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Engravings on the rifle stock

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  • #31
    Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

    I dug a brass buttplate here in Mine Run years ago that was stamped US and with a number I cant recall.
    William L. Shifflett
    Valley Light Horse and Lord of Louisa

    "We are still expecting the enemy. Why dont he come?" -JEB Stuart

    In Memory of 3 Sox, 4th Va Cavalry horse, my mount, my friend. Killed in action January 9th, 2005.


    • #32
      Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

      Droning on about the regs again... :) One of the things I find fascinating about the Civil War is not just how familiar the soldiers seem, but the odd differences in everyday attitudes. Treatment of government property might just be one more area of subtle difference.

      Individual soldiers may not even have been aware of what regulations or Ordnance Department instructions called for in the care of weapons. Still, we have several reasons for thinking the regs had some effect. There’s Curt’s observation above, for example, that most weapons were not marked. There was also an interesting discussion on this site a year or so ago about the fines assessed on soldiers who had lost or discarded cartridge box belts (and plates). There are contemporary -- or near contemporary – descriptions of the system of accountability like this one, from Wilbur Hinman:

      “Monthly returns of clothing and ‘camp and garrison equipage,’ as it was called in a lump, and quarterly returns of ordnance and ordnance stores had to be made to the Grand Moguls at Washington. In these returns every thing in the way of baggage, down to a hatchet or a tent-pin, had to be accounted for, as well as every article in the line of ordnance, from a musket to a belt-plate. Even the tompions...had to be momentously entered in the long columns of items and figures. If one of the little things disappeared it had to be accounted for, with an imposing array of certificates and affidavits, as though the salvation of the country hung by a thread on the fate of that lost tompion.”

      There were specific reasons for the regs regarding property to have had more effect in the 1860s than we might imagine today. One would be the greater relative cost of things back then, compared to labor (e.g., lined vs. unlined sack coats), including the fact that the musket we’re discussing cost altogether about a month and a half’s worth of pay.

      But another reason would be the nature of the regs themselves. Perhaps in part as an indirect result of property becoming relatively less expensive, the Army decided, at the beginning of World War II, to drastically simplify accountability. Under War Department Circular 405 of 1942 (described in Company Administration by Lt. Col. C. M. Virtue, Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, 1943), no longer would company commanders have to receipt for individual items. All paperwork would be maintained by regimental property officers with the company officer mainly responsible for ensuring that he have in serviceable condition the articles listed in the Table of Basic Allowances. This was a huge change from the Civil War, during which peacetime regs, as Hinman describes, continued to be enforced, with the officer commanding a company personally, financially responsible for every item of ordnance issued.

      So, while we do see markings on ordnance from the Civil War, there are some pretty good reasons why we don’t see more, despite soldiers’ desire to personalize their equipment, and despite our own military experience post-1942.
      Michael A. Schaffner


      • #33
        Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

        Originally posted by Jimmayo View Post
        Ever try to find your musket in a stack of 5 or 6 that look just like yours when someone is yelling at you to fall in?
        Perhaps a better way to mark your rifle and distinguish it from others is to have the lockplate restamped. I had that done along with the usual de-farbing from Regimental Quartermaster, and I have actually used this to differentiate from other rifle muskets.

        Problem solved!

        Joe Marti

        ...and yes, I did use the search function...


        • #34
          Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

          Another way I have "heard" that men distinguished their guns in a stack was to have personalized the tompion. I have not seen any examples of this however, but it seems yet another way a bored soldier could idle the time away on lonely picket duty. The tompions were issued parts to muskets back then and a soldier caught without his bore plugged when it was unloaded could get into trouble depending on his non-comm's disposition.

          Yes, it was very comon to see numbers and letters stamped or engraved into the buttplate tangs. I do this for all the "CS contract" Enfields I do because it is what I have commonly found studying them. Originally, these are usually quite crudely engraved, evidently by a rasp file judging from how crudely many appear. Also engraved was the bayonet sockets and rammers with the matching numbers. From what noted collector/historian Tim Prince and Craig Barry have showed me, the Enfields that had stamped numbers were typically London guns that were probably kept in British service. I have looked at some London Arms Enfields that are literally stamped all over the place, inside and out with matching numbers. It is difficult to really know what these engraved numbers were. We call them "rack or lot" numbers. Probably, they were some sort of inventory number to let the buyers know how many were being purchased, and what rack or lot they came from so he could later get paid for the numbers he bought for "X-state" in the contract. Typically, I like to use 3-4 digits of the gun's modern serial number just so the number is identifyable to the owner an dmay help him know his serial number if it is ever lost/stolen. However, sometimes the numbers seem too high to do this so I have been known to just make up a number. Either way, it is another personalized i.d. marker for the owner to know his gun by, and is a good de-farb conversation mark.


