WORLD CLASS IDENTIFIED, CARVED, CONFEDERATE IMPORT BRITISH P-1856 ENFIELD CARBINE BY BARNETT: CARRIED BY IRA SOUTH, 7th MISSISSIPPI CAVALRY; 1st MISSISSIPPI PARTISAN RANGERS

$6,950.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 766-1985

This would make an outstanding addition to any Confederate cavalry collection or display: it is both a scarce carbine and a world-class example of a very folky, carved identification by a Confederate cavalryman who added his name and unit to the buttstock to the best of his ability, and his last name alone, with some cursory ornamentation, to the trigger guard as well. The soldier was Ira South, from Tippah County, Mississippi, who served from mid-1862 to the end of the war as a private in the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers, Falkner’s Regiment, also designated the 7th Mississippi Cavalry. The regiment saw lots of action and active campaigning, starting on it contested home ground along the Tennessee border, serving also in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and as part of Chalmer's, R. McCulloch's, and Starke's Brigade, active in North Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Tennessee. Interested parties should consult A.L. Brown’s history of the unit, available online.

The carbine is a British Pattern 1856 cavalry carbine, a single-shot, .577 caliber muzzle-loader, based on the P1853 rifle musket, introduced first in India and adopted as an interim solution for British cavalry in 1856 until an acceptable breechloader could be found. The British military took deliveries beginning in 1857 and London and Birmingham arms makers produced commercial versions for export, private sale and use in British colonies. Details can be found in “The English Connection,” p.175ff, “European Arms in the Civil War” (Schwalm and Hofmann) p.60ff, Noe, Yantz and Whisker, and other sources such as Callahan’s NST article (27.3) on three Texas associated examples.

The U.S. was uninterested in the pattern, purchasing only 200-250. Confederate imports were likewise sparse early-on, but picked up in mid-1863 with an estimated 10,000 or more brought in by the end of the war as C.S. government purchases or on speculation by arms merchants. Known examples, some unissued blockade runner captures and others showing issue and hard use, are marked by Barnett, Bond, or simply “Tower.” Those shipped early, and perhaps delivered later, show JS/Anchor view marks on the comb; others show the Anchor/S view mark; and some are unmarked. All follow the standard configuration with 21-inch .577 caliber barrels, front blade sight and rear sight having a 100-yard fixed notch and two sight leaves for 200 and 300 yards, captive swivel ramrods (often dispensed with in the field, it seems) and sidebars with sling rings, with no sling swivels.

They are surprisingly rare guns. The few out there are either mint, unissued seizures from blockade runners or hard-used guns brought home by Confederates: three are known with Texas connections. A few might be war souvenirs, but there was no incentive for Federal captors to preserve them for reissue. Some 4,000 were reported destroyed by Grierson’s men in December 1864 when he surprised Forrest’s camp at Vernon, MS, and destroyed supplies destined for Hood- though it has been suggested that an extra zero made its way into that report (See Schwalm and Hofmann.) A secondary issue is the possible double counting of deliveries or distribution of the arms and frequent lack of distinction between artillery and cavalry carbines in shipping records. Schwalm and Hoffman, for instance, note the arrival of 309 chests of carbines on blockade runners from July 19, 1863, to June 20, 1864, with only 101 chests clearly identifiable as cavalry carbines and 53 as artillery carbines. Allowing 20 guns per crate gives a total of cavalry carbines somewhere between 2,020 and 5,120. Similarly, 5,000 are carbines are recorded by one source as shipped from Havana to Texas from November 1864 to April 1865, but it is not clear whether this included 2,500 recorded as shipped from London to Cuba and destined for the trans-Mississippi Department.

This follows the standard configuration with 21-inch barrel, .577 caliber, rifled with three lands and grooves. The front sight is in place. The rear sight is missing the two folding leaves. The brass stock tip and captive swivel ramrod assembly are present, as are both barrel bands. As is correct, there is no provision for sling swivels: the left stock flat retains the sling bar and sling ring in place. A small hole forward of the triggerguard on the underside shows where a retaining chain for nipple protector was once anchored. The barrel is an even dark brown back to the rear sight with the matching bands. The lock plate shows as gray, has two narrow, engraved border lines and is stamped with a crown over “TOWER” at rear and “BARNETT / LONDON” forward, under the bolster, and a small “[crown]/B” a little more forward. The barrel has London proofs at the left breech- the proof at bottom, view mark at middle, and definitive proof (a crowned GP or CP, depending on where you stand in the debate) at top. We have not pulled the barrel to look for marks on the underside. It is possible a gauge mark and barrel maker stamp is there. Barnett used various suppliers for parts. At least one of his P1856 carbines has a Suhl marked barrel. The sling bar is stamped “T & C. G,” indicating Barnett got it from Thomas and Charles Gilbert, Birmingham makers of firearm components who went out of business sometime in 1862. The left side flat bears a very clear stamp reading “W. PROCTER,” who would have been the “setter-up” i.e., the actual assembler or finisher of the carbine for Barnett. (We know of an 1859 dated British sappers and miner’s carbine with his name on the stock as well.) Triggerguard and buttplate are correct and in place and, like the stock tip, have a nice patina.

The wood overall has good, light brown color without cracks or missing pieces, but does show issue and wear. The forestock shows dings, handling marks, and scrathes on both sides and some wear along the ramrod channel. The edges of the sideflat are good forward, but show dings and some rounding from handling further back and deep wear and darkening under the side bar from movement of the sling ring, indicating the carbine was carried a lot, though the Procter stamp, outside the circumference of the ring is very good. The lock apron has good edges at rear, but some dings forward and rounding from handling. The butt shows shallow scratches, handling marks and dings, with wear at the top of the comb making it hard to discern if there was a view mark forward of the buttplate tang. We do see remnants of a small mark just behind the triggerguard tang, but this is likely a factory subinspection or contractor marking.

