Rare Civil War Martially Marked Henry Rifle Issued to the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry – Serial Number 3071 


Rare Civil War Martially Marked Henry Rifle Issued to the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry – Serial Number 3071 – The Henry rifle was designed by B. Tyler Henry and was developed from the Volcanic lever action carbine. The Henry was a fundamental advancement in firepower during the Civil War. It allowed 15 consecutive shots to be fired before requiring a reload. This advanced armament was devastating to opposing Infantry troops armed with single shot percussion muskets. The Federal Government purchased 1,731 Henry rifles between 1862 and 1865.

 Nearly all rifles between the serial numbers 3000 and 4200 were issued to the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry regiments. Over 200 of the DC Cavalry Henry rifles were captured in September of 1864, during the infamous “Beefsteak Raid”, by forces under the command of Confederate Major General Wade Hampton. These rifles saw subsequent reissue to the 7th, 11th and 35th Virginia Cavalry. The unusual markings of the number “17” on the rear left side of the barrel and in the front left of the frame, coupled with the carved “A” at the left wrist, may indicate use and inventory by Confederate forces.

This rifle has a 23.25”, octagonal barrel with a front sight and a 900-yard rear sight. The loading tube below holds 15 rounds of .44 caliber, rim fire ammunition. The top of the barrel is marked “HENRY’S PATENT. OCT. 16, 1860 MANUFACT’D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS. CO. NEWHAVEN, CT.”. Between the rear sight and the frame, the serial number “3071” can easily be seen. The right flat of the barrel bears the clear inspector’s mark “C.G.C.” for Charles G. Chapman. Under the Chapman mark is the sub-inspection letter “H”. The brass frame has another small “H” stamped approx. 3/8” back from the barrel just below the curve. Serial number “3071” may also be seen on the lower receiver tang that is concealed by the buttstock. All screws on the frame are original. The brass butt plate has a clear “H” stamped on the right-side top near the bend. The cleaning rod door is present, but there is no rod within the stock. The oil-stained walnut stock has an “A” carved into the wood just below the frame tang. As stated above, it is important to note that the atypical marks of “17” at the rear of the barrel and in front of the frame, combined with the “A” carved into the stock, may indicate capture and reissue to Confederate Virginia Cavalry. The underside of the butt plate is stamped with the number: “3323”; obviously, but not unusually, not matching the serial number of the gun. The butt plate is an original Henry part; several martially marked Henrys have been observed with numerically mismatched butt plates, perhaps indicative of field disassembly and cleaning.

A loose-leaf binder containing a general overview of Henry rifles, additional information about this particular Henry, and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry. Additionally, there is information relating to the “Beefsteak Raid”, orchestrated by Confederate General Wade Hampton.

Courtesy College Hill Arsenal:

Designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry, the Henry Rifle was considered one of the most advanced weapons of its day. The toggle-link action was nearly identical to that used in the Smith & Wesson volcanic pistols and the Volcanics manufactured by the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company; however, both of these firearms fired an inefficient self-contained projectile. After Oliver F. Winchester obtained the patent rights to the Volcanic, he founded the New Haven Arms Company and manufactured the Henry rifle which employed the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge created by B. Tyler Henry. Both the rifle and its ammunition were superior in every respect to the Volcanic firearms.

First Model Henrys were made with iron frames (s/n 1 to 400 range,) and brass frames (s/n 1 to 5,300 range, overlapping with iron frames) both with rounded buttplates. Second Models were exclusively brass frame with pointed buttplates (s/n 5300 – 14900 range). Henry rifles had 24” barrels with a magazine capacity of 16 rounds, with a few shorter length Henry carbines known to exist. The serial number of Henry rifles are found on the top flat of the barrel, on the left side of the lower tang under the stock, on the stock under the upper tang, and on the inside of the buttplate. On early rifles, the tang and buttplate screws also are serial numbered. Matching assembly numbers, in small numerals, are found on the barrel under the loading sleeve and on the rear face of the loading sleeve.