          • #35
            Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

            Found this online at -- the South Georgia Relic Resource Library Virtual Museum:
            Attached Files
            Ian Macoy
            Blue Ridge, VA


            • #36
              Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

              Originally posted by Todd Watts View Post
              Yes, it was very comon to see numbers and letters stamped or engraved into the buttplate tangs. I do this for all the "CS contract" Enfields I do because it is what I have commonly found studying them.

              I would recommend caution in calling these engraved buttplate numbers "common." In theory (and in observation of originals), there were only 30,000 Enfields so-marked. There is no way to say how many Enfields the South imported, but it was probably at least 300,000 (not counting additional arms that were captured on the battlefield). If so, these "lot numbered" Enfields would be 10 percent or less of the total Confederate Enfields. I would say the COMMON Confederate-used Enfield had no marks at all other than those of British manufacture.

              Geoff Walden


              • #37
                Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

                I would venture a guess that it was "common" enough that we see a lot of them today, 140+ years after they arrived. If only "10%" of them were so marked, they have sure survived well compared to the non-engraved versions. Of the 10 or so original Enfields I have gotten my hands on this year to study, I only saw 1 that didn't have stamped or engraved numbers or letters on the buttplate's tang. I made a mental note that it was unusual recently in that it did not have the engraving.

                As Mr.s Prince and Barry have told me, the world of Enfield markings is never set in stone.


                • #38
                  Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

                  Para-phrased from Geoff Walden, either in "Authenticizing Your Reproduction Enfield" or "To Blue or Not to Blue" (I forget which) where he admonishes to "Never say never about the Enfield..." Good advice, indeed.

                  The matter of rack numbers is probably a good subject for another thread as it is a bit off the subject of the ill-advised practice of stock engraving, mine being the minority opinion on this by the way.
                  Craig L Barry
                  Editor, The Watchdog, a non-profit 501[c]3
                  Co-author (with David Burt) Suppliers to the Confederacy
                  Author, The Civil War Musket: A Handbook for Historical Accuracy
                  Member, Company of Military Historians


                  • #39
                    Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

                    I have a question as to originial Enfield stock markings and from this discussion there seems to be a lot of expert knowledge so here goes. I have owned this M 1853 Enfield for thirty years but there are some stock markings for which I have found no explanation. It is a hand made London piece by Potts & Hunt with a barrel by Barnett & Sons. It has "CS" lightly stamped on the lock plate, trigger guard, and butt plate. The ramrod seems to have a "rack number" of "6401". There are no other acceptance marks from either English or Confederate sources, only the London commercial proof marks.
                    Carved into the stock opposite the lock is the name "Rose" upside down, presumably the soldier's name as mentioned earlier in this thread. The markings which are confusing are a series of small numbers (About 1/8" tall) on the left bottom of the stock about 6" from the butt plate. The sequence appears to be "7743714" although the three could possible be a five. Below that are the letters "V and what could be a partial A" the same size as the numbers. All I can speculate is state name and soldier's serial number (if
                    Civil War soldiers had them), but why so small? Any suggestions or explanations are welcome
                    Thanks, Bob Lendt


                    • #40
                      Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

                      Originally posted by Curt-Heinrich Schmidt View Post

                      A complicated subject area, this... ;)

                      1. Yes, the weapon was not the soldiers to mark up. However, "regs" and practices sometimes vary.

                      2. Looking at surviving originals, it can be hard to know if a soldier put his name, company, or regiment on his gun in 1862 or 1882. Sometimes there might be a clue such as "C.S.A. 1861-1865." Another example is an original M1861 Springfield with a large brass infantry bugle tacked to the buttstock- done in say 1863 or 1893? (A pard saw the photo, misinterpreted it, and hand-carved a bugle into the stock and painted it with gold paint...) However, there are War-time images of marked/ID's guns as well as "brought backs."

