Joslyn Carbine, Model 1864

The Northern Industrial machine was ramping up in 1862. With one loss after another the Union Army was in need of not just better foot soldiers but better weapons to arm them. Procurements were being made with dozens of Northern businessmen to make as many carbines and rifles regardless of the weapons performance. Much of this changed as the war went on but in the early days of the war it was a Mecca of opportunity for anyone who had the know how and ability to make guns.

The inventor of the Joslyn was Benjamin F. Joslyn of Worcester, Massachusetts but in late 1859 William C. Freeman acquired the rights to the weapon and with the help of Senator J.L. Williams received his first Government contract. The early Joslyn carbines were percussion rifles but by October 1861 Benjamin received a patent for a rim fire design that he would implement with the Joslyn 1862 Model.

As the war raced on and there being a urgent need for as many Calvary weapons as the Union Army could purchase, Benjamin received many contracts from the U.S. Government, Ordinance Department, but he could never fill the orders as quickly as promised but it didn’t stop the Government from making contractual commitments with him.

Finally in November 1863, Benjamin after many alterations and patent changes to the Joslyn carbine received his biggest contract from the U.S. Ordnance Department. He was to furnish 15,000 Carbines at a price of $23.50 each. The order stated that the first 1000 would be delivered within 60 days and then 3000 a month until the contract was filled, however patent changes to the breech block delayed this fulfillment. Not until July of 1864 were the first carbines delivered.

The Joslyn Carbine, Model 1864 was a flawed weapon by most officers standards. It had gone through a bunch of improvements since the start of the war but still didn’t meet most evaluators expectations. Nine Officers reported test firing the Joslyn during the 1863-64 Ordnance Department survey. Only one considered it good while the others considered it either poor or worthless. The complaints on the carbine were the breechblock had a tendency to blow open while firing the weapon and there was a problem chambering the Spencer Ammunition. It seems as though the ammunition problem was faulty ammo and improper chamber tolerances for some of the Spencer ammunition.

During the coarse of the war a total of 11,261 Joslyn carbines were purchased by the U.S. Ordinance Department as well as 515,416 cartridges at a cost of $12,935. As the war came to a close there wasn’t much need for carbines, especially carbines that weren’t very good so the Joslyn Firearms Company closed its doors in 1866 and disposed of its equipment at a Sheriffs sale in June 1868.

Calvary regiments which were issued Joslyn carbines were: 4th and 8th Indiana, 1st New York Dragoons, 19th New York, 13th Tennessee, 9th Pennsylvania, 3rd West Virginia, 1st Wisconsin, 1st Nebraska, 1st Nevada and the 11th Ohio.

So that brings me to the next example in the Civil War Arsenal. This 1864 Model Joslyn has a Serial # 6620 and is in relatively good condition. With a crisp trigger mechanism and a clean stock this Josyln probably never saw much service. It has two cartouches on the left side of the stock suggesting that it was issued and likely stored in an armory after the war.

I’d like to thank John D. McAulay for his historical research and devotion. His book “Carbines of the Civil War” is a must for anyone collecting Union Carbines. This book is an easy read and great reference for Civil War weapons collectors, if you don’t own it, buy it now.

If you have any questions about this carbine or any of the other weapons in the Civil War Arsenal feel free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Eugene West

Civil War Guns

Sitting around the house today not knowing what to do, outside the snow is coming down and there calling this the storm of the century with up to 2 feet of snow and 50 MPH winds expected, sounds cold to me….

Anyway I decided to take some photos of my history room, a.k.a. the “Civil War Arsenal”. As you can see many of my antique weapons are displayed throughout the room. I recently had a carpenter build the racks that the rifles are mounted on, all in all I think the racks came out pretty nice and compliment the rifles and corresponding bayonets.

You’ll also notice some D-Handle, Side Knives, Pikes and Artillery Swords displayed as well. Its my opinion that these weapons should be displayed so friends and family can see and handle them. I don’t quite get the fun in collecting antique guns and swords then putting them in the safe or some out of the way place where no one can appreciate them. But thats just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions.

Also scattered throughout the room are a number of paintings, historical photos, bronze castings and dozens of other historical items. You’ll notice that I am a big “John Paul Strain” fan he is perhaps one of the best artist in his field I have a bunch of his paintings. I also have some of “Karl Anderson’s” sculptures, he’s a less know artist then John however just as good and I believe the best in his field, especially when it comes to historical accuracy.

