Some Old Guns

by Fred Ray on August 24, 2011 · 0 comments

Rock Island Auctions has some Civil War guns up for their September auction. As usual I can’t afford any of them but it’s nice to look. Of particular interest are:

A contract Henry rifle for the 1st D.C. Cavalry.

This rifle is one of approximately 1000 Henry rifles purchased by the Ordnance Department in late 1863 and early 1864 to arm the 1st District of Columbia cavalry regiment. The 1st D.C. Cavalry was the only federal unit entirely equipped with Henry rifles during the Civil War. Organized in December 1863, the 1st D.C. Cavalry was initially assigned to combat Confederate partisan operations in Northern Virginia. In April 1864, the 1st D.C. Cavalry was assigned to the Department of Virginia Cavalry Division where it saw extensive action in operations near Richmond and Petersburg. Six companies of the 1st D.C. Cavalry were transferred to the 1st Maine Cavalry regiment in August 1864 and served with the Army of the Potomac in cavalry operations that culminated at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. The 1st Maine Cavalry had the greatest number of troopers killed in action of any cavalry regiment in the entire Federal Army.

Most Henry rifles in the Union armies were privately purchased, but obviously there were some bought by Uncle Sam. Most Union repeaters were Spencers.

A very fine London Armoury Company Volunteer rifle. I’ve written about the Volunteer Reserve Corps before, and this is an example of what they used. LAC made top quality rifles—as good as anything you could get. They were finely finished and looked more like sporting rifles than military arms. A considerable number of these arms in various configurations made their way into the hands of the Confederates. The supervisor and one of the company’s principals, James Kerr (pronounced “Carr”) was an avid Southern sympathizer and the Confederacy became the company’s main customer. Unfortunately it also followed its patron into history’s dustbin.

James Kerr was also a firearms designer, responsible for both the Kerr revolver, which equipped many Confederate cavalrymen, and the Kerr rifle. The rifle, essentially a small bore Enfield, was a precision .45 caliber weapon that was used in Britain for long-range match shooting and in America for sharpshooting. Politician and general John C. Breckenridge received eleven from “an English admirer” ( who may have been Kerr himself) and gave them to his Kentuckians, who used them to arm a sharpshooter detachment. They were also used in Virginia.

For an idea of what these old guns could do, check out this video.


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