View Full Version : Taylor's Spencer?
08-08-2004, 01:30 PM
Is anyone using this firearm in the field? I am getting back into reenacting (I have been out of it for almost 7 years now). What is the consensus on this firearm, good - bad - indifferent? All thoughts and opinions would be appreciated. I have also been considering a perdersoli sharps 1859, but even this arm is not totally accurate (lacks pellet primer). I also realize the spencer is only usefull for a late war impression, but it would be great for living histories, as many people are interested in this arm in particular. The only item that I know is incorrect about it is the barrel length. This could probably be fixed by a competant gunsmith, and a custom barrel. I would like to do a mounted CS cav impression. I have ridden a little and taken a riding school, and am also getting a few paddocks set up on my property for a horse. I figured I would start collecting my personal gear now, then pick up all of my tack, then buy a good horse (I am going to raise a pole barn this winter). This is a pretty big endeavor so any tips and or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am definately dedicated to putting together an authentic kit.
08-09-2004, 07:59 AM
Finding the correct individual uniform and equipment is not really a big problem. I might suggest concentrating on the riding first and looking for good tack second. Those two things are the most important aspects of portraying an authentic cavalryman. Unfortunately, there aren't that many good saddle makers out there. Anything made by Nick Nichols a.k.a. "Heartland House", Hank Kluin d.b.a. F. Burgess & Co. (older stuff). I haven't seen Doug Kidd's newest stuff yet, but just make sure when you buy tack that it correctly floows the original pattern, that its hand stiched (usually 8 stiches to the inch), that it's made from oak tanned leather, dyed on one side (not vat or drum dyed on both sides).
Answering your first question, which firearm to use? What will be your primary impression? If it's C.S., then get a Mississippi Rifle or a 2-band Enfield rifle.
08-09-2004, 10:11 AM
All thoughts and opinions would be appreciated. I have also been considering a perdersoli sharps 1859, but even this arm is not totally accurate (lacks pellet primer). I also realize the spencer is only usefull for a late war impression, but it would be great for living histories, as many people are interested in this arm in particular. The only item that I know is incorrect about it is the barrel length. This could probably be fixed by a competant gunsmith, and a custom barrel. I would like to do a mounted CS cav impression.
Just a few thoughts on the guns you mentioned.
The Pedersoli Sharps has more inaccuracies than just not having the Lawrence pellet priming system. Also, all of the reproduction Sharps I know of, other than the Garret Sharps reproduction lack this feature, so while not 100% correct, one lacking the system may be "as good as you can get".
Other inaccuracies of the Pedersoli Sharps reproductions is in their breech design. The "gas check" portion of the breechblock is a completely new design, leaving behind that of Sharps in many respects. Original Sharps carbines and rifles had a breech gas check plate that had a fairly large hole in the rear of it with a semi-round area to the rear of it that allowed rearward moving gases to "vector around" and in doing so to push forward on the gas check plate to seal the firing chamber. The Pedersoli arm has a small hole, and a large flat section where the aforementiond section is, relying on tight tolerances (?) to seal the arm. Tight Tolerances in turn become an arm that without some modification, will jam or become very difficult to load after a relatively small number of rounds. Additionally, the external shape of the gas check plate is rounded at the bottom on the Pedersoli, and squared on the Originals, and other repros. Due to the rounded feature, the beech block itself of the Pedersoli is redeisgned around this "improvement".
Additionally, the Pedersoli, along with most other repros, have a moveable sleeve in the loading chamber area of the barrel breech, a feature not seen on originals. This sleeve, by being movable, is intended to act as an additional gas check feature. The original sharps had no chamber sleeve.
Additionally, the rear sight of the Pederoli's I have seen/shot have a (ball bearing and spring) tensioner and index in the sight slide that was not on the originals.
In terms of accuracy to the original arm, I would tender an opinon that the Armi-Sport (Taylor) Sharps is closer to the original. The exceptions of course are the Pellet system, the barrel sleeve, and what in my opinion is a very heavy portion of the spring that engages the trigger sear, even by period standards. However, the spring can be lightened up easily enough, and I have heard that the barrel sleeve has been glued in place by many who own them.
