Thursday, November 8, 2007
the Model 1855 U. S. Springfield
The origianl design of this rifle-musket had a feature known as the Maynard Tape priming system. This resulted in the high hump under the hammer and the distinctive opening trapdoor on the side of the lockplate.
Dr. Edward Maynard was a dentist and former west Point cadet, though he had to drop out because of medical reasons. His original idea for the locking mechanism was for the conversion of flintlocks to percussion, and the first such models had the primer magazine outside the stock. The drawback was that this configuration did not allow the use of ordinary percussion caps.
In 1851, the Ordnance Dept. suggested an improved lock, in which the primer was imbedded in the lockplate. This was the design accepted for the Model 1855, and production began soon after.
Maynard's priming system was very similar to a modern cap gun. Fulminated Mercury caps were put on a long metal roll. As the hammer was cocked, a lever pushed the roll forward, placing the next cap over the cone and making the musket ready to fire.
It was a good theory, but in actual use, things didn't quite always line up as expected. This system also was at the mercy of the elements. Even though the cap rolls were somewhat weather-treated, they didn't always hold up or function properly in adverse weather conditions. The cone used was the same as that on the early 1841 and 1842 muskets and rifles, so the firer could use standard issue percussion caps in place of the tape system.
A re-design in 1860 eliminated this overly-complex and unreliable priming system, and this resulted in the Model 1861 Springfield.
During production, the Springfield Armory produced 47,115 model 1855 rifle-muskets with the 40 inch barrel, while the Harpers Ferry Arsenal produced 12,158 shorter rifles in the same configuration, but with 35 inch barrels.
This rifle-musket was used early in the U.S. Civil War, but not in the numbers of some of the more famous firearms. As the war progressed, it was slowly done away with, especially in union regiments.