SPENCER RIFLE #2139, GETTYSBURG “THIRD PURCHASE ORDER” COPELAND SERIAL NUMBER RANGE

$7,950.00

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Item Code: 490-3080

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This early production Model 1860 Spencer Army Rifle falls within the serial number range estimated by Wiley Sword in 1997 for the 1,200 Spencer rifles delivered to the Washington Arsenal in late January 1863, 200 of which were sent to Col. Joseph Copeland to complete his order, coincidentally also of 1,200 rifles, for his 5th Michigan Cavalry. As it turned out, Copeland required only about 900 of these rifles for his own regiment and issued the remaining 300 to the 6th Michigan Cavalry. These were the only Spencers on the field at Gettysburg and were in the Michigan Cavalry Brigade under Custer at Hunterstown, Hanover, and on the East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg on July 3.

Sword correlated production numbers with deliveries to provide estimated serial number ranges for the 1,200 Copeland Spencers. Rifles produced for the US Navy ran the serial numbers into the 800 range and an estimated 100 to 250 promotional or private purchase arms pushed the range of the first 500 received by Copeland in late December, 1862, to the 1000-1550 range. These were issued about January 5, 1863, and were supplemented by 500 more, delivered in lots of 100 and reaching the 1151-2050 range, issued by January 17. Copeland’s final 200 were delivered in the week following January 20 and came from 1,200 falling in the 2051-3250 range that had been delivered to the Washington Arsenal, with the remaining 1,000 from that delivery shipped west for issue to the Ohio sharpshooters. This rifle is crisply numbered 2139 and falls well within this “third purchase” range. It is in good condition and bears a set of initials carved in raised letters on the buttstock “K H P,” which do not correspond to any Michigan troopers or Ohio sharpshooters and likely belong to a descendent or subsequent owner.

The rifle rates good-plus for condition, showing handling marks as would be expected from these rifles with over two years of service, and the postwar initials, but is complete and all original, with clear markings, a pleasing overall warm brown tone to the wood and smooth metal with good color and markings. The buttstock shows some dark staining next to the buttplate and minor chipping indicating it stood upright resting on a damp surface for some time. The left side shows a hairline extending a couple of inches from the buttplate that will be familiar to Spencer collectors as coming from the stock being drilled out for the magazine tube. This picks up again at the rear of the wrist, under the comb, where a small piece of wood chipped out, exposing an inch or so of the magazine housing, but the wood is stable and the edges show wear, indicating it happened early on. The right butt carries the “KHP” initials, appearing in small, stippled circles as raised letters. Otherwise the buttstock shows just expected handling marks and a very slight shrinkage gap at the receiver on the left and along the upper edge of the lockplate on the right. As should be expected in these early Spencers with real use, no cartouches are visible in the wood. The forestock matches in color and has good edges below the lower band and above the upper band, with slight rounding and darkening between the middle and upper band from handling- the natural place to hold and balance the rifle. Both sights and all bands, springs and swivels are in place. The barrel has a nice, even plum brown tone, with the bands showing a tad darker. The metal is smooth, showing a few vise marks, but with a clear “SL” barrel inspector stamp on the left breech. The receiver is smooth metal showing a mix of caramel browns and faint blues of case colors as do the lever and hammer. The top of the receiver has some light salt and peppering, but the markings are clear: SPENCER REPEATING / RIFLE CO BOSTON MASS / PAT’d MARCH 6, 1860, and the serial number on the wrist, 2139, is sharp. Action functions as it should, though stiff at full cock. Bore needs cleaning but is otherwise in fine condition.

Other Spencer rifles were made before Gettysburg, but if you want a Spencer with a real chance of being there and in the hands of famous unit, Sword’s serial number ranges are the best guide and any rifle falling in those numbers is scarce. Those issued by Copeland saw a lot of field use into 1864. By mid-1864 most had been replaced by carbines, some having been lost, damaged, or captured, and the remainder suffered further attrition in reissue to other units. This is a good example of one of the most revolutionary weapons to see field service in the war and would be a key piece in any Civil War collection or display.  [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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