Among the several arsenal variations made of the US Model 1841 US percussion rifle, this particular shoulder arm was produced under government contract by the firm of Eli Whitney of New Haven, Connecticut. One of the 26,500 +/- rifles produced by Whitney from 1843 to 1853, this single-shot, percussion-rifled muzzleloader features a .58 caliber, 33” long round barrel. Overall length of the weapon is 48½”. Originally manufactured in .54 caliber, it was arsenal modified to .58 prior to the Civil War era. As the decade of the 1850s ended and the new .58 Minié ammunition became the standard for use by the US military, many of the M1841 rifles in store at the various national and state arsenals were re-rifled to the new caliber of .58. This weapon retains the original brass tipped ramrod and v-notch rear sight as well as the original spare nipple within the brass patchbox.
Overall, the barrel and all furniture is semi-bright with very light scattered salt and pepper mottling and pitting in some areas indicative of actual field use. The muzzle has the original brass blade front sight and the barrel tang is stamped but barely visible. The bore is good and rifling is excellent.
The lockplate is bright and features a strong marking “E. WHITNEY / US” forward of the hammer. The rear of the hammer area clearly shows the two-line stamping “N. HAVEN / 1848.” The percussion nipple is original and the action works well.
The oiled walnut stock is fitted with brass furniture and a brass patchbox. All brass exhibits a very light patina indicating the weapon was gently cleaned many decades ago. The stock surface shows normal to moderate wear and bears scattered dings and dents from use and storage. Both of the sling swivels are replacements and both of the government inspector cartouche marks are visible on the flat opposite the hammer. There is some slight burnout and a small indentation in the stock behind the hammer where the cocking action over-extended. The brass buttplate features the “US” on the tang as well as some other cryptic markings from the era of use.
Most US Mississippi Rifles saw heavy use and most were issued prior to, or during the Civil War. Over 10,000 went South to join many that were already housed in Southern arsenals. All of these saw heavy use by the Confederacy desperate to arm its soldiers. After the war, Mississippi rifles were issued to volunteer regiments in the west for use during the Indian Wars.
The rifle was not designed to accept a bayonet, as the tactics of the time called for riflemen to be deployed as skirmishers or to take long range shots at specific targets of opportunity (such as officers, artillery crews, etc.) and then retreat behind the main infantry battle line prior to an assault. The riflemen would then harass the enemy from the flanks. The US M1841 Rifle earned the nick name of “Mississippi Rifle” in the hands of the 1st Mississippi Rifles during the Mexican-American War. The regiment was led by future US Secretary of War, and later Confederate States President, Colonel Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. The riflemen under his command turned in superb combat performances at the battles of Monterrey (September 1846) and Buena Vista (February 1847) and from that time on, the gun was known as the “Mississippi Rifle”.
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