This is a very rare and fine condition US Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoon that was rifled and sighted and has the rare ramrod chain attachment. This particular Musketoon was manufactured at Springfield Armory in 1854, and was rifled and sighted in the late 1850s. This is a museum quality example of one of only about 344 Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoons that received these modifications before the Civil War.
The history of the Musketoon began in 1842 when the Ordnance Department first considered the adoption of a short rifle, or "musketoon," for the artillery. A prototype was not designed and manufactured by Springfield Armory, however, until 1846. The Ordnance Board eventually met in February and March 1847 to consider three separate Musketoon designs: the Cavalry Musketoon for the Army's heavy cavalry or "dragoons," the Artillery Musketoon for the dismounted or foot artillery, and the Sappers Musketoon for pioneers and sappers. On March 6, 1847, the Ordnance Board recommended the adoption of all three designs with minor modifications, and the Secretary of War approved this recommendation on March 12, 1847. Many of these Musketoons were modified over the next decade, just prior to the Civil War, which led to the creation of at least ten different variations of Musketoon instead of the original three.
The Cavalry Musketoon was born out of a request by the Cavalry arm for a carbine similar to the initial Artillery Musketoon design with a swivel ramrod and swivel bar to sling the weapon while on horseback. The 1847 Cavalry Musketoon eventually replaced the earlier Hall breech loading carbines that had been issued to light cavalry and heavy (dragoon) cavalry during the Mexican War. It was the first armory-pattern shoulder arm to have a captive ramrod. A pair of curved swivels was attached to the barrel below the muzzle and extended to a sleeve on the ramrod's shaft. This prevented the ramrod from being lost when being used to reload during action and when it was attached to a sling over the shoulder of a mounted cavalryman.
Soon after it was issued, the Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoon became the subject of complaints from the field. These complaints centered on some of the weapon's mechanical deficiencies, its lack of accuracy and its excessive recoil. The heavy cavalry, or dragoons, carried the Musketoon slung over their shoulders, muzzle down, when mounted. This resulted in the ramrod sliding out, which would catch on anything nearby and bend it. The Musketoon was a smooth bore weapon so the round ball would also frequently roll out of the barrel, spilling the powder charge in the process. It got so bad that Brigadier General William Selby Harney, who was commanding Military Department Number Five comprising most of Texas and command of the a regiment of Dragoons, wrote to the Army's Adjutant General, Major General Jones, on June 12, 1851, recommending the abandonment of the Musketoon as a Cavalry weapon.
These deficiencies were addressed in modifications to some Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoons that occur in the late 1850s, of which this particular Musketoon is a beautiful example. In compliance with the Ordnance Department’s policy of rifling existing smooth-bore arms in the late 1850s, some, but not all, Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoons were rifled and had adjustable rear sights added. Two cavalry musketoons were rifled and sighted at Springfield Armory in 1859, to serve as test examples and these were tested at Frankford Arsenal. The Chief of Ordnance wrote of the tests: “Satisfactory trials having established that the musketoons could be much improved, at small cost, by rifling and using an elongated (Minie) ball, those in store and under repair have been so altered. The alterations include, also, sighting, a new rammer head cupped, inserting eight ounces of lead under the butt plate to balance the arm better, and attaching the rods by a chain swivel in place of the old one.” It is estimated that only 344 Model 1847 Musketoons were rifled and sighted at Frankford Arsenal pursuant to the modification order from the Chief of Ordnance.
The bore on these rifled and sighted musketoons was rifled with three .2”-wide grooves with a right-hand turn. The adjustable rear sight was manufactured at Springfield Armory and then shipped to Frankford Arsenal for installation on the modified musketoons. The sight was a Model 1858 three-leaf sight that was secured by mortise and spanner screws three inches forward of the breech. The original ramrod was replaced with a 25 15/16” ramrod having a 9/16” cupped, tulip head designed for the new Minie Ball. The earlier captive ramrod swivels were replaced by a chain that consists of three doubled links and circular links at each end. One end is suspended from a lateral rivet through the original swivel stud. The other end was attached to a sliding sleeve on the ramrod itself.
Modifications to the stock involved boring a 1 3/16” diameter hole into the butt (under the butt plate) and installation of an eight-ounce lead disc to provide additional weight to improve the musketoon’s balance and reduce recoils. The diameter of the ramrod channel was also slightly enlarged to accommodate the larger butt section of the new tulip head ramrod.
The original Barrel is present and is in very fine condition. The Barrel is round with a decreasing taper to the muzzle and a flat crown. There are side flats at the breech that are 2 3/8" long. The Nipple Bolster has straight bottom and rear profiles with the rear profile inclining slightly rearward, which terminates in the flash shield at the top. The flat outer surface is flush with the surface of the lockplate. The original Bolster is in very fine condition and the original Nipple is also in fine condition and is clear to the breech chamber.
On the left, rear of the barrel is the crisp, serif “V” viewing stamp over the serif “P” firing proof stamp over the eagle head acceptance stamp. The bore on this musketoon is in fine condition with a mirror finish and strong rifling with only the smallest areas of frosting in the grooves.
The original breech plug tang is present and is crisply marked “1853.” On the bottom of the barrel is a witness line that aligns perfectly with a corresponding witness line on the bottom of the breech plug. On the back of the barrel are several inspection stamps, including two serif “E” stamps and a large “1 stamp. On the back of the breech plug are two serif “A” stamps and a serif “E” stamp.
