CONFEDERATE “CLEANED AND REPAIRED,” ZIMMER-INSPECTED, WHITNEY “GOOD AND SERVICEABLE” RIFLE

$3,250.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1112-01

This is a very good example of an Eli Whitney Enfield pattern two-band rifle that was “captured and collected,” passing through the Confederate ordnance system for re-issue to Confederate troops. After U.S. government arms contracts ceased when the 1855 series was introduced, Whitney focused on individual states, militia companies, and arms dealers like Schuyler, Hartley and Graham. He produced a variety of rifle muskets and rifles, most only loosely following established patterns since they were made in comparatively limited numbers, and even those might show variations since they would be inspected upon completion and accepted if found to be “good and serviceable,” without the intrusion of government inspectors with gauges, etc. This enabled Whitney to use a wide variety of parts purchased at government auctions and from private sources, such as the bankruptcy sales deriving from the failure of the Robbins and Lawrence Company. That company had undertaken contracts for British Enfield rifle muskets and Whitney ended up with British Enfield-style stock blanks, older Enfield style solid barrel bands, etc., which enabled Whitney to produce long Enfield-type rifle muskets and shorter rifles.

Whitney’s rifles (as distinct from his longer rifle muskets) are usually sub-divided into four types. This falls into the fourth type, which is somewhat loosely defined (for Moller it is in the use of a saber or socket bayonet; for Flayderman in the type of rear sight.) In this the rifle is not set up for a patchbox, as is correct of the type 3 and type 4, was made with a bayonet lug (Type-3) and a short-base 1861 style rear sight, similar to the type-4, which used the short-base 1858 pattern. The iron buttplate is the Enfield style, with short, rounded tang. The side screw washers are brass, with short extensions with rounded ends to prevent rotation. The flat lock plate is clearly marked “E. Whitney” in one line, is inlet flush with the wood, has a rounded end, and shows a characteristically Whitney upward projection behind the recess for the nipple bolster. The same lock appears on Whitney’s short and long Enfields and was newly made for Whitney’s projects.

The triggerguard has an iron base, but uses a brass triggerguard bow (another typically Whitney element.) The bands are the rounded, solid pre-1853 style Enfield bands that Whitney was able to purchase in quantity (some 5,000 reported sets.) The stock appears to show a small V and crown near the buttplate, which may indicate it was a near-finished stock among those acquired from the Robbins and Lawrence inventory. The ramrod is steel, with a brass cap. The barrel shows that it had side lug, without guide (Moller’s diagnostic for a Type-3.)

Whitney supplied rifles, his short Enfields among them, to a number of southern units and southern states before the war, including South Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia, which ended up in Confederate hands. After the start of the war they went strictly into northern hands, through companies like Schuyler, Hartley and Graham, and Perkins and Livingston (the Meridian Arms Company,) some perhaps directly to states (some Rhode Island troops had them,) and some also to the U.S. government, which directly purchased between 276 and 496 from S.H. & G.

In this case the rear sight indicates this gun first went into northern hands. Whitney called his rear sights with shorter bases, both 1858 and 1861 versions, “intermediate range” to distinguish then from the earlier rear sights with long bases. This is his version of the US pattern 1861, showing up on some of his rifle muskets as well, that uses rather high side walls and characteristically Whitney single-leaf with 100-yard notch, a marked 300-yard window, and a 500 yard upper notch. Given that the U.S. version was officially adopted in June 1861, Whitney’s use of his version here indicates the rifle was made after the embargo against arms shipments south.

The underside of the stock, however, bears a “Z” stamp just forward of the triggerguard tang, indicating the rifle did make its way into Confederate hands. Recent scholarship has identified a group of arms captured or collected by CS Ordnance teams (and by some civilians, too,) that went through cleaning, repair, and reissue to Confederate forces. As many as 200,000, plus another 50,000 turned in by CS units, are estimated to have gone through the system, largely in the eastern theater, where southern victories left battlefields in Confederate hands. This stamp a small version, in the same type face, of the “Z” mark associated with Captain Louis Zimmer, who was involved with Confederate cleaning and repair operations at Richmond. (See, “Captured and Collected” by Knott.)

The rifle shows signs of field use, with pitting on the breech flat, bolster and upper portion of the lock plate caused by percussion caps, and suggests the use of British high-pressure caps known to have been imported to the south. A spliced in piece of wood along the barrel channel just forward of the rear band indicates the gun was not only cleaned, but repaired. The breech plug tang shows some vise marks, likely made in the repair process. Removal of the bayonet lug was also likely part of the process (the outline of the base is visible.) The Type-4 Whitney Enfields were made without bayonet lugs, the front sight base apparently being sufficient for a socket bayonet, which Moller suggests may have been a British 1853 pattern. Altering the rifle for a socket bayonet would certainly have been the easiest course of action in the Confederate C & R system, rather than trying to obtain and fit saber bayonet.

Moller estimates Whitney turned out fewer than 2,000 short Enfields, making this a scarce gun to begin with. The clear signs showing that it moved from Federal to Confederate hands makes it even rarer. The condition is very good. The 33-inch, .58 caliber barrel has crisp rifling in the bore. The mechanics are good. There are just minor handling marks and one scratch near the buttplate, and elements such as the pitting at the breech and lock, stock repair, alteration of the bayonet, and “Z” Confederate inspector’s stamp rather add to its history. This is a good study piece, a testimony to Confederate ingenuity in arms procurement, and a nice addition to a collection of Confederate arms.  [sr]

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