FIRST PATTERN SMITH CARBINE

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Item Code: 506-19

This version of the Smith carbine used to be called the “artillery model” because of the sling swivels for a conventional rifle sling mounted on the barrel band and buttstock rather than the side bar and sling ring commonly seen on cavalry carbines. Research by Paul Johnson in 1995, however, disclosed that the first 11,000 Smith Carbines made by the Mass. Arms Company through August 1863 were in fact of this pattern, intended for and issued to cavalry, and this is the version carried by troopers all the way through the Gettysburg campaign, and even later, to judge by requests from some units to retrofit their Smiths with the side bar and ring.

This is one of those first model Smiths, though composed of a forestock and barrel assembly numbered 4480 and a receiver numbered 898, both elements being a first type carbine, the former dating about October 1862 and the latter among the first deliveries in January or February 1862. The Smith functions like modern shotgun, the forestock and barrel being hinged to the receiver for insertion of a cartridge with a hole in its base that would then be set off by a conventional percussion cap. This meant the two elements could be disassembled and changed out if necessary, though it is now impossible to say when the change was made.

The wood matches in dark brown color. Both have decent surface and finish, though showing handling marks, as should be expected for a carbine issued in plenty of time to see lots of service. On the buttstock most of these are shallow dings and scratches, but there are some deeper lines at the left wrist and a pressure dent at the wrist collar, though the wood to metal fit of the buttplate and receiver is tight. The forestock shows generally good edges and just light handling marks as well, though with some dark spots, three small pressure dents along the upper edge on right and a wear spot on the left underside just behind the barrel band, likely indicating the trooper tired of a carrying it on his back and carried it at least sometimes across the pommel of the saddle. Both sling swivels are in place.

The barrel is smooth metal with a thin uniform coverage of blue turned brown with both sights in place. The latch matches in color. The receiver is a mix of thin brown and gray with small handling marks. The nipple has good color and is not battered. The mechanics are good. The underside shows a few impact marks on the fore part of the hinge, likely from tapping it into place when the parts were joined. Some of the screw heads show blue, but the wrist and triggerguard tang show smooth gray and brown from handling. The markings are crisp: “ADDRESS / POULTNEY & TRIMBLE / BALTIMORE U.S.A.” over “SMITH’S PATENT / JUNE 23, 1857”just above the trigger on the receiver left and forward of that, “MANUFACTURED BY / MASS. ARMS CO / CHICOPEE FALLS. ”

Despite the mismatched serial numbers, this is a good early war carbine and Smiths were widely used and carried by units such as the 1st Connecticut, 10th New York, 6th Ohio, 7th and 17th PA, 1st Mass, 1st Maine, 1st West Virginia, 10th Michigan and many others including some of the regulars.  [SR] [ph:L]

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