This is an excellent example of one of the rarest of Civil War rifles from one of the most famous manufacturers of the 19th Century. This is the Deringer Original Percussion Rifle, sometimes referred to as the 1861 Deringer Rifle, in .58 caliber. These rifles are similar to the Model 1817 rifles manufactured by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia years earlier. It is believed that these Deringer rifles were either purchased by the state of New Jersey or by some of the private militia companies formed in southern Pennsylvania at the outbreak of the Civil War.
There is yet another mystery surrounding these rare rifles and that relates to whether any were purchased by the U.S. Government during the Civil War. Deringer traveled to Washington, D.C. with a sample rifle in July 1861 and offered to furnish 500 to 600 rifles to the Ordnance Department. General James Ripley, Chief of Ordnance, wrote to Deringer on July 11, 1861, stating that the rifles could not be purchased unless there were sufficient numbers to arm an entire infantry regiment and the purchase was authorized by the secretary of war.
Surviving correspondence from General Ripley to Deringer on July 28, 1861 (Deringer’s letter, probably written to General Ripley on July 26th, has not survived) directed Deringer to contact the Ordnance Department’s purchasing agent, Captain Silas Crispin, in New York City, who would then determine “if the arms are of a kind and quality which it is desirable to obtain for the U.S. service,” and if the price was appropriate. No additional information about any U.S. Government purchase of Deringer’s rifle has surfaced.
The Deringer Rifles known to exist are in either .54 or .58 caliber with the .58 caliber versions being the more common of the two. Deringer Rifle examples are also known with both brown and bright metal finishes. All rifles manufactured by Deringer are believed to have been produced in 1861 and only from 200 to 1,000 are believed to have been manufactured, making this one of the rarest of Civil War rifles.
As noted, this particular Deringer Rifle is in .58 caliber and it has the brown finish throughout, which is the finish Deringer predominantly used in his earlier US rifle contracts. The length of the rifle is 51 ¼” and the Barrel is 36” in length and is round and gradually tapers to the muzzle, which has a flat crown. The bore is rifled with seven .085” wide by .03” deep grooves. These barrels make one right hand turn in 48”. The bore is in excellent condition given the age of this rifle. Since there is no “P” proof stamp on the left flat of the barrel, then this was probably a newly produced Deringer barrel made specifically for his early Civil War production.
The top of the barrel has the original 1” sight dovetailed into the barrel just under eight inches forward of the breech. The rear of the sight had a standing leaf sighted for 100 yards. The original folding leaf is absent. The front sight is iron and measures ¼” by 5/16” at the base and it is located approximately 1 3/16” behind the muzzle and it is still tightly secured to the barrel.
The original nipple is present and is in fine condition. The firing channel appears to be unobstructed to the breech chamber. This rifle was fitted with a brass deflection cup, which was designed to capture the percussion particles to help prevent corrosion of the barrel. The nipple bolster has the Deringer-characteristic long 1 ½” profile without a cleanout screw. The bolster is flush with the side of the lockplate.
The top, exposed portion of the barrel retains 90% of the original browned finish with the underside, protected portion remaining in the white. The bottom of the barrel has a serif “F” assembly stamp adjacent to an “XL” part number stamp. There is another “XVIII” part stamp approximately 4 inches further down the bottom of the barrel. The original Breech Plug has a witness line that aligns with the corresponding witness line on the bottom of the barrel. There is a serif “F” assembly stamp on the bottom of the plug.
The lockplate is the earlier Deringer version originally manufactured for a flintlock. This lockplate has the drilled and tapped holes for the frizzen and frizzen spring screws. The lockplate measures 5 3/8” by 1 1/8” and has a flat surface with beveled edges forward of the hammer and has a convex surface to the rear of the hammer. The lockplate has the correct “US” stamp over “DERINGER” over “PHILADA” in three horizontal lines forward of the hammer. Deringer lockplates do not have the date stamp to the rear of the hammer. The lockplate is in excellent condition and retains 95% of the original browned finish. The Hammer is 3 ½” tall and has the earlier style with the curved thumbpiece. The Hammer also retains 95% of its original browned finish. The interior arch of the Hammer has the serif “F” assembler stamp. The inside of the Lockplate has the same serif “F” assembler stamp as does the Tumbler, Bridle and Sear. The Sear also has a serif “H” assembler stamp, indicating it was probably from an earlier Deringer production run. The rifle’s tumbler has full- and half-cock and functions perfectly. Both Lock screws are present and both retain the majority of their original brown finish with unmarred single slots.
The triggerguard assembly has a trigger suspended from a lateral pin. The guard bow is riveted to the trigger plate. Both single-slot screws are present and are in fine condition. The original lower sling swivel is riveted through a circular plate on the front branch of the trigger guard bow. The sling swivel moves freely. The triggerguard assembly retains 95% plus of its original browned finish.
The Stock is a beautiful oil finished black walnut stock that is 48 ¼” in length. The stock has never been sanded. There is a crack and glued sliver on the left side of the stack adjacent to the side plate but it is stable. The original buttplate is present and is convex-surfaced with a straight rear profile that measures 4 1/8” by 1 7/8”. The tang is 2 1/8” long and is round ended. Both the tang and buttplate screws have unmarred single-slot screws and the buttplate still retains the majority of the original browned finish.
The original patch compartment is present and the lid retains 95% of its original browned finish and measures 4 3/16” by 1 11/16” and has a convex contour and oval shape. The cover has the original small piano hinge secured by two single-slot screws and is solidly attached. The original 3/8” lid catch is present and secures the cover. The inside of the patchbox has the correct “XXXVI” assembly stamp, which is commonly found on the extant Deringer Rifles.
The Lower Band measures 9/16” wide at the top and extends forward at the bottom to just under 1” and it retains the majority of its original browned finish and it has a serif “F” assembly stamp on the inside of the lip. The lower band spring is present and measures 1 7/8” and has a plum patina. The Middle Band measures 9/16” wide and is secured by its 1 7/8” band spring, both of which have retain the majority of the original browned finish. At the bottom of the middle band is the upper sling swivel, which is secured by a rivet through a circular plate on a lug at the bottom of the band. The upper sling swivel moves freely. The inside lip of the middle band also has the serif “F” assembly stamp. The Upper Band has a rectangular cut-out area between the front barrel ring, which is 7/16” wide, and the rear ring, which is ½” wide. The total width of the band at the top is 1 11/16” and the bottom extends to the rear to 2 9/16” overall length. It is secured by a 1 5/8” long band spring that has a lug at the front to secure the band through a hole on the right side. Both the band spring, which extends to the rear of the band and the band itself both retain the majority of their original browned finish. The Upper Band has the serif “F” assembly stamp on the inside lip.
The Rifle has its original Ramrod that measures 35 7/8” in length. The front end has a 7/8” long brass, slightly cupped trumpet head. The rear of the ramrod is threaded for a ball screw and wiper. The brass shows an old patina and the balance of the ramrod has a plum patina.
The Side Plate is an “L” shaped plate with parallel sides and circular ends and it measures 3 7/16” long. The sideplate retains 95% of its original browned finish.
This is a very rare rifle from the earliest days of the Civil War when arms manufacturers like Deringer sought to fill an urgent need for long arms for the ever-growing Union Army. Only a few hundred of these rifles were ever manufactured and there are much fewer surviving examples, particularly in this good condition.
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