SPRINGFIELD MODEL 1858 CADET RIFLE MUSKET, TYPE-2 WITH SCARCE 1859 DATE

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Item Code: 490-2961

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The US Model 1858 Cadet Rifle Musket is part of the 1855 series of arms and is a slightly downsized version of the issue M1855 Rifle Musket. By August 1857 the US government had no more of the smoothbore Model 1851 Cadet Muskets on hand and was contemplating a new design, on which a  Board of Ordnance settled in January 1858. A model was produced in June; the pattern adopted in August; and, 1,500 were manufactured at Springfield in the fourth quarter of 1858 that are now called the Type-1 by collectors, with a second batch of 1,000 produced in April and May 1860, termed the Type-2. (A smaller batch manufactured in 1866 need not concern us here.)

Both types used the Maynard tape priming system and as many other elements of the M1855 Rifle Musket as was possible in order to reduce costs. The barrels were standard .58 caliber barrels shortened to 38-inches and with the exterior taper increased slightly to produce the same exterior bore diameter at the muzzle. The forestocks were made two inches shorter to accommodate the barrel. The buttstocks were shortened slightly, with the buttplates altered to fit, thus reducing the length of pull and the comb. Neither type used a patch (or “catch”) box in the buttstock. The main difference between the Type-2 and the Type-1 is the predominant use of a stock tip of iron rather than brass on the Type-2, and the change from the earlier slide or long-range rear sight to the shorter 3-leaf rear sight.

This is an early example of the Type-2. The stock uses the Type-1 brass stock tip, indicating it was left over from the earlier production. Both lock and barrel are dated 1859, which is too late for the Type-1, and scarce in a Type-2 (usually dated 1860,) but in keeping with an arm assembled early in the year.  Willyard illustrates another 1859-dated Type-2, speculating that when first produced the barrel had some defect on the muzzle that caused it to be laid aside for future alteration, with the 1859-dated lock simply a slightly later than usual use of a lock made late in the preceding year or a replacement done at some point. In any case, it makes sense that parts for the production run were being gathered some time in advance of the actual assembly in April and May, and the 1859 date makes this a scarce example.

The M1858 Cadet went out mostly to the states. Just 30 were issued at West Point, in October 1858 and would thus have been the Type-1. The US Naval Academy, however, received 92 in September 1862 and 154 in 1864, making the Type-2 a distinct candidate. Of the remainder, Moller notes that at least 1,624 were sent before the war to Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, and possibly Missouri and Louisiana, indicating that some, at least, saw service in southern military academies and perhaps some earlier more active service when firearms were in short supply.

This rates very good for condition of the metal and good or slightly better for the wood- cadet rifles and muskets typically show handling marks from issue to a series of cadets just learning to care for their arms. The fit of wood to metal is tight. The metal is smooth and an even steel gray overall with just some light pitting near the nipple from the use of percussion caps. The markings are very good. The barrel proofs are sharp. The barrel date shows some light corrosion along the tops of the numerals, but is legible and clearly 1859. The lock plate is very good, with some light corrosion at rear, but sharp 1859 date, U.S. / SPRINGFIELD stamp and eagle on the primer door. The tape primer functions fine. The action works, with the half cock fine, but with a little difficulty getting to full cock. The bore is dark, with scattered light oxidation, but with good rifling. There a small chip to the lockplate apron at rear and a couple of small chips behind the middle band. The left side flat shows dings and 6 or 7 long scratches or drag lines, but there are remnants of cartouches, particularly an oval at bottom rear that would be the ESA cartouche of Springfield Armory Master Erskine Allin. The left buttstock shows the most wear, with three shallow divots along the upper edge, some scratches lower down, and an old repair to some surface chipping at the lower edge of the buttplate.

This is a regulation U.S. longarm that would help complete a display of the US 1855 series of arms, but also fit with a collection of cadet arms used at both West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy, and at a variety of state military academies.  [sr] [ph:L]

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