Well there you have it, another story that no one will read. Just Kidding…. If you have any questions about this post or any of the weapons in the “Civil War Arsenal” feel free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Gene West

1865 Spencer Repeating Carbine

The Civil War Arsenal has been focusing mostly on Confederate Weapons, the author has been crazed by these Southern beauties. But the Arsenal is full of other war time weapons that have been praised by the men of their time. The one we’ll showcase in this article is the 1865 Spencer Carbine.

The Spencer is considered the first successful repeating carbine to fire a metallic cartridge. Men from both the North and South agreed that the Spencer had a hand in turning the tides of the War in favor of the North. The inventor of the weapon was Christopher Miner Spencer. Born in Manchester Connecticut at the age of 19 was issued U.S Patent # 27,393 for a tubular magazine cartridge firearm in both carbine and rifle design.

In July of 1861 the U.S Government (Navy) placed there first order for 700 Spencer rifles with sword bayonets and 70,000 metallic cartridges, which were issued to Mississippi flotilla gunboats. At the battle of Gettysburg a portion of General Custer’s Michigan Brigade were armed with Spencer rifles which they used against Jeb Stuart’s Calvary with tremendous success.

Two versions of the Spencer were manufactured by both the Burnside Rifle Company (30,496) and the Boston Rifle Factory that was owned and operated by Christopher Spencer (64,685) for a total of 95,181 weapons and 58,238,924 cartridges. The 56-52 and 56-50 rim fire metallic cartridges were used in the Spencer Carbines. The 56 stands for the Spencer cartridge and the 52/50 stand for the bore diameter. The Burnside shot 50 caliber while the Spencer shot 52 caliber.

The Spencer carbine manufactured in Boston Mass. has an overall length of 39 inches and weights 8 pounds 4 ounces, case hardened lock, two piece black walnut stock with the butt stock being 15 inches. The barrels are blued and 22 inches long (however this M-1865 Spencer has a 20″ barrel) a brass blade front sight and a single leaf rear V notched rear sight graduated to 800 yards.

A tubular magazine located in the butt stock to feed the rim fire cartridge, capable of holding 7 copper cartridges were pushed forward to the receiver by a coil spring. To fire the Spencer carbine the operating lever is lowered ejecting the previously fired cartridge bringing the next cartridge into position, the hammer is then cocked and the carbine is ready for firing. Seven cartridges could be fired in about 10 seconds.

In the latter part of the war Edward M. Stabler of Maryland invented the Stabler Cut-Off Device. It prevented the cartridge from feeding the magazine to the receiver by limiting the lowering of the breech block. The carbine could then be used as a single shot weapon. A few of the carbines manufactured by the Spencer factory, plus 19,000 of the 30,496 of the Burnside Spencers were equipped with the Stabler Cut-Off Device.

The Blakeslee cartridge box received U.S. Patent # 45,469 on December 20, 1864, invented by Colonel Eratus Blakeslee of the 1st Connecticut Voluntary Calvary. The cartridge box was capable of carrying 10 to 13 tinned tubes containing seven Spencer cartridges each, giving Union Calvary men an additional 70 to 91 cartridges at there finger tips.

At the 1865-66 carbine test trials, the Spencer was rated the best arm of its kind offered for use. The Spencer carbine was carried by Custer’s 7th Calvary at the Battle of Little Bighorn and was used until it was replaced by adoption of the 45-70 trapdoor Springfield in 1873.

After the war demand for the Spencer declined and the Company went out of business in September 12, 1869. Its assets were purchased at auction by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1870.

Which brings us to this fine example of an 1865 Spencer Repeating Carbine which has the Stabler Cut-Off Device. The stock is in excellent condition, the receiver still has signs of bluing and the barrel and all hardware having a nice brown patina. I don’t normally shot any of my antique weapons but I purchased preloaded cartridges from Dixie Gun Works and had a blast shooting this weapon at targets of 25 yards, the weapon shot flawlessly hitting the target most of the times. Ironically I am not a good shot but the Spencer Carbine made me a Marksmen.

I must offer credit and thanks to author John D. McAulay for his book Carbines of the Civil War 1861-1865 for many of the facts written in this article are a result of his hard work and research.

1864 Burnside Carbine, Fourth Model

The Burnside Carbine was invented by Ambrose Everett Burnside, born in Liberty Indiana May 23, 1824. He graduated Unites States Military West Point Academy in 1847 and became a Lieutenant of Artillery. He fought towards the end of the Mexican American War. He resigned from the Military in 1853 and organized the Bristol Fire Arms Co. in 1855. Burnside developed a breech loading idea and patented in 1856, U.S. Patent # 14,491.