Some First Models were purchased by the U.S. Army and bear the “C.G.C.” mark. This was the stamp of Charles G. Chapman, indicating he had inspected and accepted this gun for the Ordinance Department of the U.S. Some Second Models bare the “AWM” and “JT” government inspection markings on the left side of the stock, on the wrist near the receiver.

From records in the National Archives in Washington , D.C. , it is known that rifles in the serial range from 1392 to 3956 were in the Ordnance Department order for Henrys, dated December 30, 1863. Many rifles in this serial range are recorded as issued to the First D. C. Cavalry and after use with this unit were turned back into the ordnance department. These rifles were then re-issued to the Third U.S. Veterans Volunteers, where they saw duty until the end of the war. One of the incentives for reenlisting in the Veteran Volunteers was a cash “bounty” as well as the agreement that the veterans would be permitted to keep their guns and accessories. Because many of the veterans later went west, most of these rifles saw duty in the frontier and in the Indian wars. Few of these martial guns remain in good condition; war duty and later service in the West and other wear resulted in much hard use and abuse.

Sought after due to its rapidity of fire, most Henrys used during the Civil War were purchased by Union soldiers with their own money. The largest privately funded Henry regiment was the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, armed with over 500 Henrys purchased at $52.50 each–almost 4 months pay for a Civil War solider. Despite the obvious superiority of the repeating rifle over muzzle loaders of the day, it was well after the Civil War before the US Government accepted the repeaters, changing warfare forever and making the muzzle loader obsolete for future wars.

By the middle of 1863, the War Department and Ordnance Department were feeling the public pressure to equip cavalry regiments with the Henry rifle. A newly organized cavalry battalion known initially as Baker’s Mounted Rangers, but subsequently designated as the 1st DC Cavalry, would be the first to receive US Ordnance Department contract Henry Rifles. The unit was formed to directly counter the Confederate partisan rangers harassing norther Virginia and the Washington D.C. area, particularly John S. Mosby’s rangers. In order to give Colonel Lafayette Baker’s men, the greatest advantage they were to be armed with the Henry Rifle. To this end, two hundred and forty rifles were ordered in June of 1863 to arm his initial command of a battalion sized force, which eventually grew to be a full sized regiment. In the end some eleven hundred Henry rifles would be delivered under government contract for Baker’s command. The first three hundred came mostly from various New Haven Arms distributors and dealers, due to so few arms being available and on hand at the factory. These arrived in several shipments between June and October of 1863 and are not marked with US inspector marks. Their martial status is confirmed by their notation by serial number in the rolls of the 3rd US Veteran Volunteer Regiment, who received many of the former 1st DC Cavalry guns after this new regiment was formed in the spring of 1865. These initial Henry deliveries appear sporadically in the 1,300 to 3,000 serial number range and as noted are not inspected. The next eight hundred Henry’s delivered to the 1st DC Cavalry were delivered during the first part of 1864 and are all contained within the 3,000 to 4,000 serial number range. These guns were inspected at the New Haven Arms factory by Charles G. Chapman, who began the inspection process in February of 1864. These guns bear Chapman’s block C.G.C. mark on the right side of the barrel at the frame juncture and on the right side of the stock in the form of a script cartouche. This completed the single largest US government order for Henry Rifles. Two additional orders of five hundred and one hundred twenty-seven rifles were placed in April and May of 1865, respectively, for issue to the 3rd Veteran Volunteers. However, at this point the war was over and these guns did not see Civil War combat service. These final deliveries were not inspected by Chapman but bear other inspector marks like AWM. A number of the men in the 1st DC Cavalry purchased their guns and took them home after the war (a total of sixty-five according to Wiley Sword’s research), and an even larger number of the guns were lost while fighting Confederate forces on the Virginia peninsula not long after the guns were issued to them! Another sixty-two went home with the men of the 1stMaine Cavalry, the regiment into which most of the 1st DC Cavalry was folded in August of 1864 when the regiment was dissolved. Sometime after the siege of Petersburg, most of the remaining 1st DC Cavalry Henry Rifle were returned to the Ordnance Department and subsequently re-issued to the 3rd Veteran Volunteers, who were allowed to keep the guns home as part of the bonus they were given as veteran soldiers for re-enlisting. As a result of the large majority of 1st DC Cavalry Henry Rifles having seen service with two different regiments and subsequently being allowed to go home with the soldiers, these guns saw a lot of use and are typically well worn when found today. Many veterans moved west after the war, where their Henry Rifles did yeoman’s service in helping to tame the American West. With slightly less than ten thousand Henry Rifles manufactured prior to the end of the American Civil War, the Chapman inspected arms of the 1stDC Cavalry only represent about 8% of total wartime production, and only about 6% of total Henry production, if you include the guns produced after the Civil War. With only eight hundred of the Chapman inspected guns ever delivered, these are very scarce in any condition and are among the most sought after of the Civil War Henry Rifles and certainly the most desirable variant of the martially inspected guns.

