GETTYSBURG 5th MICHIGAN CAVALRY SPENCER RIFLE: FIRST DELIVERY COPELAND SPENCER, SERIAL NUMBER 1166

$12,900.00

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Item Code: 490-3117

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Any Spencer in the Gettysburg serial number range is rare and this one, #1166, is squarely in the first delivery of 500 M1860 Army Rifles, made by Dec. 27, 1862, and issued to the 5th Michigan Cavalry by Jan. 5, 1863. Often referred to as Copeland Spencers, 1,200 of these guns were ordered by Col. Joseph Copeland to arm his 5th Michigan Cavalry. Their production followed a Navy contract of about 700 rifles that extended into the 800 serial number range. Wiley Sword allowed another 250 for various private purchases, etc., and estimated the low number for Copeland’s rifles at 1050/1, extending to 1550 in the first delivery of 500. Marcot posited a lower starting number, 1000, which would get up to 1500. Whichever number you choose, this rifle falls well within this group.

By January 20, 1863, an additional 500 rifles were received that fell in the 1551-2050 range by Sword’s reckoning, and a final 200, completing Copeland’s order were received by the end of the month, being drawn from a delivery of 1,200 rifles in the 2051-3250 range (with the remainder going west to the Ohio Sharpshooters.) These last two deliveries made it possible for Copeland to complete the armament of the 5th Michigan (by then reduced to about 900 strong,) with about 300 extra rifles being issued to the 6th Michigan. Other Spencer rifles were manufactured by the time of Gettysburg, but if you want one with a chance of use on the field, these are the serial numbers you are dealing with. The Copeland Spencers were all delivered and issued by late January 1863 and were the only Spencers on the field at Gettysburg, seeing action in the hands of Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade at Hanover and Hunterstown, and playing a key role in halting Jeb Stuart’s attack behind the Union right on July 3. Any Copeland Spencer is scarce, but the survival rate of rifles from the first delivery is extremely low. All saw hard service, with many captured or destroyed in service. Sword called them “great rarities.” Marcot thought them “almost non-existent.”

This rifle is complete, all original, and in good or near very good condition. The butt and forestock match in color and condition, with deep brown color and handling marks, but a tight fit to the metal. The buttstock shows various dings, scratches and pressure dents with a shallow gouge on the right, several divots on comb and wrist, and a few more on the left. Ink cartouches are no longer visible at the wrist. The forestock shows a narrow gouge between the lower and middle band, and some chipping and narrow gouges at the upper band. The left side, most subject to wear in being carried, shows a shallow gouge below the lower band and between the lower and middle band, with some wear to the edge of the barrel channel and slight chipping between those bands as well. None of this is out of character with a rifle that saw real, extended field service.

Both sights are in place, as are the bands, springs, and swivels. The lower band shows more brown than the darker upper bands since it is the natural point to balance the rifle in handling. The barrel shows a mix of brown with underlying gray. There is some freckling, but the only real pitting is on the receiver, affecting the right half of the maker’s stamp: SPENCER REPEATING / RIFLE CO BOSTON MASS / PAT’d MARCH 6, 1860. Nevertheless, the sides of the receiver are smooth metal and even show some faint blues and caramels from faded case color. The mechanics are good and the magazine tube is in place. The serial number on the wrist is distinct.

The Spencer was a revolutionary and influential weapon in the Civil War. The Copeland Spencers saw a lot of field use in hands of their original cavalry owners into 1864, when they were largely replaced by carbines. Many had been lost by that time and those still serviceable were subject to reissue to infantry outfits, further reducing their numbers. This is a very rare rifle, worthy of prominent place in any Civil War, cavalry, or Gettysburg collection.  [sr] [ph:L]

DISCLAIMER: All firearms are sold as collector's items only - we do not accept responsibility as to the shooting safety or reliability of any antique firearm. All firearms are described as accurately as possible, given the restraints of a catalog listing length. We want satisfied customers & often "under" describe the weapons. Any city or state regulations regarding owning antique firearms are the responsibility of the purchaser. All firearms are "mechanically perfect" unless noted, but again, are NOT warranted as safe to fire!

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