the Seven Days battlefields and utilizing parts leftover from Harper’s Ferry.  During this month only 471 rifle-muskets were manufactured, but 1050 arms salvaged from the Seven Days Battles around Richmond were put in order.  In August only 197 handmade stocks were produced in Richmond; new production continued to fall and salvage and repair was pushed forward.  September saw the production of only 20 handmade stocks.  In October no handmade stocks were produced and the first machined stocks made in Macon, Georgia were arrived in Richmond.

     The rifle-musket shown here has an unmarked brass buttplate and a screwed on brass nose cap.  The ramrod is the Harper’s Ferry swelled style rod.  This is not a Richmond produced rod, but is correct for these early model rifle-muskets and this one appears to be original to this gun.  All three barrel bands have the offset “U”, meaning that they were made at Richmond.  The stock of this example does not have the Maynard primer mortise and it is not handmade, which shows that it is a “Richmond” stock, though in reality they were made in Macon, Georgia and shipped to Richmond.  The outline of an inspector’s cartouche can be seen just below, and touching the upper lock washer.  It did not go deep into the wood because the edge of the stamp overlapped the edge of the washer.

     Comparing this rifle-musket’s configuration to production records at the Richmond Armory indicates that the gun was made in the last quarter of 1862.  The gun’s condition is excellent; the metal has a beautiful, smooth patina with only the slightest pitting at the breech.  The gun has only one imperfection; the barrel has been cleaned at some point and has been recolored.  The barrel has the appropriate sight stabilizing cutout under the sight assuring that it is indeed a Richmond made barrel.  The two leaf rear sight is original.  The viewed and proved stamps in the left breech are clear and the “P” is the desirable “broken P” proved stamp.  The rifling remains exceptionally strong, and while not bright is very deep and has no pitting.  The correct, original stock shows the minor dings and nicks consistent with use and has an untouched, deep natural patina.  Both sling swivels are original.    

     These factors combined with records of the Richmond Armory leave no doubt whatsoever that this Richmond rifle-musket is complete and original as manufactured in the Richmond Armory in the late fall of 1862.  Every screw, barrel band, sight, butt plate, stock, lock, ramrod and barrel is original.  The stock was made in Macon, Georgia and shipped to Richmond, as were all of the original Richmond stocks, except the few hand carved examples.  The brass butt plate and brass nose cap fit perfectly.  This one can be purchased for $14,900.00.




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