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Lot 0222

Civil War Issue: Colt Special 1861 Model, .58Cal. Musket,cated 1862 w/ 40" barrel dated with inspectors marks. Lock is dated 1862, action works, fore stock and butt have been arsenal repaired. Left flat of stock stamped N.J. Gun displays well. New ram rod. Very Good

Colt's Manufacturing Company (CMC, formerly Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company) is an American firearms manufacturer, founded in 1855 by Samuel Colt. It is the successor corporation to Colt's earlier firearms-making efforts, which started in 1836. Colt is known for the engineering, production, and marketing of firearms, most especially between the 1850s and World War I, when it was a dominating force in its industry and a seminal influence on manufacturing technology. Colt's earliest designs played a major role in the popularization of the revolver and the shift away from earlier single-shot pistols. Although Samuel Colt did not invent the revolver concept, his designs resulted in the first very successful ones.

The most famous Colt products include the Colt Walker, made 1847 in the facilities of Eli Whitney Jr., the Single Action Army or Peacemaker, the Colt Python, and the Colt M1911 pistol, which is currently the longest-standing military and law enforcement service handgun in the world and is still used today.
Civil War Rifles:

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, numerous advances had been made in small arms technology. The flintlock, which had been in use for over two hundred years, had been replaced by the caplock in the 1840s. Muzzle-loading rifles had been in use for many years but prior to the Civil War had been very rare in military use. The black powder at the time quickly fouled the barrel, making reloading slower and more difficult since the balls had to be patched and matched closely to the bore size for rifles. Loads used for smoothbore muskets did not need to fit as tightly or be pushed past rifling grooves in the barrel and, therefore, did not suffer from the slow loading problem common to rifles.

The Minié ball solved both of these issues because it was smaller than the bore but expanded on firing. The bores were partially cleaned by the loading process. Black powder also quickly obscured the battlefield, which led military leaders of the time to conclude that the greater range of rifles was of little value on the battlefield. Military leaders therefore preferred the faster-loading smoothbore weapons over the more accurate rifles.

The invention of the Minié ball solved the slow loading problem, allowing smoothbore muskets to be replaced by rifles in the decades just before the Civil War. In addition, most existing military doctrine was based around the smoothbore musket. Since the 17th century, infantry normally fought in a tight shoulder-to-shoulder line and fired volleys at each other. When one side gained the upper hand, they would finish off the attack with a bayonet charge. These tactics developed because smoothbore muskets were only accurate at short ranges. Rifles made this type of fighting obsolete because of their much greater range. In Civil War battles, infantry typically fought in a widely spread-out line, with the men using trees, rocks, buildings, etc. for cover. Linear formations were thus rarely seen any more (although it did occur in the Battle of Brawner's Farm the evening before Second Bull Run).

However, most American army officers in 1861 had been schooled in obsolete Napoleonic tactics, especially since many of them had served in the Mexican War, which was still fought in the old way with smoothbore muskets and linear formations. As such, officers typically failed to realize the power of rifles and continued to launch massed attacks against fortified enemies, which invariably resulted in heavy losses. For years, one of the standard manuals used in the US Army had been an 1835 translation by General Winfield Scott of a French work. Shortly before the Civil War, William J. Hardee (later to become a Confederate lieutenant general) updated it to include information on rifles, but he still assumed the use of linear formations in the book. Nonetheless, Hardee's book was produced in a huge variety of editions during the war, often for different types of infantry. For instance, one was produced specially for African-American troops, and another for Zouaveunits. There were many Southern editions, and at least one Northern edition that omitted Hardee's name from the title page.

However, historians such as Allen C. Guelzo reject this traditional criticism of Civil War infantry tactics. Casualty estimates compared with expended ammunition from battles indicate 1 casualty for every 250 - 300 shots discharged, not a dramatic improvement over Napoleonic casualty rates. No contemporary accounts indicate that engagement ranges with substantial casualties between infantry occurred at ranges beyond Napoleonic engagement ranges.

To explain this seeming contradiction between technology and tactical reality, Guelzo points out that even when laboratory tests indicates accuracy with a rifled musket from 600 yards, in an actual battlefield situation, the lack of smokeless powder quickly would obscure visibility. The gunpowder of the time produced a great deal of smoke when fired. Thus, in larger battles, battles began with artillery firing for some time, and skirmishers had been firing at each other for some time. By the time the main lines of infantry began approaching each other, visibility was significantly obscured. Once the infantry began the main engagement, visibility quickly was reduced to almost nil. With the lack of visibility, only massed infantry fire was effective, and this reality is reflected in the tactics of the time. Guelzo argues that rifling only truly benefited the sharpshooters on the skirmish line, who fought before their visibility was obscured, but the main line of infantry could not take advantage of the benefits of rifling.

In Gettysburg, the Last Invasion, (Guelzo, Allen C. (2013). Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Knopf. p. 656. ISBN 978-0-307-59408-2.) Guelzo also points out the technical difficulty of aiming a rifled musket. While rifling improved overall accuracy of muskets, the rifling also formed a trajectory that caused the bullet to quickly "drop" from where it was aimed (in contrast to the flat trajectory of smoothbore muskets). Thus to hit a target at distances beyond 40–50 yards, the rifleman would require knowledge of trajectory and distance, aiming the rifle at a precise angle above the target. In actual battlefield situations, such precise aiming was virtually impossible. Under the stress of battle, virtually every infantryman asked about aiming on the battlefield replied that in practice, the best one could do was "simply raise his rifle to the horizontal, and fire without aiming." (Guelzo p. 62).

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Civil War Issue: Colt Special 1861 Model, .58Cal.

Auction ended on Sat, Mar 10, 2018
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Estimate $1,500 - $2,500
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