In terms of the Spencer, I have not had the chance to side-by-side one with an original wartime Spencer, but have heard good reviews. Additionally, my most readily available comparison tooll is a Spencer rifle-musket, not a carbine. From what I have observed on the repros (assuming you are not talking about their 44 Russian or any other than 56-50 version were caliber is also inaacurate to the period) the most readily noticable difference is the use of the Lane extractor (post war), rather than the early "knife blade" type used during the war. This change, much like the original change to the Lane, was made for functionality.
Anyway, I don't know anything about horses...
Hope this helps some. :)
08-09-2004, 11:25 AM
On tack, I would suggest either Doug Kidd (Arkansas) or Shawn Pascuzzi (Texas). I have seen and ridden saddles made by both and can vouch for either of them, in terms of fit and authenticity. Both are excellent saddlers and both know horses. Doug and Shawn also give free advice.
If you want to use an original saddle tree, be mindful that original saddle trees were made for horses that in many ways were built differently than todays animals. Your saddle should be made for today's horse, which is often larger in the shoulder and withers area. A saddle that is too small, especially in the gullet, could cause serious problems for him. Best suggestion is to get your horse first then have a saddle made to fit. There are ways to measure a horse for saddle fit, and Doug or Shawn can assist you in this.
If you already have your saddle, find a horse that fits it. It might help to have someone along who knows enough about saddle fit to help you determine a correct fitting. Extra padding can help, but remember that an extra blanket on a horse means more unwelcome heat for him on warm days.
08-09-2004, 02:38 PM
Hello everyone, thanks for the excellent suggestions thus far. From what I'm hearing, I should probably work on a horse, then tack, then personal gear. How prevelant was the '59 Mac in the CS ranks (I have ridden mostly on a '04)? What would the standard CS trooper have used, a Jenifer? What is a good saddle that could be used at most reenactments?. In regards to the Sharps - Is the chamber sleeve a recent development or have the italians always been doing this?
08-09-2004, 03:18 PM
[QUOTE=DCWILLIAMS]How prevelant was the '59 Mac in the CS ranks (I have ridden mostly on a '04)? What would the standard CS trooper have used, a Jenifer? What is a good saddle that could be used at most reenactments?.
'59 McClellans work well for a CSA impression, as they were common on both sides. '04s take too much modification to pass for '59s. Jenifers and Hopes also were in wide use in the South, Hopes especially in Texas.
08-09-2004, 03:42 PM
The 1859 McClellan was used by CS forces, but is way overrepresented in the hobby today. I would suggest either a Jenifer, Muley, or Texas (aka Hope) saddle.
Again, The Sharps is overrepresented in the hobby on the CS side too. I would look to a muzzle-loader as a more representative arm for CS cavalry. Look at Ordinance returns for various cavalry units in the ANV (mostly .58 caliber)
08-09-2004, 04:03 PM
Thanks everyone for the continued suggestions. It sounds like perhaps the Jenifer is the way to go in regards to a saddle. Heartland house is right here in VA, does he make a jenifer? Also how common was the 2 band enfield as opposed to the musketoon? Were soldiers known to cut down battlefield pickups?
08-09-2004, 09:16 PM
It all depends on what unit and when in the war you want to portray. You probably can never go wrong with a Mississippi Rifle for any time period durning the war in Eastern or Western of Operations. Aside from the M1841 which you'll find tons of returns for just about any theater, there's the M1855, the M1858 Enfield Rifle, the Austrian Lorenz (almost exclusively AOT), and Butler's South Carolina Brigade in 1864 w/ 3 banded Enfields. Now I'm not saying that there weren't breech loaders in CS Service, but they are way over represented in the hobby as being the common long arm of cavalry troopers. When I do a Jeff Davis Legion Impression, I do carry a 1st Model Maynard, but mostly I use a Mississippi Rifle. The short Enfield Musketoon wasn't imported in that great of numbers compared with other Enfields and domestically manufactured 2 banders.
On the issue of saddles, I agree with the other poster about fitting the tree to your horse, but make sure that the other details in the saddle manufacturing are dead on with the originals. The correct weight and tanning of the leather. The hand sewing of the leather w/ waxed linen thread. The correct hardware is also extremely important. The cost of good tack is expensive and is not readily available so I suggest getting up with a good unit that can let you borrow some tack while your's is being made.
The most important thing about portraying a cavalryman is first being a good horseman; otherwise you're just playing dress up.
