1863 Dickson, Nelson & Co. Rifle

With the outbreak of the war in 1861, William Dickson (a planter from Alabama), Owen Nelson (an attorney from Tuscumbia) and Lewis Sadler (a physician) started the Shakanoosa Arms Company. Operations began at there first plant in Buzzard Roost, Colbert County, Alabama. A $7000.00 advance for funding to manufacture U.S. Model 1841 “Mississippi” type rifles for the state of Alabama was received.

In the summer of 1862 the Shakanoosa Arms Company was forced to move its operation to Rome Georgia in fear of the nearing Union forces, after a while at this location the armory again suffered a setback when there building was destroyed by fire. Again they were forced to move to Adairsville, Georgia under the name Dickson, Nelson & Company and in August 1863, Union advances forced them have to move further south to Macon, Georgia. Finally in February of 1864 the company moved to its final home in Dawson, Georgia.

Rifles under the supervision of inspecting officer, Captain B.J. McCormick were to conform to the U.S. Model 1841 Mississippi pattern, having 33” barrels of .58 caliber and stocks 48” in length. Brass hardware on these rifles included a straight butt plate, two piece trigger guard, barrel bands and nose cap with many of these parts having casting flaws throughout and some having reddish color indicating high copper content.

It’s estimated that about 3600 rifles were manufactured from 1862 thru 1865, but there’s no documentation to prove that. It’s the authors opinion that this number is way to high for the number of surviving rifles. Most of the surviving specimens are dated 1864 and 1865.

“Flaydermans Guide to Antique American Firearms” states that there are only 3 recorded 1863 dated lockplates. Two of these lockplates are not attached and the other is on a two-band rifle.

Which brings me to the newest member in the “Civil War Arsenals” ever growing collection. This 1863 Dickson, Nelson Rifle is truly a rare Southern Beauty. Based on Flaydermans Guide, this new addition is the rarest example of any weapon the Arsenal has to offer, making it the forth known 63 lockplate and only the second one attached to a stock.

I first saw this rifle a couple years ago at a gun show in Gettysburg, the fellow that was selling it had a large collection of Southern Weapons. I purchased another from him at the time (63 Fayetteville) that is one of the nicest examples in my collection. I had made him an offer on this rifle but he wasn’t willing to negotiate off his price. Fast forward two years and I ran into him at another Civil War Show and it turned out he still had the rifle. So after a little bit of haggling we settled on a price and I became the new owner of this 1863 Dickson, Nelson Rifle.

This rifle is in very good condition considering its history. The lock plate is dated 1863 ALA. behind the hammer which means the rifle was manufactured through contract for the state of Alabama. Forward the hammer is stamped DICKSON, NELSON & CO. and C.S. on the bottom line. The upper left surface of the barrel is date stamped ALA. 1863/65 (can’t really tell due to pitting)and the under surface of the barrel is stamped with a “windmill” or “Maltese Cross”armorers mark, attributed to Nathaniel D. Cross an inspector at the Selma Arsenal. The rear sight is fixed and located 3 1/8” forward the barrels breech. All of the brass hardware has casting flaws and lots of great patina. The barrel shows three broad lands and grooves and the ram rod appears to be original with some pitting but still showing its thread. The stock is in extremely good condition with the exception of what appears to be bug/termite damage on the left side by the butt plate, but it’s my opinion that this damage was original to the weapon when manufactured and not after the war while in storage, but it’s only my opinion. Included with the purchase of this weapon was an original confederate linen sling which compliments the rifle well based on its condition. I’m not certain it’s original to the rifle but based on the sling folds it’s been on the rifle for a long time.

So there you have it, yet another addition to the Civil War Arsenal. I hope you enjoy the photos, if you have any questions or thoughts on this rifle feel free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Eugene West, hope to hear from you soon

19 thoughts on “1863 Dickson, Nelson & Co. Rifle

  1. Have one of these Rifles that came from the NY area but looks to be a Dickson Nelson rifle. This Rifle looks just like to one in the pictures but no brass hardware.How can get more info?

  2. Hi, I was reading your post at http://www.civilwararsenal.com/1863-dickson-nelson-co-rifle/

    My great, great Grandfather was a colonel and then general in the civil war for the north. Our family has two of his rifles. One from the north, and one from the south–which appears to be a 1863 Dickson Nelson & Co. Rifle. It does however have two marks on it. One on the lock plate from 1863 in Alabama, and one on the barrel that says 1864. I have included photos. I would be curious on any information you have on this rifle. Would this be one in addition to the “few three” that was manufactured in 1863—given the lock plate marking? As you can see, the condition is not great. Rust on the barrel, etc. Not sure if it should be cleaned or not.

    Thank you

  3. Hi Eugene,
    I have an 1863 ALA Dickerson, Nelson, & Co. Rifle……I’ve cleaned it up some, but the hammer is frozen, but since I’m not intending to fire it, I plan to just keep it wiped down. It has a lot of brass on it and with the cherry stock, it’s easily the most stylish civil war rifle I have displayed. I’m pretty sure I seen one at the Stone River National Cemetery Visitor Center in Tennessee maybe some 40 years ago.

    • Hey John, sorry it’s taken so long to respond but I’ve been in the sunny state of Florida enjoying the warm weather and not doing the blog and history thing. I’d love to see some photos of your rifle….Would it be possible to provide some? Do you have any other Southern weapons?

  4. Would you happen to be able to shed some light on this rifle.
    Would like to know maybe value range for it also?

    Thank you

  5. I have been in touch with a client concerning the brokering and sale of two Dickerson Nelson co one a1863 rifles and the second a 1862 rifle. Where he is from and the actual weapons show beyond a doubt of each authenticity. One rifle has behind hammer making ala,.1863. In front Dickerson Nelson co CS #37. It has sling and all parts with the exception of the bayonet.

