View Full Version : 1842 Harpers Ferry

03-11-2004, 10:25 PM
How common was the 1842 .69 cal Harpers Ferry smoothbore musket and how prevalent was the gun in the western theatre?

Frenchie Larry
03-15-2004, 09:14 AM
Dear Comrades,

I am, too , very interested by this question... I saw a lot of 1842 on portraits ( early war ) of Louisiana soldiers... ( trying to find the bes guns for a 18th Louisiana mid-war impression ; I have evidences for the M41 mississippi rifle only - an early war photograph and an extract for memories of Silas T. grisamore ( just after Shiloh ) )

But I'll ask the same question in another way ; Does anyone knows any ressource ( books, articles, websites ) dealing with the distribution of the muskets in western theater units ? ( or about all the CW ).

A lot of reenactors told me " just buy and enfield'53 "... I think that the 1842 is good for a "early war " impression but without accurate evidences, and as Scott an a lot of other comrades I think, I'd like to have the most plausible musket for the unit I plan to portray.

Best regards,

Christophe Larribere

03-15-2004, 10:03 AM
The model 1842 U.S. Percussion Musket was produced in great numbers by both the Harpers Ferry and Springfield Armories from 1844 to 1855. This reproduction is true to the original measurements, with a 42" barrel and a total length of 58 inches. Harpers ferry produced 103,000 while Springfield produced 172,000 for a total production surpassing a quarter of a million arms. Many of these arms had been delivered to militias in the late 1850s.

More prevelent were the M1816 Muskets which were converted to Percussion:

The US model 1816 musket, the last flintlock martial arm to be produced, had a colorfull history spanning over 50 years and two major armed conflicts. It had the highest production of any US flintlock musket, attesting to it's general reliability and sturdiness in the field.

The earliest models of the 1816, including those dubbed the "Type I" musket, usually dated around 1817, featured a flat beveled lockplate and steel pan. There seems to be some variations between the placement of the bayonet lugs on the barrel, with some being produced for the 1812 bayonet and others for the 1816.

The next change of the '16, the "Type II" muskets, produced 1822-31, are often referred to as the "National Armory Brown". It was called thus because of the browned finish on all metal parts except the lock and the sling swivel on trigger guard. These are often mistaken for "M1822" or "M1822" muskets.

The "Type III" muskets, produced 1831-44, are referred to as the "National Army Bright" models. Differences included a strengthened sling swivel and a bright finish on all metal parts.

In total, all US government productions of the M1816 are: 325,000 muskets produced at Springfield, MA, and 350,000 muskets produced at Harper's Ferry. This total production, when combined with 146,000 more produced by contractors, makes the Model 1816 the most prolifically produced Musket in American history.

Contract Manufacturers

J. Baker, Philedelphia - Type III
P. & E.W. Blake
E. Buell - Type I
A. Carruth - Type I
Brooke Evans - Type I
W.L. Evans - Type III
R. & J.D. Johnson - Type III
D. Nipples - Type III
H. Osborne - Types I, II, III
L. Pomeroy - Type I, III
N. Starr - Type III


Percussion Lock
There is much to say on this subject because there were a myriad of percussion conversion 1816 locks. The standard procedure was first to fill the unnecessary screw holes on the lockplate. This included the screw holes for the frizzen, pan, etc. Then, the pan was ground flush with the lockplate. Hence, many 1816 locks still have a small brass semi-ring near the nipple.
The rest of the lock depended on who converted the musket.

The most interesting conversion, Remington's, utilized a Maynard tape priming conversion. There were many necessary modifications to the lock, including the addition of the tape compartment and hardware. The hammer on this conversion was akin to the Model 1855/61 muskets. The lock was often marked "1822", so it is often mistaken for the phantom "1822" musket. On the other hand, the conversions performed by US Arsenals and many private contractors were very simple. Filling the screw holes and grinding down the pan, a distinctly military-style hammer was added and all the internal parts were kept the same (the frizzen spring and corresponding parts were removed)

Some 380,000 flintlock muskets were altered to percussion at the national arsenals between 1848-1857, and some states also pursued their own conversion programs. The conversion method used at the arsenals (and by far the most common type) was a Belgian improvement on the French method, commonly called the "cone-in-barrel" method. This method placed a percussion nipple into the upper surface of the barrel, with a hammer modified to reach this nipple. The pan was cut down and filled up with brass, and the flash hole was plugged. The flint cock, frizzen, and spring were removed.

These percussion conversions were commonly found in state arsenals at the beginning of the war, particularly in the North, and shortage of arms caused them to be issued from the National armories to several Federal regiments, even into 1862. They were a major arm in the Confederate armies at least into 1863.