Confederate Conversion US M1816 Musket with M1839 Cartridge Box


Confederate Conversion US M1816 Musket with M1839 Cartridge Box – The U.S. Model 1816 was similar to the Model 1795, but incorporated enough new features to be given a new designation. These muskets were made at the armories at both Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. This pattern of musket was issued until the Mexican War, in 1847.  This Type III pattern has an undated lock plate, but marked as a product of the famed armorer M.T. Wickham, Philadelphia, Pa.

The Model 1816 U.S. Flintlock Musket was produced by both the Springfield (1816-1840) and Harper’s Ferry (1816-1844) Armories. During this period, three distinct styles of M1816 developed. The early, or first, style is most often characterized by the use of a stud in front of the trigger guard for mounting of the rear sling swivel, and usually carries an 1817 date on the lock plate. Type II M1816 have browned iron and barrel, have the sling swivel integral to the trigger guard, and usually carry 1822 to 1831 dates. The Type III M1816′s had bright finished barrels and furniture (although the bright finish no longer appears so after 175 years) and are usually dated 1831 to 1844. The M1816 is distinguished as being the most abundantly produced of all American flintlock muskets. The advent of the Model 1842 Musket made the M1816 obsolete, but not unserviceable. Eventually, most made their way to storehouses and armories. Beginning in 1848, when more than 700,000 of all types of flintlock muskets where reported in storage, serviceable weapons were converted to percussion ignition. Three types of alterations were performed; all three processes involved grinding the flash pan down and replacing the hammer. The “French Style” conversion added a drum and nipple to the flash hole. The “Belgian Style” involved plugging the vent hole with a weld and tapping a nipple directly into the barrel. This latter type of conversion was only done at Harper’s Ferry and Springfield, and is sometimes referred to as an “armory conversion.” The last type of conversion was used late in the renovation process, beginning about 1852, and involved adding a bolster to the breech of the barrel, so it is termed the “Bolster Style” of conversion.

This original Wickham M1816 Conversion, exhibiting an “M.T. Wickham, Philadelphia”, undated lock plate, is in overall, good condition. Originally a flintlock, this musket, was converted to percussion for use, during the Civil War, using the later “bolster style” or method. This mode of alteration is often associated with Confederate-altered guns, as the Federal arsenals in the North used the “Belgian” or “Cone-in-barrel” method to convert their flintlock muskets – drum conversions were easier to perform than Belgian conversions and thus favored by smaller Southern arsenals that did not have access to more sophisticated machinery needed to perform the same work as the larger armories in the North.

This musket is interestingly stamped, in two places, on the stock, with “WARREN BRIGADE”; “SNJ” is stamped once in the stock and once on the top of the barrel, near the sight mortise. Research into the state records of New Jersey indicate that in 1839, Governor William Pennington, “Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the State of New Jersey” reported that the state had received, into their armories, on May 11, 1839 “… to Capt. George W. Tunis, of the ‘Warren Guards’, Warren Brigade … 40 Bright Muskets and Bayonets.” Later, on September 21, 1839 “… to Capt. John Miller, to use of the ‘Flying Artillery’, Warren Brigade…” an additional “…40 Bright Muskets with Bayonets and 40 Cartridge Boxes and Scabbards.” Finally, on September 27, 1839, “… to Lieut. Hugh McMiller, to the use of the ‘Hope Rifle Corps’, Warren Brigade… 70 Bright Muskets with Bayonets and 70 Cartridge Boxes and Scabbards.”

It is our belief that this M1816 was issued to State of New Jersey troops, along with the rare .69 cal. M1839 Cartridge Box that was with the musket when we obtained it. This box and musket were found together in Philadelphia and had apparently been together for many, many years. The musket and cartridge box were, in all likelihood, returned to the U.S. Government Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, some time after the Mexican War or in the 1850s, where it was confiscated by Confederate troops at the start of the Civil War. The musket was probably brought to Richmond, where it underwent conversion from flint to its current percussion ignition system.

The musket is in good condition, with a strong action; it is missing the two middle barrel bands and associated band springs, as well as its sight – should one wish, original parts for this musket are readily obtainable. The walnut stock appears to have been slightly cleaned, at some point, but retains a nice overall, flat finish. The barrel has not been cleaned or buffed, and it definitely was originally issued in a bright finish; the original ramrod remains in place. The M1839 Cartridge Box is also in very good condition; all leather is in strong shape; the lower half of the latch tab has broken off, but was inside the box and remains (can be repaired); one of the sling buckles is present, but unattached. The original tins were not with the box when obtained by Perry Adams, but we did find the items pictured here in the box – 19 playing cards, dating to just after the Civil War and three small pieces of wood, one, octagonally shaped, with some indecipherable pencil writing and a date of 1868. The original box plate remains in place, and, as with all M1839 boxes, there are no belt loops on the back of the box.