    The other is marked behind hammer 1862 ala. in front Dickerson Nelson Co CS #23

  6. Kenneth, unfortunately the images you forwarded are of a U.S. Model 1841 Mississippi that have altered lock plates……there are no known examples of Dickson and Nelsons with patch boxes, as well as none that exist with a lock plate dated 1862……if you go to my web site http://www.civilwararsenal.com/1863-dickson-nelson-co-rifle/ and study the images of my Dickson & Nelson you will notice the markings on the lock plate are stamped by a press with all the letters and markings straight and not well defined……your examples are stamped by hand making them crooked and very deeply etched into the lock plate…….there are a dozen other details I could mention however I think you get the point…..I would not attempt to sell or represent those weapons as authentic……but they could be sold as a reenactors weapon or an entry level collectors weapon.
    Hope this helps, sorry about the bad news, Regards Gene West

  7. I have the 63 Dickson that Flayderman wrote about as being the only complete rifle at that time. Your rifle is the same as mine except my barrel has no external markings. Also note the “Dickson” is shorter in length than found on the 64 and 65 rifles as I wrote about some years ago for North South Trader’s Civil War.

    • Robert,
      Thank you for taking the time to reach out about your Dickson Nelson Rifle. I see it’s for sale at Old South Military Antiques……I hope it seeks its price, it’s a selfish hope.
      I never realized there was a difference size font on the lock plate. As I compare yours to mine…..not only is the Dickson different so is the Nelson, interesting.
      Are you selling only the DN rifle or do you have other Southern weapons for sale ?

      Best Regards, Gene West

  8. Gene,

    The Dickson at Old South is not my rifle. My rifle has a much more distinct date of 1863, especially the three. Also the Old South “Dickson” is more like the 64 and 65 models. All the 63 models that have a clear date have the shorter “Dickson”. Now admittedly I have only seen three or four 63 models but this seems to hold true. If you look at the last number on the Old South gun it is debatable, at least to me, what the last number is. In any event that is my opinion. As I stated in my article I felt that the 63 locks were stamped before the fire that consumed the factory and that another slightly different stamp was made when production resumed using some salvaged 63 locks from before the fire.


    • Bob,
      I must admit I’ve never read you’re article in the NS Trader, but I’ll check to see if I have that magazine when I get home…..I’m currently on the road in Tennessee.
      I do see your point about the DN rifle for sale at Old South……it does not have the smaller font on the lock plate and the questionable 5 on the lock plate is very similar to the 5 stamped on the barrel of my DN rifle. Makes me think the same die (5) was used to stamp both the lock plate and barrel.
      My DN rifle has a brass nose cap similar to a Fayetteville or 1855 model 2 band Harper Ferry rifle, of course it has many casting flaws throughout. I’ve never seen a nose cap like mine on any other DN rifles, all others I’ve seen are like a Richmond or 3 band HP rifle. What type of Brass nose cap does yours have ? I’ve always been curious about this anomaly.


  9. Gene,

    The lock conforms to what I wrote about 1863 locks. Not only do you have the 12mm Dickson but the “O” in Dickson in both your lock and mine show possibly a flaw in the die stamp on the left side of the “O”. I would have to look at more 63 locks to see if this is consistent. On your barrel I can’t say what the last digit is. Maybe a “5” maybe a “3” I just can’t tell. The nose cap to me looks rather crude and my opinion, in not seeing a similar example, is that it is a replacement. If you could show me another Dickson with a similar cap I would change my mind. However the caps I have seen including my own are of the 55 Rifled Musket type and much better cast. The Maltese cross on the underside of the barrel is consistent with other guns of this maker.

    My article on the different lock stamps of 63 versus 64 and 65 plates is based on about only four 63 plates. However until I see a plate that doesn’t hold to my theory I will believe that another die was made after the factory fire. This is why I don’t think the Dickson for sale by Shannon is a 63 but then again theories are just made to be proven wrong.


    • Bob,
      I read your article, which I found online….thank you for the documentation.
      I’m including some high resolution images below of my DN rifle. As you can see the nose cap is different then other DN Rifles. And it appears the proofs marks on the barrel at the breech “may” read 1865.
      Could you give me your opinion on my rifle ?

    • Bob,
      First let say your DN rifle is in fine condition, it’s a wonderful specimen…..mine has seen hard use, more then likely after the war.
      I agree with your observation about the O in Dickson being of the same die….it’s my opinion that the date on my barrel is 1865, I’ve seen others that have a similar stamp. I also agree that at some time the nose cap has been replaced, and by the way it’s held on with a screw not a rivet…..correct me if I’m wrong but the nose cap should be held with a rivet.
      I also agree that the Old South DN Lock plate is stamped 1865, it has the same flaw on the top of the 5 that my barrel has on its last digit which I believe to be a 5.

      Well, anyway….thanks for reaching out and chatting with me about the details of the DN. These days I primarily collect Southern weapons…..I like Richmond’s and Fayetteville’s.
      Do you have other Southern weapons, just curious.

      Kind Regards, Gene

  10. Gene,

    You are correct that the nose cap should be riveted in place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. You have a great rifle and only the second one with a 63 lock original to the arm that I am aware of. I will have to look closer at 65 stamps in the future.

    My collection is both Union and Confederate infantry. I do have some Confederate rifles. My Fayetteville won a Judge’s award at Baltimore last year. It is in excellent condition with all the casehardening on the lock and 95% browning on the barrel. I will have a display of Confed. Enfields at this year’s Baltimore show including a Brunswick rifle with a wonderful inscription in the stock, it was mentioned in this months Civil War News by Tim Prince and is in Corky’s and Russ’s book on English imports. What other guns do you have??? Was great talking to you, hope to see you in Baltimore.


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