Susat Civil War Antiques
  • 1841 RIFLE - HARPERS FERRY - 1851


    1841 Rifle Harpers Ferry 


    The 1841 Rifle started production at Harpers Ferry in 1846.  As originally produced the rifle was in 54 caliber and had no provision for a bayonet.  The two band rifle had brass furniture and a large patchbox.  Production continued into 1855 with a total of 25,207 produced at Harpers Ferry.  Several contractors produced 1841 rifles.  Contract 1841 rifles were issued to the 1st Mississippi regiment in the War with Mexico.  Because of the 1st Miss. use of the rifle during the war the nickname "Mississippi " has stayed with the rifle.   With the ongoing testing and development of the 1855 series of arms, alterations were performed to incorporate the addition of a bayonet and long range rear sights.  The first alteration used a Snell bayonet that locked into grooves milled in the barrel.  It used a hinged ladder rear sight that was screw adjusted.   This was unsuccessful in the field and  a second alteration was developed.  The second alteration consisted of a sliding leaf rear sight soldered on the barrel and a bayonet lug with a guide inlet into the barrel.  To provide room for the bayonet a new, shorter front barrel band was made.  The stock was cut about 1/2" shorter.  The brass tipped ramrod was replaced.  There are several different versions of rear sights used in the type of alteration.  The third type of alteration uses the screwed-on sliding leaf rear sight adopted for the 1855 rifles.  The bayonet lug was changed to the 1855 lug - that has no guide.  From 1855 until the 1861, 8,874 rifles were altered, of all types.

    This example is dated 1851 on the barrel and lock.  The metal is a pleasing grey patina with some area of scattered light pitting.  The barrel has the VP and Eaglehead with a "WW" over "P" in front of the proofs.  It also has a "S" stamped in front of the bolster.  This indicates the barrel is made of steel.  It is 54 caliber with a strong bore.  There is a alpha numeric combination stamped on the muzzle.  This is thought to match the bayonet.  This alteration has a rear sight that is soldered on the barrel.  This rear sight is the type IIA that has been regraduated.  Refer to page 144 of Mollier's Vol III "Flintlock Alterations and Muzzleloading Percussion Shoulder Arms 1840-1865.  He notes that the rifles altered with the Type IIA rear sight and issued to the 4th and 6th infantry and other military units be regraduated to match the rear sights of the type IIB issued to the 9th and 10th infantry.  The work was done in the summer and fall of 1855.  It consisted of removing the old marks and replacing them to match. The original marks included 200 on the side of the sight base.  This sight shows the 2, 3 and 4 but you can still see the "00" remaining from the 200.   This rear sight has the 50 yard notches between the 2 and the 3 and between the 3 and the 4.  Take a look at the description of the modifications in Moller.  

    The stock is full length with scattered bumps and dings. The corners have some rounding, perhaps a light sanding or use during the period.   Many if not most of these rifles were issued to the  US infantry regiments before the war.  The inspector's marks are not visible opposite the lock, The markings were block letters "JLR".  They are also stamped inside the patchbox recess and are visible in this example. The pilot holes are visible inside the patchbox.  This indicates the stock was made at Harpers Ferry. The ramrod is the original and is correct for the alteration.  All of the parts on this rifle are original and it presents well.