The wood behind the hammer and just forward of the bolster shows typical bleaching from the use of British “high-pressure” percussion caps imported through the blockade. These were introduced in the British military in April 1861 to ensure ignition of combustible cartridges by a more intense flame, but were so powerful as to draw complaints among the British volunteer forces and be withdrawn from general British issue in August 1864. Signs of their use are a good diagnostic for a Confederate-used arm and we note the corresponding corrosion of the metal on the sides of the bolster and hammer, though its feather decoration is visible, and the heavy pitting to the top of the breech adjacent to the nipple and bolster. (See C.H. Roads (1964) for problems with these caps.) The breechplug tang is broken at the screw hole and the rear tip is missing. This was filled with a small bit of wood putty by a collector to keep it from moving about. We have left it as is.

The triggerguard tang was engraved by the soldier with his name “SOUTH” using small checks to form the letters, unevenly spaced and inconsistent in size, between the two screws of the triggerguard tang, with a decorative line of checks overhead extending over the forward screw. He likewise identified his carbine by carving his name and unit: “IRA SOUTH 7 C R / CO A MISSI” His artistic abilities had not improved much, but the identification is unambiguous: Ira South of Tippah County, Mississippi, who enlisted the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers, a unit also designated the 7th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, possibly as early as January 1863 according to regimental historian A.L. Brown, and which we find as early as March 1863 in a U.S. description of captured officer from the unit in the ORs.

South was born in Alabama 22 July 1846. The 1850 census picks up the family in Tuscaloosa, but by 1860 they were in Ripley, Tippah County, Mississippi, and Ira was recorded in the household of a wealthy merchant name Spight, and listed as a “mail rider.” His father Abner signed up in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry for twelve-months service in 1861 and returned to Tippah County in Spring 1862, following Col. W.C. Falkner, who recruited a cavalry regiment designated the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers. Ira joined him at that point, both enlisting in Company A, Capt. W.L. Davis and then T.L. Ford, sometime in the Spring 1862 (by his pension statement,) though muster rolls only pick them up when the regiment was formally mustered in with ten companies on August 1, 1862.

Their service assignments are summarized online as follows:

  • July-September 1862: 3rd Sub-district, District of the Mississippi, Department #2
  • September 1862: Unattached, Army of West Tennessee, Department #2
  • September-October 1862: Armstrong's Cavalry Brigade, Price's Corps, Army of West Tennessee, Department #2
  • October-December 1862: Armstrong's Cavalry Brigade, Price's Corps, Army of West Tennessee, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • December 1862-January 1863: Cavalry, Price's Corps, Army of North Mississippi, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • January-September 1863: 5th Military District, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • September-October 1863: Chalmer's Cavalry Brigade, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • October 1863-January 1864: McCulloch's Brigade, Chalmer's Division, Lee's Cavalry Corps, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • January 1864: McCulloch's Brigade, Chalmer's Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
  • January-September 1864: McCulloch's Brigade, Chalmer's Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps, Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana
  • September 1864-January 1865: McCulloch's Brigade, District of the Gulf, Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana
  • February-May 1865: Starke's Brigade, Chalmer's Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps, Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana

Their engagements and campaigns include the following:

  • September 19, 1862: Peyton's Mill
  • September 19, 1862: Iuka
  • November 20, 1862: near Ripley
  • May 19-July 4, 1863: Operations along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad
  • October 4-17, 1863: Chalmer's Raid in West Tennessee and North Mississippi
  • November 3, 1863: Colliersville
  • August 1864: A.J. Smith's 2nd Mississippi Invasion
  • July 14, 1864: Tupelo
  • March-April 1865: Wilson's Raid

The above does not, however, come close to their detailed history by A.L. Brown, which includes more active campaigning and engagements, large and small. It notably omits the battle at Hernando in April 1863. South’s service file indicates that he was with the regiment throughout the war. He is listed as AWOL from January to March 1863, but when the regiment was reorganizing and both the younger and elder South show up on the rolls of Sol Street’s regiment of Mississippi State Cavalry during that interim period.

South’s service file shows him on muster rolls until April 17, 1865, he said to be “on detail.”  His pension record makes clear he had married and was given a leave of absence to attend his sick wife. The regiment was included in the surrender terms of May 4, 1865, but South made his way to LaGrange to surrender on May 29. His father did not survive the war, having been taken prisoner at Hernando April 18, 1863, in which the unit suffered heavily, and died of Smallpox in a Union POW hospital at Alton, Ill, in July. A younger brother, John H., also saw military service, signing up in the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry in 1864, and survived the war also. Ira South lived to a ripe old age, passing away in March 1938.

Some records indicate the regiment received the designation of 7th Miss. Cavalry in July/August 1864, but that directive may only reflect an effort to clarify things after the regiment went through temporary amalgamations with other units, and commands changed. As noted early, A.L. Brown dates it as early as January 1863 and we also note that he mentions the regiment underwent a period renewed training and equipping in late summer, early fall 1863 as it joined Stephen D. Lee’s cavalry corps. This would be just about the point when the majority of these P1856 carbines began to make their way into the hands of Confederate cavalry and it certainly looks like South’s had some active use.    [sr] [ph:L]

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