RARE Confederate Civil War Harpers Ferry Richmond rifle musket 1858/1861


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One of only about a dozen of the few hundred known produced, this weapon was assembled at the Richmond, Virginia armory from parts taken after the capture of Harpers Ferry Armory by Confederate forces. In essence, it is a US Model 1855 Harpers Ferry Rifle Musket with a blank (but dated) Confederate salvaged lock assembly and is made of available parts–typical of all weapons produced in Richmond, Virginia from 1861 to 1865.

The Harpers Ferry Armory, more formally known as the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, was the second federal armory created by the United States government. (The first was the Springfield Armory.) It was located in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (since 1863, West Virginia). It was both an arsenal, manufacturing firearms, and an armory plus a storehouse for firearms. Along with the Springfield Armory, it was instrumental in the development of machining techniques to make interchangeable parts of precisely the same dimensions.
Close to the beginning of the Civil War on April 18, 1861, just a day after Virginia’s conventional ratification of secession, Union soldiers, outnumbered and deprived of reinforcements, set fire to their own armory in an attempt to thwart the usage of it by an advancing Virginian Confederate militia numbering 360 men in all. Harpers Ferry residents (many of whom made their living off the armory) were able to put out the fires swiftly enough to salvage most of the armory’s weapon-making machinery. After rescuing the equipment, the Confederates shipped it south by rail to Winchester, Virginia, and from there to Richmond, as Virginia had decided to reopen the Richmond Armory.

The South had virtually no small-arms production and an inadequate supply of raw materials. The machinery taken from Harpers Ferry became the foundation of the Confederate arms manufacturing. Parts and equipment for rifle muskets went to the Richmond Armory and the equipment for rifles went to Fayetteville, NC, where Fayetteville rifles were build initially from salvaged parts and later on the Harpers Ferry equipment.

This particular weapon is in overall good condition and functions properly. There is some mottled pitting to the buttplate, lockplate and hammer typical of iron items exposed to fire and intense heat. The high hump lockplate is only stamped “1858” and was never mortised for the Maynard Tape primer system used with the standard production weapon at the time, the Model 1855 rifle musket. None of the parts appear to have been manufactured in Richmond other than one barrel band but rather assembled from parts salvaged from Harpers Ferry. Later production weapons were first only stamped with Richmond, VA (Virginia) and ones after that are marked Richmond, VA (Virginia) with a “CS” above and dated 1862-1865. To save valuable iron, the old high hump Harpers Ferry dies were discarded by late 1862 and a lower profile lockplate was manufactured.

The rear sight and ramrod are not original to the weapon but likely were used with it in the field. This weapon is a key link between the first and last production of the Confederate States of America Richmond, Virginia long guns and very reasonably priced!

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