Premier Fine Art & Antiques Auction
August 29, 2023
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Civil War Martially Marked Henry Rifle of the District of Columbia Cavalry
Cal. 44 RF
Bbl 23 1/4″
The Henry rifle was designed by B. Tyler Henry and was developed from the Volcanic lever action carbine. The Henry was a fundamental advancement in firepower during the Civil War. It allowed 15 consecutive shots to be fired before requiring a reload. This advanced armament was devastating to opposing Infantry troops armed with single shot percussion muskets. The Federal Government purchased 1,731 Henry rifles between 1862 & 1865.
Nearly all rifles between the serial numbers 3000 & 4200 were issued to the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry regiments. Over 200 of the DC Cavalry Henry rifles were captured in September of 1864 during the infamous “Beefsteak Raid” by forces under the command of Confederate Major General Wade Hampton. These rifles saw subsequent issue to the 7th, 11th & 35th Virginia Cavalry. The unusual markings of the number “17” on the rear left side of the barrel and in the front left of the frame, coupled with the carved “A” at the left wrist, may indicate use and inventory by Confederate forces.
This particular rifle has an octagonal barrel with a front sight and a 900 yard rear sight. The loading tube below holds 15 rounds of 44 caliber rim fire ammunition. The top of the barrel is marked “HENRY’S PATENT. OCT. 16, 1860 MANUFACT’D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS. CO. NEWHAVEN, CT.”. Between the rear sight and the frame the serial number “3071” can easily be seen. The right flat of the barrel bears the clear inspector’s mark “C.G.C.” for Charles G. Chapman. Under the Chapman mark is the sub-inspection letter “H”. The brass frame has another small “H” stamped approx. 3/8” back from the barrel just below the curve. Serial number “3071” may also be seen on the lower receiver tang that is concealed by the buttstock. All screws on the frame are original. The brass buttplate has a clear “H” stamped on the right side top near the bend. The buttplate is also serial numbered on the inside “3071”, and the cleaning rod door is present, but there is no rod within the stock. The oil stained walnut stock has an “A” carved into the wood just below the frame tang.
As stated above, it is important to note that the atypical marks of “17” at the rear of the barrel and in front of the frame, combined with the “A” carved into the stock, may indicate capture & reissue to Confederate Virginia Cavalry.
UNATTACHED ACCESSORIES: a loose leaf binder containing information about Henry rifles in general, this particular Henry, and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry. There is also information relating to the “Beefsteak Raid” orchestrated by Confederate General Wade Hampton. And a copy of the book “Spies, Traitors & Conspirators” by General Lafayette C. Baker with detailed information about the “Beefsteak Raid”.