Lastly, about cut down versions of field pick-ups (I wont say it never happened) but why and how. Why would you ruin a perfectly good weapon and reduce it's range by cutting it down. Also where would they find the tools in the field to make such modifications. If you read enough accounts of the cavalry in the ANV, you'll find that they weren't in camps for any long period of time. Unlike our brothers in the infantry where there were long periods of inactivity, the cavalry arm was constantly on the move ( raiding, vidette duty, and screening the army).
08-09-2004, 10:49 PM
Thanks again for the insight. Is there a cavalry unit in the VA area that you would recommend?
08-10-2004, 09:30 AM
If you are still interested in using a Spencer for reenacting than you might like to read an article I wrote about this very subject. In it I explain how to make cheep blanks that will work and some of the slight modifications to the gun to make it work better with blanks. You can find it on the net at:
http://www.9thnycavalry.webeditor.com/spencer_article.html Just click on the link.
But keep in mind that a CS trooper with a Spencer would be a rare thing, even in the late war time frame.
09-01-2004, 01:21 AM
I'm really wondering if Spencers would have been as rarely carried by CS troopers as is commonly believed. Yes, there is the obvious problem of where to get cartridges, but there is evidence that at least a few were in use. For instance, Bill Fletcher in Rebel Private, Front and Rear was made prisoner after dropping his carbine, picking it up and firing it, thinking it was undamaged, then realizing it wouldn't load the next cartridge. I loaned out my copy, but I remember the series of events being similar to this. Additionally, when I was working at the San Jacinto Museum of History, I came across a Spencer carbine (now on display in the museum) there whose provenance was attributed to a member of Hood's Texas Brigade. It made no sense to me why a Federal carbine was attributed to a Confederate infantryman, but after reading Fletcher's book, and noticing that he had originally started the war in Hood's Texas Brigade as well before transferring to the cavalry helped to explain the Spencer in the museum.
Of course, I would not suggest that a CS cav impression should involve a Spencer. What I am saying is that perhaps we should look at the evidence more closely before dismissing something out of hand because of its possibilities in our modern minds.
I am reminded of the caption of a photograph in Portraits of Conflict: Texas in the Civil War that explains that the Confederate in the image is holding a Spencer Rifle for some odd reason, even though he could not get ammunition for it. To my eyes, the man is obviously holding a Sharps Rifle!
09-01-2004, 08:34 AM
I am a Cavalry re-enactor in Virginia and would say "welcome".
Finding a Cavalry unit in Virginia (or anywhere else), IMHO, is much like properly fitting a saddle to a horse. As most of your respondants here have shown, there are many dynamics involved in this.
You need to take the time to find a unit that has the same goals, priorities, and the like,(their "mission" if you will) as you do. As an example, you seem to be very "authenticity-minded", so it would probably be a good thing for you to seek out a unit like the "Critters". I'm not sure there is one in Virginia, although there are some excellent Cavalry units in the central and southwest parts of the state, but I suspect most of them would be considered "mainstream" by most of the members of this forum.
As Adjutant of my unit, I am working very hard with my commanding officer, and a small but dedicated core of members, to travel closer toward the "dark side". We are currently in the process of setting up a Cavalry Camp of Instruction (CAVCOI) at Brandy Station next Summer to facilitate this very thing. While it is "quality" not "quantity" oriented, I may be able to get you an invite. We're very excited about this, and it looks like we may be blessed with some truly great Cav people as instructors.....meanwhile, we can help with the horsemanship.
09-01-2004, 10:14 AM
Lastly, about cut down versions of field pick-ups (I wont say it never happened) but why and how. Why would you ruin a perfectly good weapon and reduce it's range by cutting it down. Also where would they find the tools in the field to make such modifications.
I agree with your larger point that cut-down muskets or rifles were not the most common weapons found in the CS cavalry. However, there was often a good reason why longer arms were cut down: to salvage damaged weapons or captured parts. The Richmond CW show a couple of weeks ago had an excellent display of several such examples. It can be difficult to distinguish a wartime modification from a post-War hack job, but in general the Wartime modifications left a full-length military style stock in place. The display cited above quoted an order from the CS Ordnance Dep't to modify damaged muskets to outfit a cavalry unit (I think a brigade, but can't remember the exact quote). Certainly such modified arms numbered in the tens of thousands, based on surviving records.
As an aside, I wonder if the Confederate tendency to use cavalry as mounted infantry was based on the lack of breech-loading carbines, rather than vice-versa? Just a thought.
