This is an original and unmolested Civil War US Model 1861 Rifle Musket manufactured in 1865 by the Providence Tool Company of Providence, Rhode Island.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the United States Army found itself desperately short of rifled muskets. The US Government only had two national armories producing rifled muskets, Springfield Armory in Massachusetts and Harpers Ferry Armory in Virginia. Harpers Ferry had production delays associated with the John Brown raid in 1860 and the armory was captured by the Confederates in April 1861. To complicate things further, the US Government was only producing the Model 1855 Rifle Musket at the outbreak of the Civil War and the Ordnance Department was looking for a replacement.
The new US Model 1861 Rifle Musket appeared in 1861 but was only produced at Springfield Armory that year and only a limited number were produced because of the changeover from the Model 1855 production. It quickly became clear to the Ordnance Department that Model 1861 Rifle Musket production would have to be augmented by civilian contractors to arm the Union Army for war.
The initial contracts for the new Model 1861 Rifle Musket began on June 27, 1861, when Chief of Ordnance Colonel Ripley wrote to Samuel Colt, Miles Greenwood, Barton Jenks and Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, inviting all of those gunmakers to “undertake to deliver to this Dept. twenty five thousand rifle muskets of the United States Springfield Armory pattern.” Additional contracts were let to Colt and Lamson, Goodnow & Yale in July 1861 for rifle muskets that deviated from the Model 1861 armory pattern; these rifles would become known as “special muskets.”
Although several contracts for the 1861 armory pattern rifle musket were let in mid- to late-1861, fewer than 11,000 were delivered to the US Government in 1862 and it was not until 1863 that large-scale deliveries of contractor-manufactured Model 1861 Rifle Musket would begin.
There were eighteen contractors who manufactured the regulation US Model 1861 Rifle Musket during the Civil War. At least half of these contractors had not manufactured firearms prior to the Civil War. In total, 448,314 Model 1861 Rifle Muskets were manufactured by these contractors during the Civil War with most being manufactured in 1863 and 1864. The Providence Tool Company manufactured the Regulation Model 1861 Rifle Musket in 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1865. 29,000 were manufactured in 1864 when this rifle was manufactured.
The Providence Tool Company received its first contract for production of the Model 1861 Rifle on July 23, 1861, for 25,000 rifles at a cost of $20.00 each. This contract was supplemented on November 26, 1961 for an additional 25,000 rifles at $20.00 each. The company would eventually deliver 32,000 rifles under this contract of 50,000 rifles. Providence received an additional contract on May 1, 1864 for 32,000 rifles at $19.00 each. This particular Rifle was part of that latter contract.
Contract rifle production, along with contract production of all types of equipment and stores, created considerable opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse and the issue led to a congressional committee investigating firearms contracts. This became known as the Holt-Owens Commission. The commission conducted numerous hearings and called the principals of most firearms manufacturers to testify. The president of the Providence Tool Company, John B. Anthony, testified before the commission that his company, unlike most other contractors, fabricated all of the components and part of their Model 1861 Rifle except for the rear sight. The Providence Tool Company is credited with delivering 70,000 Model 1861 Pattern Rifle Muskets from 1862 through 1865.
This particular rifle musket was produced in its original rifle configuration with 40” barrel and overall length of 55 5/16”. This barrel, which remains chambered at .58 caliber, exhibits considerable plum patina with old pitting on the top, exposed portion. The front retains its original front sight that is still tightly brazed to the barrel. The top of the barrel has the “1865” stamp, just forward of the breech plug tang, which is now barely visible as obscured by old pitting from firing. The left barrel flat has the correct serif “V/P/[eagle head] stamp. The bore still retains strong rifling with old corrosion present throughout. The right-side barrel flat, just above the stock line, has a serif “GP” inspection stamp.
The original Model 1861 Rear Sight is present and exhibits a dark patina throughout with evidence of old pitting on the exposed surfaces. Both the short and long sight leaves are present with the 100-yard leaf in one section and the 300-yard aperture and 500-yard on the longer one. The long portion of the leaf has a script “M” inspection stamp. The original Spanner Nut is present. On the left side of the rear sight base is a serif “M” inspection stamp.
The Bolster exhibits old pitting as does the clean-out screw and the nipple, which is clear to the breech. The original Tang Screw is present with an unmarred single slot and it remains in the white. The original ramrod is present and exhibits a plum patina throughout, which is cupped at the end for the .58 caliber Minie ball. The ramrod has the correct retention swell. The rear of the ramrod remains threaded for the cleaning wipe.
All three of the original Barrel Bands are present and all exhibit minor old corrosion staining. All three bands have the correct serif “U” stamp on the right side. The Middle Band still retains its original upper sling swivel, which remains tight to the swivel lug and the swivel still moves freely. The bottom of the lower band has a serif “T” inspection stamp. All three band retention springs are also present and are still secured tightly to the stock.
The original Trigger Guard and Plate are present, and both exhibit a mixed plum and pewter patina with small areas of old corrosion. The original Trigger exhibits a more plum patina and operates correctly. The front sling swivel is still attached. The bottom of the guard has a serif “R” inspection stamp. The front of the trigger plate has a serif “C” inspection stamp.
The original Butt Plate has pitting on the shoulder and it exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina. The standard serif “U.S.” stamp is present on the tang. Opposite the “U.S.” stamp is a serif “P” stamp. Both Butt Plate Screws are present, and both have unmarred slots.
The Lock Plate exhibits minor old pinprick pitting below the bolster, but the markings remain clear. Forward of the hammer is the federal eagle looking towards the muzzle with serif “U” and “S” stamps on either side of the eagle over “PROVIDENCE TOOL Co” over “PROVIDENCE, R.I.” To the rear of the hammer is the “1865” date stamp. The lock plate exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina.
The original Hammer is present and also exhibits a plum patina with old pitting throughout. The checkering on the thumb piece remains strong and crisp. The original Hammer Screw is absent. Both original Lock Screws are present, and both have unmarred slots.
The original black walnut stock is present. There are no cracks or chips noted and the stock retains its original oil finish. The Nose Cap of the stock is present, and it exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina. Both side plate screw bushings are in place and remain in the white. There is a serif “G.R.R.” inspection stamp on the bottom of the stock wrist, just to the rear of the trigger plate. On the left stock flat are the two original cartouches, one stamped horizontally and one vertically. Both are straight top with rounded end cartouches with script “JT” initials, which are the initials of John Taylor, who was an Ordnance Department civilian inspector of contract arms in New England.
This rifle remains in its original configuration and remains in firing condition.