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Lot 0089
Included in this lot is a Native American captured/used historically significant U. S. Springfield Model 1866 .50-70 caliber rifle. This was the first center fire rifle issued by the U.S. Government mainly for the Indian Wars. All were conversions to cartridge-firing breech loading rifles made from Civil War U. S. Springfield Model 1861 .58 caliber muzzle loaders. This was the rifle used in the last battles of Red Cloud’s War in the famous battles known as the “Wagon Box Fight” near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming on August 2, 1867, and the “Hayfield Fight” the previous day on August 1, 1867 near Fort C. F. Smith in Wyoming. In both instances soldiers from each fort were away performing wood cutting or hay gathering tasks when large numbers of Lakota Sioux attacked. Unknown to the Indian attackers, the soldiers were armed with the new Model 1866 .50 caliber breech loading rifles. After the first volley was fired by the soldiers, the Indians, believing the soldiers now had to reload their muzzle loading rifles, charged. Instantly the soldiers reloaded their new cartridge rifles and fired again. Confused by this rapidity of fire, the Indians withdrew and eventually abandoned the fights. It was only the new Model 1866 rifles that allowed a small number of well armed soldiers to hold off a superior number of Indians. This rare example shows typical Indian usage. The barrel has been cut to approximately 25” which made it easier to handle on horseback. Often these shortened rifles were used by Indians for “Buffalo Running” in which horses were galloped into herds of fleeing buffalo and shots were fired at point blank range. This type of dangerous hunting was considered great sport as well as providing sustenance for the tribe. The rear barrel band is missing from this rifle and has been replaced with rawhide. This process was accomplished by tightly wrapping “green” or fresh wet buckskin and then sewing the bottom with sinew. When the leather dried, it shrank and hardened to form a very tight bond. The leather wrapping on this Springfield is stained and shows age, but is still sound with the stitching complete. The stock is decorated with brass tacks and interestingly, has a brass military eagle button used in the center traditional “cross” pattern. Also interesting is that this central pattern on the right side of the stock contains both a cross and a “circle” pattern. Both were important and spiritual symbols for Northern Plains tribes like the Sioux and Cheyenne. All metal parts retain an uncleaned dark patina and the butt plate shows typical heavy pitting. The breech block is clearly stamped “1866” over the correct eagle head stamping. “U.S.” marking on the top of the butt plate is still visible. The lock plate also correctly stamped with the “eagle” and “U.S. Springfield” as well as the date 1864 (this was the original Civil War lock plate that was correctly converted to breech loading in 1866). The wood shows dark age and staining, but has never been sanded, cleaned or refinished and is solid without cracks or damage (the dark lines coming back from the breech are black powder fouling stains made when water or solvent was used to swab out a black powder fouled bore and the excess ran down the stock! Very common in frontier used rifles). The barrels on Model 1866 rifles were left “in the white” meaning they were not blue'd as later guns were. The metal surfaces on this barrel have never been cleaned or polished and now have a natural very dark aged patina which is important. When decommissioned from the military, many Model 1866 Springfields were sold to buffalo hunters in need of an inexpensive yet powerful and accurate well-made rifle. One can only speculate how this powerful .50 caliber rifle found its way into Native American hands. This firearm has history with the U.S. soldiers who fought in the West and later as an all-purpose hunting and fighting weapon for the Indians! A key firearm of the early post-Civil War/Indian Wars of the West. This is an uncleaned example worthy of the finest firearm collection or Native American Artifact collection or museum. This firearm qualifies as an Antique, and does not require FFL Transfer or NICS Background Check.

Condition

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Native American Tacked U.S. Springfield Model 1866

Estimate $1,250 - $2,450Jul 13