09-01-2004, 12:39 PM
I didn't mean to convey that they never cut down weapons for cavalry use and the point that you make in regard to fixing damaged weapons is very good. I happened to see a cut down M1816 conversion this past weekend in Front Royal, Virginia. This weapon was professionally altered and screamed cavalry use to me.
On your point of long arms being the reason cavalry was used often as mounted infantry. I believe that terrain and mission more often dictated how a mounted force was used. That being said, various units, both North and South, often were divided up by what types of arms they carried. Companies in a regiment would be typically divided into saber/pistol companies or "sharpshooter" (period term) companies. The latter having almost exclusively rifles, carbines, shotguns, and rifle muskets. The obvious reason being the inability to arm troopers with all three types of weapons which afflicted both North and South (albeit, as the war progressed the North was able to overcome their dificiencies in weapons).
The use of the long arm was primarily done dismounted and therefore the longer the barrel the greater the range. Anyone who has ridden a horse and has fired off it's back can tell you that your very likely to miss your target if you're beyond point-blank range. The Michigan Brigade at Trevellian Station bemoaned the fact that they had traded their Spencer Rifles for Spencer Carbines and Butler's brigade which were armed with Enfield rifle muskets could engage Custer's men before the they could engage the Confederates.
Typically, when cavalry is on the defensive, you'd have your troops armed with long arms dismount and fight on foot. When on the attack, draw saber and charge. Cavalry charges were common up to very last days of the war.
Despite the term not being in existance back then METT (Mission. Equipment, Terrain, Troops available) was the deciding factor on how they fought.
09-01-2004, 04:36 PM
" I'm not sure there is one in Virginia, although there are some excellent Cavalry units in the central and southwest parts of the state, but I suspect most of them would be considered "mainstream" by most of the members of this forum."
***Hey there WARDOG..as far as I can see ya'lls outfit is 'quality' was on Morgan's Raid and..yall sure did a quality job protecting our parrot at Trevillian's station!
"As Adjutant of my unit, I am working very hard with my commanding officer, and a small but dedicated core of members, to travel closer toward the "dark side". We are currently in the process of setting up a Cavalry Camp of Instruction (CAVCOI) at Brandy Station next Summer to facilitate this very thing. While it is "quality" not "quantity" oriented, I may be able to get you an invite. We're very excited about this, and it looks like we may be blessed with some truly great Cav people as instructors.....meanwhile, we can help with the horsemanship.[/QUOTE]"
***Id be interested in this if possible! and probably some others with 1st Stuart.. tho Im not strictly "cav" horse artillery is in the cav department! would ya shoot me an email @ email@example.com??
09-01-2004, 05:25 PM
As far as a CS unit having spencers, consider this , I have a copy of ordinance and equipment return written on the back of a personal letter dated aug. 64 for the 25th NC. The numbering for NC regs is confusing but as the returns list saddles and swords for all 270 men presant for duty I think it is safe to assume this is a cav unit. To the subject, among the detailed list for longarms and carbines it list 5 spencer rifles. Now this is a small porportion of the weapons on hand but they where there. Also interesting to note that it list only 20 pistols for the whole reg. if I can scan a copy of this list I will post it.
09-01-2004, 08:46 PM
He darn near shot the yarbels off Kilpatrick at Resaca with it. He was in the 1st KY, I believe his name was Prince. The source is Evans book, Sherman's Horsemen. It is in the footnotes.
By the way, he blamed his horse for moving a bit as he fired, throwing off his aim a bit. The bullet struck Kilcavalry's saddle and drove a nail or fragement into his groin.
That shows two things,
1) Yes they DID fire from thier horses back sometimes
2) Yes, it would cause inaccuracy
09-02-2004, 08:41 AM
Hey Gary, good to hear from you and Stuart's First. I'm not certain about Arty participation at the CAVCOI, but I agree that we go hand in hand...although I'm sure some of the "Longarm" boys would say that Cav should be in the Artillery Depatment!...Heh-Heh.I'll talk to the "mentors" and see, although I suspect that getting them Parrotts mobile would be desired. Is that something y'all could make happen by next June?
It was nothing but a pure honor, and some of the best fighting and fun I've ever had, defending your guns at Trevilian's. Your boys hand-to-hand combat with those bluebellies was awesome! I saw you and Lee going off, and I saw a few of those Yanks falling off as a result. Those boys from the 2nd Cav are something else!
I shot you that e-mail as you requested. Let's get together soon and slay the hated invaders...
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