CONFEDERATE ALTERED MISSISSIPPI RIFLE ID’D TO MEMBER OF 62ND VIRGINIA MOUNTED INFANTRY

$3,500.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 88-43

At the beginning of the American Civil War nearly 20,000 US M-1841 “Mississippi” rifles were in the arsenals within the states that had seceded to form the Confederacy. (see Murphy & Madaus “Confederate Rifles & Muskets” section XXIV). Most of these were in their original .54 caliber configuration without facility to mount bayonets. With the start of the war, many of these Mississippi rifles were modified to accept bayonets, which were typically of the saber variety.

J. H. Happoldt of Charleston, SC, was a gunsmith who made alterations, which typically involved applying a saber lug to the barrel and carefully cutting down the nose cap/barrel band.  This type of alteration has become generically called the “Happoldt conversion”.  Alterations done by other unidentified Southern gunsmiths simply involved cutting away the forward upper strap of the band, allowing it to pass over the applied lug. In some cases, the band was shortened as well. These “cut away band” alterations are the guns that are usually referred to as “Virginia alterations” by collectors, as most saw use in the Virginia theatre of operations.

This particular M-1841 rifle is in good untouched condition. It is a classic example of a Confederate “Virginia” or “Happoldt-like” altered Mississippi rifle, with a cut away upper barrel band and applied saber bayonet lug. The lug was later removed and addition alterations were made when modified a second time for mounted use.

The barrel has a mostly smooth, lightly oxidized dark brown patina overall, mixed with traces of original brown finish. In the breech area there is moderate pitting from firing and percussion cap flash. Inspector’s initials are clearly stamped on left side of breech “J.P.C. / P”. The rifle retains its original fixed rear sight, and the original brass blade front sight. The bore is clear with light oxidation overall. It has no rifling as it was made into a smoothbore weapon for use in the mounted services where shotguns were often preferred.

The lock is marked “ROBBINS / & / LAWRENCE / U.S.”, forward of the hammer, and “WINDSOR VT / 1850” behind the hammer. Lock and hammer share the same dark patina as the barrel. Action is strong and crisp. All of the brass furniture has a uniform, untouched patina. Original ramrod is complete and in good shape.

The stock remains in overall good condition. The only issue is at the breech behind the hammer. There is about a half-inch of wood burnt out directly behind the bolster and nipple. There is also a gouge/small chunk missing between the hammer and the end of the breech plug tag. This is old damage and does not detract at all. There is a short hair line crack emanating from the back of the lockplate and one from the breech plug tang. Two light cartouches remain on the flat opposite the lockplate. Wood retains its original rich color and finish.

This rifle is identified by a carving in the left side of the shoulder stock, “J. Swadley”. This is Jacob Swadley, 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry Co. K. A small "K" is deeply stamped in the front of the brass trigger guard. Several modifications to this weapon relate to it being used by a mounted soldier. The saber bayonet lug was removed, the front swivel was neatly removed leaving the swivel on the trigger guard to act as a carbine sling ring, and the gun was made into a smoothbore musket more typical of what Southern cavalrymen seemed to prefer.  The 62nd VA was in present in Orrtanna during the Gettysburg Campaign. They were part of the escort for ambulance wagon train during Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, and defended the wagons at the battle of Williamsport, MD

A wonderful example of a “Virginia Altered” Confederate M-1841 Mississippi Rifle, ex-Lewis Leigh collection.  [jet]

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