                      3. Putting a name, company, or regiment on a gun limits one's future options. ESPECIALLY when one moves into the more H/A end of the alphabet where one is portraying "different men" in "different units." Or for that matter, one starts out with one's own name, and then moves on to create a personan under a different name.

                      4. And last but not least... in terms of "totality" the sheer numbers of unmarked guns dwarfs the marked ones.

                      5. Dremel tool? IMHO definitely not. Suriviving examples of marked/ID'd stocks appear to have been done with the point of a knife or in some cases possibly large needles.

                      Others' mileage will vary...

                      Who once had an original Richmond carbine with two initials and a small first sergeant chevron knife-point carved into the stock
                      I have 4 muskets in my collection that either have the full name or initials carved into the stock. They all seem to look like they were did with a jack knife. As Curt said " what the Regs specified and actuall practce were at times two diferant things. I have my initials carved into the stock of one of my repros, so at every event, I get yelled at and fined durring inspection when I use that musket.

                      John W
                      John M. Wedeward

                      33d Wisconsin Volunteers
                      The Hard Head Mess
                      The Old Northwest Volunteers
                      5th Kentucky Vol's (Thomas' Mudsills)

                      Company of Military Historians
                      Civil War Battlefield Preservation
                      Sons of American Revolution
                      Sons of Union Veterans



                      Pvt. John Wedeward, Co. A, 42 Illinois Vol. Infantry
                      Cpl. Arnold Rader, Co. C, 46th Illinois Vol. Infantry
                      Brigadier Gen. John Fellows, 21st Continental Regiment


                      • #41
                        Re: Engravings on the rifle stock

                        A relic hunter I work with loaned me a book I found interesting and found som ethings that are aquainted with what this thread deals with. THe book is: "The Illustrated History of American Civil War Relics" by: Stephen W. Sylvia & Michael J. O'Donnell; Moss Publications, Orange, VA c.1978

                        p.26 has a picture of a standard wood canteen recorded as having been picked up and sen home after 2nd Mannassas as a souvenir by a Federal soldier. The strap is of blanket material and has a clip and leather piece from a "US Dragoon belt" around it. Engraved on 1 side fairly neatly it reads: "Edward Henry V (...) Davenport 4th Regiment Alabama Vols." This Confederate soldier was killed at 2nd Mannassas.

                        p.40 has a simila wooden canteen reported as taken by G.H.Collins, 27th Regt Conn. Vols as a souvenir. Inscribed on 1 side it reads: "Taken prisoner May 3rd 1863 -- Paroled May 13th 1863." The name on it shows it was owned by B.J.Tuttle, Co.A 13th Reg SC Vols.

                        So the soldiers were known to personalize their canteens on occasion, sometimes rather neatly.

                        p.35 has an Enfield dated 1861 reported as a battlefield pickup at Willis Church/Malvern Hill. Inscribed on it is "L.C. La. Zv."

                        p42 has the Enfield that was also featured in "The American Rifleman" magazine last year and is not in the Gettysburg NP collection. The gun is damaged and was picked up after the battle. Inscribed on it upside down it reads: "J.A.Fallin Co.E 23rd Va" Fallin was captured in 1864. The rifle is damaged so it is not functional. (I believe the magazine article said the mainspring had snapped) Fallin lost it or more likely discarded it during the battle and obviously would not have run back to carve his name into it and whoever found it would not have either.

                        p83 has an 1847 dated Harpers Ferry .69 musket found on the Groveton battlefield by members of the 7th Ny Reg't in June 1865 during a memorial service. Carved on the right side of the butt in large letters it reads: "A.A. Cameron" A.A. Cameron was killed there in 1862 and was a Sgt-Maj in the 33rd VA Inf. So, in this particular case a rather high-ranking Non-comm was marking his gun up. He obviously didn't do it after the war since he was killed probably where the musket was found.

                        On another note of interest, a unique artifact dug at a CS camp in northern FL was the lock and hammer minus the top jaw of an India pattern Brown Bess. I have thought for a long time that some of the "Tower" or "British" muskets described by soldiers were likely Brown Besses.