IDENTIFIED WILDER’S LIGHTNING BRIGADE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN SPENCER CARBINE

$8,500.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1083-01

Identified Spencers are scarce. Identified Spencers from real fighting units are rare. This is from one of the most famous: the 72nd Indiana of Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade.” The brigade gained its initial fame armed with Spencer rifles, but production had shifted to carbines in the Fall of 1863 and as arms were replaced from loss or damage, carbines showed up along side rifles in Spencer-armed units. (As a parallel example, in Custer’s 5th Michigan, carbines were predominant by early 1864 and only 37 of the rifles were still on hand in the 2nd Quarter of 1864.) This carbine, serial #16316, is specifically recorded in government records as issued on March 28, 1864, at Mooresville, Alabama, to Sergeant A.W. Lane of Co. G, 72nd Indiana Mounted Infantry, “a most gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman,” in the words of the regimental history.

Augustus Wooley Lane (1843-1916) was from Tippecanoe County (though credited to Reynolds, Indiana, just north of there) when he enlisted at age 18 and was mustered in as a corporal in Co. G of the 72nd Indiana on 7/21/62. He is listed as present on every bimonthly muster roll and was promoted Sergeant 7/15/63; First Sergeant 12/15/64; and commissioned Second Lieutenant on 1/1/65, though not mustered at that rank until 5/16/65. He mustered out 7/24/65 at Nashville, still carried on some rolls as a first sergeant.  After the war he was involved in the regimental veterans’ group and supplied material for the regimental history, and is quoted several times.

The regiment was officially organized August 16, 1862, and has extensive battle honors. Stationed initially in Kentucky, they arrived in Murfreesboro, TN, in January 1863 and were issued horses and gear for service as mounted infantry. Armed with Spencer rifles at the instigation of Col. John T. Wilder, the brigade fought at Hoover’s Gap, Rock Springs, and Chickamauga in 1863. In February 1864 they were part of Smith’s cavalry expedition against Meridian, Mississippi, and at Okolona were credited with making a fighting withdrawal against heavy odds while other regiments were stamped by Forrest. Lane recalled the chaos: “the rebels pressing us on every step with pistol and saber… when you could see, as I did, men shot from the saddle, their foot catching in the stirrup, dragged to death by maddened horses…

Lane was issued this carbine just a month later, just before the regiment moved to Nashville and from there embarked on the Atlanta campaign, in which they took a very active part, being constantly engaged in scouting, skirmishes, and fighting the whole time. The regimental history provides a day-by-day account requiring roughly a hundred pages. (Another contribution by Lane to the regimental history was the text of a Confederate letter he picked up during the siege of Atlanta.) After the fall of that city the regiment was engaged in operations against Hood and in 1865 joined Wilson’s cavalry expedition against Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, and Macon, eventually mustering out in Nashville. The regiment lost 2 officers and 26 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded during the war, a relatively low casualty rate for their active service, likely due in large part to their superior armament from an early date. Lane married in 1870 and had seven children (the last of whom died in 1970.) He died and was buried in Burlington, Kansas, in 1916. A postwar photo of him with his family is accessible online.

The carbine is in very good condition for weapon with a known history of active service. The stocks match in color and the mechanics are very good. The magazine tube is in place and draws fine. There are small handling dings to the stock flats and some dark staining to the wood along the edge of the buttplate. The buttstock shows two short cracks on the left, fore and aft, on the line of the interior magazine tube, which is typical of Spencers: the wood is absolutely stable. Metal is smooth and the serial number and Spencer company markings on top of the receiver are sharp. Both sights are in place, the front sight showing wear to the blade and the rear sight with leaf in place but sliding bar and stop screw missing. Sling ring and side bar are in place. The wood is generally smooth with a good light brown finish. The wood is tight to the receiver but a collector did use some brown filler in narrow gaps around the barrel band spring on the underside of the forearm and lower edge of the lock plate. This was likely due to wear, shrinkage or moisture. The spot on the forearm is where a leather carbine thimble would have wrapped around it when Lane was mounted. There is a narrow gap around the base of the buttstock swivel. The metal is smooth, however, with no pitting. The barrel shows a lot of scattered blue-turned-plum brown spotting mixed with steel gray and some blue around the front sight base. The receiver is smooth metal with a slightly mottled gray from case color, but stronger color to the hammer, lock plate and portions of the breechblock when lowered.

The regimental history of the unit is very detailed and covers their campaigning in depth and they have extensive battle honors. Lane worked his way up through the company and was respected by his comrades. It would be hard to find a better documented carbine or one with more interesting service.  [sr]

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