1858 PATTERN COMPANY LEVEL MARKSMAN AWARD STADIA BY SIMMONS AND FRANKFORD ARSENAL

$1,950.00

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Item Code: 490-2574

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This is a very scarce example of the U.S. Army company marksmanship award of 1858 made by Simons of Philadelphia and issued through the US Army Ordnance Department. With the adoption of the 1855 series arms that placed long-range rifles in the hands of all infantry, the army began encouraging marksmanship. The first army-wide treatise was published in 1858 by Captain Henry Heth, later Confederate general, under the title, “A System of Target Practice for the Use of Troops When Armed with the Musket, Rifle-Musket, Rifle, or Carbine.” Heth proposed target shooting at ranges from 150 to 1,000 yards, and annual prizes from the Ordnance Department for the best shots at the army, regimental and company level.

The army-wide award did not gain traction, but regimental and company awards did, and consisted of a functional stadia, used for accurately gauging distances, made of silver for the regimental prize and brass (likely gilt) for the company prizes. They were requisitioned by regimental commanders from the Ordnance Department, retained as regimental property, and awarded to the best company and regimental shots each year. It was to be worn suspended by a chain fastened though a buttonhole and also hooked through a loop on the soldier’s chest, so that it would hang like a medal.

The stadia was held with the wide opening of the triangle uppermost at a fixed distance from the eye: 24 inches, as determined by a cord fixed at one end to the movable slide and stretched taught by the soldier holding the other end, mounted with a small ball, in his mouth. The slide is made of two pieces of brass joined by screws at the outer edges and can be adusted to the height of a visible figure, either on foot or mounted, and the distance is then read from a graduated scale in 50 and 100-yard increments along the left edge. One side of the device was calculated for infantry and the other for cavalry, with the theoretical height of each, 70.86 and 98.43 inches, stamped next to the engraved designations of infantry or cavalry on the right edge.

The stadia is marked on one side at the top “U.S. / Stadia,” and at the bottom, “FRANKFORD ARSENAL,” but was made for the army by George Simons of Philadelphia, whose name appears on the bottom of the other side: “GEO. W. SIMONS & BRO. / MANFrs PHILa.,” (a firm designation dating only from 1854 to 1865.) The suspension chain and toggle are in place. The cord and ball are missing, which is the case in all the examples we know.

This is a very rare, pre-Civil War regular army award. The onset of the war and dramatic increase army size made it impractical to continue the tradition widely, though some may have been awarded as late as 1863. The condition is excellent, with scattered age staining to brass, but it has clear markings, and retains the slide and chain. A few brighter spots indicate it was likely awarded with a gilt finish.   [sr] [ph:m/L]

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