The original Model 1858 three-leaf sight is present and is in fine condition. The base exhibits a pewter patina on the outer surfaces, but the protected surfaces still retain the majority of the original blued finish. The single-slot leaf screw is present, and it has an unmarred slot. The lowest leaf is graduated for 100 yards and is marked with a “1” on the face. The next higher leaf is marked with a “3” for 300 yards. The tallest leaf is marked with a “5” stamp for 500 yards. The original Spanner Nut retains 99% of its original bright blue finish.
The late style and very rarely seen captive chain mechanism is present and is in fine condition. The original chain with three doubled links and circular links at each end is present and remains secured at one end from the suspension pin that is secured by a lateral rivet through the original swivel stud. The other end is attached to a sliding sleeve on the ramrod itself. The original Ramrod remains correctly in the white and is in fine condition. The small end is threaded for the ball and wiper. The larger end retains its correct conical rammer, which was incorporated when the musketoon was rifled and sighted in the late 1850s.
The Trigger is suspended and secured by a lateral machine screw through a split lug that is integral to the Trigger Plate. The Trigger still retains traces of its original blued finish in the protected areas. The left side of the Trigger on the web has a serif “7” assembly stamp. The brass Trigger Plate has rounded ends and is 9/16" at the front increasing to 11/16" at the rear. It is secured to the stock by two convex, single slot wood screws. The brass Trigger Guard Bow is a separate piece and is secured to the Trigger Plate by steel slotted nuts.
The brass Butt Plate has a straight profile with a slightly convex surface. The Tang is 2 3/16" long and is rounded at the end and marked "U.S." It is secured to the stock with two convex, single slot wood screws, both of which retain traces of their bright blue finish on the sides.
The brass Upper Barrel Band has two 1/2" barrel rings that are separated by a rectangular cutout area with rounded corners. The front barrel Ring has the oval front sight. The Band is 2 1/4" long at the top and 3" long at the bottom with the excess extending towards the rear of the weapon. The brass upper band exhibits a nice and even burnt mustard patina. The original band spring remains in the white and secures the band tightly to the stock.
The brass Lower Barrel Band is 5/8" wide at the top and extends forward to 1" at the bottom. The original Cavalry Lower Band has a split lug on the left side, to which the Swivel Bar was attached by a vertical machine screw. This original brass lower band exhibits a nice and even burnt mustard patina. The brass Side Plate on the left side of the stock is a 3 3/8" long "L" shaped brass plate with circular-shaped ends. The lower rear part was extended to provide the base for the rear of the swivel bar, where it attached by a slotted nut inside the plate. The slotted nut still retains the majority of its original heat tempered blued finish. The Swivel Bar itself is 9 1/2" long with a 1 1/16" diameter sling ring and both are present and retain their bright finish.
The stock, as noted, is the original Cavalry Musketoon black walnut stock that is in very good condition. This stock has the upgraded features that incorporated into when the musketoon was rifled and sighted in the late 1850s. First, a large 1 3/16” hole was drilled in the butt and an eight-ounce lead weight was installed. This weight is approximately 3” from the rear face of the butt. This weight was added to improve balance and reduce recoil. One obvious downside from drilling the hole was it left the wall of the stock on either side very thin and hairline cracks can be seen on either side. The lock mortise remains very crisp. The outline of the original cartouche with box and rounded ends is barely visible on the left stock flat. That cartouche contained the script initials "J S," which are the initials of James Stillman, who was an armory inspector at the time this Musketoon was manufactured. On the bottom of the stock wrist are the small, serif initials “SRC,” which are the initials of Samuel R. Crane, who worked in the stocking shop at Springfield Armory in the 1840s and 1850s. On the left side of the butt it a period carved serif “V.” The nose portion of the stock, at the cleaning rod channel, is slightly widened, which was done to accommodate the larger ball shaped swivel when the musketoon was rifled and sighted in the late 1850s.
The Lockplate is in very fine condition. The Lockplate is 5 3/16" by 1 3/16" and is flat with beveled edges. The Hammer is 2 15/16" tall and is convex in shape with a straight and checkered thumb piece. The Hammer's Nose is recessed with a notch at the top and is offset by 5/16" to align with the nipple. The Hammer Screw has a 3/8" diameter convex, single slot head. Forward of the hammer is the crisp Federal Eagle stamp over "U.S." stamp. To the rear of the hammer, stamped vertically, is "SPRING/FIELD/1854," all still crisply stamped. Both the Lockplate and hammer retain the vast majority of their original National Armory bright finish. The original Hammer Screw is present, and it retains considerable original heat tempered blue finish with an unmarred single slot.
The inside of the Lockplate is also in very fine condition, retaining considerable, original case-hardened finish. The Main Spring remains in the white and remains very strong. The Mainspring Screw retains the majority of its original blued finish. The inside of the plate has a serif ‘H” inspection stamp. The original two-position Tumbler is present and retains the vast majority of its original bright blue, heat tempered finish. The Bridle also retains the majority of its original heat tempered finish as does the Sear, Bridle Screw, Tumbler Screw and Sear Spring Screw. The Sear Spring remains correctly in the white and remains very strong. The action functions perfectly. Both original Sideplate Screws are present, and both retain the majority of their bright blue, heat tempered finish with only very slightly marred slots.
This is a museum quality example of one of the rarest of modifications made to the Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoon. Only about 344 of the Model 1847 Cavalry Musketoons were rifled and sighted, and affixed with the captive ramrod chain mechanism, in the late 1850s. These weapons are scarce in any configuration and this particular Musketoon is that much scarcer because of its rare alterations and its very high quality. This rifle remains in a firing condition and would be nearly impossible to upgrade.