In April 1856 he sold 200 Carbines to the Government. The following year it was rated the best breech loading weapons of the weapons tested. In September 1858 he sold another 709 Carbines to the Gov. for $35.00 each.

A further trail board was conducted in 1860 to test various breech loading carbines. The Board concluded that although the Burnside was capable of rendering good service, it does not consider it equal to Smiths and Maynard’s to Military Service.

At the outbreak of the war Everett Burnside was no longer associated with the Bristol Fire Arms Co. He had gone bankrupt and sold off the Patents to pay his creditors. He becomes Major General and leads the Army of the Potomac during the Fredericksburg campaign in the winter of 62, if your reading this article I’ll assume you know what happens, it wasn’t pretty.

So back to the Carbines, the U.S. Government purchased 53,031 Carbines and 21,819,200 cartridges throughout the the war. The earlier Models of the Burnside Carbines had a Walnut Stock, Breech Mechanism and a barrel with no wood forearm. However in 1864 the Forth Model was designed with a 14” wood forearm held to the barrel with a single barrel band. This allowed for better sighting and allowed the shooter to handle the barrel without getting burnt.

During the 1863-64 Ordinance Department survey of breech loading carbines, 185 officers were polled on the Burnside, with the following results. Best 17; Good 125; Fair; 12 Poor 28: and 3 considered it useless, far cry from the Maynard Survey. It makes me wonder why the Government purchased more Burnsides then Maynard’s. Go read my article on Maynard Carbines if you’re confused.

So that brings us to my next example of a Civil War Weapon. The Burnside that you see here is in excellent condition. I purchase this from a gun auction a couple years ago. It has a Government cartouche on the left side of the stock, some bluing still on the lever mechanism and a serial # in the 16,000’s. Overall this is a fine example of a Fourth Model Burnside Carbine.

Many thanks to John D. McAulay and his book Carbines of the Civil War. Thanks for the history, and the ones who are passionate enough to document it.
Any questions contact Eugene West at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com

1863 Maynard Carbine

Let’s talk Civil War Carbines, in particular the Second Model Maynard Carbine, a.k.a. Model 1863 Maynard Carbine. Manufactured c. 1863-65; total about 20,202 (I’ll talk about this number later), 50 Caliber, no patchbox, and has a thinner butt plate then the First Model. Manufactured by Mass. Arms Co. / Chicopee Falls. Unlike the First Models this Model is without the tape primer and tang sight. Thiers a sling ring and cartouche on the left side of the stock.

Many of these Carbines were issued to Union Calvary from the 9th and 11th Indiana and the 11th Tennessee. Many of these Carbines are seen in very good condition since most were issued late in the war and many saw little or no service. Many laid in arsenals until the government sold them off in the late 1860’s.

The Maynard Carbine’s are considered one of the best performing and most accurate carbines of the Civil War era. In John D. McAulay,s book “Carbines of the Civil War” he writes in October of 1859 the Navy conducted test firing on the Maynard Carbine at the Washington Navy Yard. Dr. Maynard personally fired a .50 caliber Maynard for the test. A 3×6 foot target was placed at 200 yards, and 237 rounds were fired without a miss. The rate of firing was at 12 rounds per minute. One Maynard was fired 562 times before cleaning. Two of the metallic cartridges were reloaded and fired 200 times and found to still be serviceable.

I would say that’s a Five Star Review of this weapon. With the exception of the Sharps and Spencer it’s my opinion this may have been the best and most reliable Carbine issued during the Civil War. I would have no objections to using this as my primary weapon, back in the day. How about you? The First Model Maynard carbines were manufactured in .35 and .50 Caliber and many of those weapons were purchased by Southern States at the outbreak of the war. So many were purchased that in the Confederate Arms Guide the Maynard was shown as a weapon.

So that brings us to yet another Weapon in my Civil War Arsenal. This 1863 Maynard has 2 government cartouches on the left side of the stock. Most of the bluing is worn off the barrel but no rust or cracks in the stock. This was the first CW weapon I purchased and even though I’ve made some bad purchases over the years, this was a good one considering it was my first, anyone collecting CW stuff knows what I mean.

I guess the most unusual thing about this Carbine is the serial no. is in the 22,000 range, it has government cartouches. Like I said earlier in John D. McAulay’s book “Carbines of the Civil War” 20,002 carbines were procured by the government and Norm Flayderman , documents 20,202 carbines manufactured in his book “Guide to Antique American Firearms” so that makes me question the facts or the lack of. Either way the US Government paid $24.20 for each Carbine and 2,157,000 Maynard Cartridges were bought at a cost of $72,207.50.
If you have any questions contact Eugene West at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com