Monday, November 19, 2007
The U.S. Model 1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket...
...was not only heavily used by the Union Army throughout the entire American Civil War, it was the third most widely-used weapon by the Confederacy. The standard make was a 58 calibre, with a 40" barrel. The total weight was right around 9lbs. The most notable difference between it and the Model 1855 was the elimination of the Maynard priming system. Also, the M1861 was never produced in the the shorter, two-band configuration.
The M1861 cost $20. Unable to keep up with massive production demands, Springfield opened its pattern to 20 private contractors, most notably Colt. Colt redesigned the barrel bands, hammer and bolster in its 'special' model, leading to the changes that would later be incorporated into the Model 1863.
The M1861 was scarce relatively early in the war, as many troops on both sides were using M 1816/22 conversion muskets and M1842 percussion muskets. It is doubtful that any M1861's were available for the First Battle of Manassass. Over time, the smoothbores were phased out and replaced with M1861's. Of course, this happened more rapidly in the Eastern Theatre than in the West or Trans-Miss. Theatres. It is estimated that a combined total of around 1 million Model 1861's were made by the war's end.