Henry Rifle

Creator:
New Haven Arms Company

The Henry rifle was the immediate forerunner of the famous Winchester rifles. About 14,000 Henry’s were made between 1860 and 1866 by the New Haven Arms Company. The Henry rifle was developed from the Volcanic firearms system and was built around the .44 rimfire cartridge. Both the new rifle and the cartridge were designed by B. Tyler Henry. A basic feature of the .44 rimfire cartridge was the use of a metallic casing, rather than the undependable, self-contained powder, ball, and primer of the Volcanic bullet. Loading continued to be from the muzzle end of the magazine. Although a revolutionary weapon in Civil War service, it was made in relative limited quantities. Quite a few company-size Union organizations, especially those from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri, carried Henry rifles, purchased at their own expense. This gold mounted, engraved Henry rifle was presented to President Abraham Lincoln. This presentation was probably made in an effort to convince the President of the rifle’s worthiness and obtain his influence in the purchase of these weapons for the war effort. Nevertheless, only about 1,731 Henry rifles were purchased by the Ordnance Department between 1862 and 1865. Two organizations, the 1st Maine and 1st District of Columbia cavalry regiments, were known to have been issued Henry rifles.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.009
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Tarpley Breech-loading Carbine

Creator:
Jere H. Tarpley
Publisher/Studio:
J. and F. Garrett Company

This .52 caliber carbine was invented by Jere H. Tarpley, of Greensboro, North Carolina, who was granted a patent by the Confederate government in February 1863. During the years 1863–1864, it was made by the J. and F. Garrett Company of Greensboro. Tarpley carbines were rare. Only a few hundred were made.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.008
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Burnside Carbine

Creator:
Ambrose E. Burnside
Publisher/Studio:
Bristol Rifle Company

The .54 caliber Burnside carbine was designed and patented by Ambrose E. Burnside. This weapon was manufactured in Rhode Island by the Bristol Firearms Company and later, its successor, the Burnside Rifle Company, from about 1857 to 1865. Throughout these years, five different models were manufactured. Lowering the trigger guard, which also served as the operating lever, would cause the breech to tilt up, revealing a cone-shaped cavity. The metallic cartridge for the Burnside, of a unique cone shape, was placed into this cavity. Closing the lever rotated the breech block into position, placing the cartridge in the chamber. A percussion ignition system with an external hammer fired the carbine. A small hole at the base of the cartridge would allow the fire to pass through and ignite the powder in the case. The Burnside was the third most used carbine utilized by the Union cavalry, exceeded only by the Sharps and Spencer carbines. The most serious complaint about this carbine was the tendency of the cartridge to stick in the breech once it was fired.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.007
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Spencer Carbine

The Spencer carbine was one of the most popular firearms of the Civil War though it was not issued until the latter part of 1863. Its distinguishing feature is that it had a magazine that could hold seven metallic rimfire cartridges, which were fed to the breech by a compressed spring in the magazine. The magazine was loaded through the butt of the rifle. When the trigger guard was lowered, the breech block dropped down, and the spent cartridge case was ejected. As the trigger guard returned to its normal position, the breech block moved up and in the process, caught a new cartridge and inserted it in the breech. To expedite the loading process, the Blakeslee quick-loading cartridge box was designed, which held several loaded magazines that could be quickly inserted in the butt. In all, more than 95,000 Spencer carbines were purchased during the war by the federal government.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.005
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Model 1859 Sharps Rifle

Hiram Berdan was a successful engineer and inventor before the Civil War. With the commencement of the war, Berdan was permitted to organize units of sharpshooters, which would consist of the most accomplished marksman from the Northern states. The result was Berdan’s 1st and 2nd regiments of U.S. Sharpshooters. These units soon became legendary for their expert marksmanship and respectable battle record. From 1862, most of Berdan’s men were armed with Sharps rifles. These were breech-loading rifles that were easily and quickly loaded. Furthermore, they proved to fire accurately and became the favorite weapon of the men. This Model 1859 rifle is of the type used by these organizations.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.004
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Cook Carbine

Date:
1864
Creator:
Cook and Brother: Athens, GA

This .58 caliber carbine was manufactured by the firm of Cook and Brother of Athens, Georgia, and is dated 1864. The Cook firm produced exceptionally well-made weapons patterned after English Enfield types. From 1861 to 1862 the firm was located at New Orleans, Louisiana, but was forced to leave with the approach of Northern troops. In 1863 the firm settled in Athens, Georgia, where it continued to manufacture firearms.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.003
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Enfield Rifle

Date:
1853

Both sides imported large quantities of European firearms to assist them in arming their troops. The most widely used was the British Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket because it was accurate and well made. An important factor for both sides was that the .58 caliber bullet used by both Union and Confederate forces was interchangeable with the .577 Enfield. Its overall length totaled 55 1/4 inches and weighed about 9 pounds. Hundreds of thousands of Enfield rifle-muskets were successfully smuggled into the South by the Confederacy during the war.

Description (physical):

L: 55.25", Wt: 9 lbs.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.002
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

1861 Percussion Rifle-musket

Date:
1861

This Model 1861 was the standard rifle-musket used throughout the war. It was originally made by the Springfield Armory, but due to the need for more firearms, the U.S. government contracted with twenty private contractors. It is estimated that about one million Model 1861–type muskets were manufactured during the war. It was a modification of the Model 1855 rifle-musket that eliminated the patch box and the Maynard tape primer. These changes lowered its manufacturing costs and time, both of which were beneficial to a country at war and in need of firearms.

Location:
Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. NW Washington,District of Columbia 20560
Identifier:
0.001
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History