Tuesday, October 30, 2007

U.S. Model 1842 musket

The original U.S. Springfield model 1842 was a 69 cal. smoothbore musket. It has the dubious distinction of being the last of the smoothbore muskets produced, while at the same time being both the first persussion musket adopted by the U.S. military, and being the first fully parts interchangeable longarm produced in the U.S. The evolution of machine tooling permitted this. Prior to this, parts were individually hand made and fitted to the particular firearm they were made for.

The Model 1842 was produced in relatively low numbers compared to other U.S. military firearms. Combined, the Springfield Armory and Harpers Ferry arsenal produced 272,565 over 12 years. This sounds like a lot, but at its peak, the Springfield Armory alone produced that many model 1861's in only 18 months. The Model 1842 was actually not even the most common smoothbore, as over 700,000 model 1816/22 muskets, both in flintlock and percussion conversions were made prior to the Civil War.

A few Model 1842's were made by private contractors. A.H. Waters and B. Flagg & Co., both of Milbury, Mass. produced Model 1842's, but they had brass furniture (barrel bands, nosecap, and butt plate), unlike those produced by Springfield and Harper's Ferry, which were all steel.

Flagg partnered with William Glaze of South Carolina and relocated to the SC Palmetto Armory to produce Model 1842's. Instead of the stamped V over P over the Eagle's head on the lockplate, those produced by the Palmetto Armory had a P over V over a Palmetto tree. Called 'the Palmetto musket', these were mostly given to SC militia units. Only 6,020 muskets were made on that contract, and none were made after 1853. This makes remaining specimens of Palmetto muskets very rare today.

The musket weighed 10 lbs., was 57&1/2 inches long, and fired either a 69 cal. ball, or a buck and ball round, consisting of a 69 cal. round ball and 3 32 cal. pieces of buckshot, a very deadly and effective close range round. In the early stages of the Civil War, some smoothbore muskets had rifling cut into the barrel, and rear sights affixed, but these were also few in number. Many early-war units were equipped with '42's, but most were replaced as the war went on. Some units, however, preferred the close-range devastation of the buck and ball round and kept their '42's until after the battle of Gettysburg.
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