Rifles Used In The War Between The States

A term adopted in 1855 to designate those shoulder arms that retained the outside dimensions of the old muskets but that had rifled barrels (Shields, 210). "The rifle differs from the rifle-musket in having a shorter and stouter barrel, a sword-bayonet, in the mountings, which are made of brass instead of iron, and in having its barrel browned," says the West Point text of 1867 (Benton, 317). This distinction between the two types is not precisely observed. The Official Records atlas plate on weapons (CLXXIII) shows a weapon that answers the description of the UNITED STATES RIFLE, Model 1855 ("Harpers Ferry"), complete with sword-type bayonet, and labels it "Harper's Ferry Rifled Musket "Immediately above this illustration is a longer weapon, with a "musket bayonet," labeled "Springfield Rifled Musket."
Due to a shortage of weapons, this Revolutionary War type weapon was used to some extent at the beginning of the Civil War. It was a smoothbore, muzzle-loading flintlock musket, caliber .69, that used a paper cartrldge. A powder flask was used to fill the primer pan. Effective at about 100 yards, it could be fired at a rate of two shots per minute and misfired about one out of six times. The Confederates used this weapon as late as the end of 1862 in the East (Alexander, 53); several Confederate regiments were armed with muskcts at Mill Springs, Ky. (January 19, 1862), where the rainy weather made them virtually useless.
About 150,000 of these were available in the Civil War It "falls into an odd category, chiefly because it was our first regulation percussion shoulder weapon and also our last smoothbore shoulder weapon" (Shields, 62). An improvement over the Model 1822 by the substitution of a percussion cap for the flintlock, it had the same caliber and range, a slightly better rate of fire, but only one misfire in 166. This weapon "made up the bulk of the Confederate armament at the beginning, some of the guns, even all through 1862, being old flintlocks [Model 1822].... Not until after the battle of Gettysburg was the whole army in Virginia equipped with the rifled musket" (Alexandcr, 53-4).
("Mississippi," or "Jager"/"Yager" rifle) The first general issue US Army rifle designed and manufactured for the percussion cap system, this was a .54 caliber rifle, 48 3/4 inches in over-all length and weighing about 9 3/4 pounds. The barrel had seven grooves, was coated with brown lacquer, and had a fixed rear sight and a brass blade front sight. All furniture except the iron swivels was brass. Originally made to use a paper cartridge and spherical lead ball, after introduction of the Minie bullet in 1850 most of the rifles were modified to .58 caliber. There was no provision on the original model for a bayonet. The altered weapons were equipped with an adjustable rear sight and various mounts for a 22 l/2-inch saber bayonet. A number of variations of this rifle are to be found. The Harpers Ferry Armory made 25,296 of these rifles between 1846 and 1855, after having prepared the pattern weapons in 1841. The Springfield Armory made 3 ,200 in 1849. Remington made 12,500 before the Civil War and the same number during thc war. Other contractors were Robbins, Kendall and Lawrence; Robbins and Lawrence; Tyron; and E. Whitney. Total production of the Model 1841 was 101,096 from all the above sources. The rifle was so effective that it was honored with the name Jager, after the German huntsmen or light infantry units. lt was called also the "Mississippi Rifle" after being issued in 1847 to Jefferson Davis' 1st Mississippi Regiment.
Adoption of the Minie Bullet by thc US in 1855 marked a big advance in the effectivenes of military rifles. The above model was a 58 caliber muzzel-loading, rifled bore weapon that used the new Maynard Tape primer system. It was five feet in length. Without the bayonet it weighed about nine pounds two ounces. About 47,000 were produced at the Springfield Armory between January 1, 1857 and December 31, 1861 (Gluckman, 228-9).
UNITED STATES RIFLE, Model 1855 ("Harpers Ferry")
Differed from the United States Rifle Musket, Model 1855, mainly in that its barrel was 33 instead of 40 inches long. It can be distinguished from the former weapon also by the fact that the "Harpers Ferry" had only two iron bands holding the stock to the barrel, whereas the longer "Springfield" had three.
With the slightly modified 1863 models, this was the principal infantry weapon on both sides. The Springfield Armory manufactured about 800,000 during the war, and other sources furnished almost 900,000 more. The Confederates captured approximately 150,000 (Fuller and Steuart, 43). These figures include the 1861 and the two 1863 models. The Model 1861 was fundamentally the same as the Model 1855 except that the percussion cap had replaced the unsatisfactory Maynard Tape. Its over-all length was 56 inches, 3 7/8 inches shorter than the 1855. The .58 Minie bullet continued to be used in the Model 1861, and the barrel length remained 40 inches. It weighed about 9 3/4 pounds with its 18-inch triangular bayonet. At its maximum effective range of 500 yards, under ideal conditions, 10 shots would make a 27-inch pattern. Extreme range was about 1,000 yards. lt could be fired about six times per minute. The Springfield Armory made 265,129 of these Model 1861 rifle muskets between January 1 1861 and December 31, 1863. Three contractors, Colt, Amoskeag, and Lamson, Goodnow and Yale, made special models patterned after the Springfield. The Model 1861 rifle was also made for artillery use. It was shorter, the usual barrel length being 33 inches.
Essentially the same weapon as the Model 1861, but slightly simplified to make manufacture easier The Springfield Armory produced 273,265 between January 1, 1863 and December 31, 1864 (Gluckman, 232).
Modification of the Model 1863 (above) brought the weapon back to approximately the same design as the Model 1861 (Shields, 75). The arm is of interest as the last US muzzle loader. The Springfield Armory produced 255,040 between January 1 1864 and December 31, 1865 (Gluckman. 232).

Civil War Information and Statistics