The Beefsteak Raid


The Cattle (Beefsteak) Raid Virginia historical marker S48 commemorates the raid made by Confederate Major General Wade Hampton and 3,000 cavalry on September 14-17, 1864. It is a few feet from the White Oak Road S52 Virginia historical marker.

The raid left Confederate defenses here and swept 50 miles south and east around the Union lines before turning back north into the rear of the Union army near City Point. They returned by a similar route with 2,500 head of cattle and 300 prisoners.

There was no fodder to feed the captured cattle so they had to be slaughtered immediately (resulting in 2 million pounds of beef), and with no way to preserve the meat it had to be eaten right away before it spoiled. But for a few days the Confederate defenders of Petersburg ate steak.

Virginia Marker for Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid

(Beefsteak) Raid

Leaving from a point along the Confederate
right flank on Boydon Plank Road on 14 Sept.
1864, Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton took about 3,000
Confederate cavalrymen and rode more than
100 miles around the rear of the Union army.
Reaching Coggins’ Point on the James River on
the 16 Sept., the raiders successfully captured
almost 2,500 head of cattle from the Federals
and returned to their lines relatively unmolested.
The next day the cattle were penned in the
field east of the Boydton Plank Road until being
slaughtered for the Confederate troops in the
Petersburg trenches.

The Beefsteak Raid

September 14, 1864: Hampton Sets Out to Rustle Some Cattle

Brief Summary: One hundred and fifty years ago today, on September 14, 1864, Wade Hampton set out with approximately 3,500 men of his Cavalry Corps from camps southwest of Petersburg on the Boydton Plank Road.  His goal was to capture almost 3,000 head of cattle located on the plantation of fire eater Edmund Ruffin southwest of Coggin’s Point, a spot on the James River southeast of the massive Federal supply center at City Point.

Scout Shadburne of the Jeff Davis Legion had sent Hampton a detailed report of the area, the cattle, and the Union defenses arrayed to protect them on September 5.  Hampton read the report and planned an operation to extricate the cattle and bring them back to Confederate lines, which he presented to Robert E. Lee in a letter on September 8.  Lee’s reply on the 9th gave Hampton the go ahead, but questioned how Hampton would be able to return if “embarrassed” with wagons and cattle.  He cautioned Hampton to take a circuitous route, watch the Jerusalem Plank Road for the enemy on his return, and keep his flank guards well out to give ample advanced warning.

Now that Hampton had decided on a plan, he needed to select a force to execute it.  He took W. H. F. “Rooney” Lee’s entire two brigade division consisting of Rufus Barringer’s North Carolinians and Col. Lucius Davis’ Virginians.  In addition, Rosser’s Brigade from Butler’s Division and the indpependt brigade of James Dearing were also selected to go in their entirety.  Hampton padded out the expedition with 100 picked men from the brigades of Young and Dunovant from Butler’s Division.

Hampton set out on the Boydton Plank Road southwest of Petersburg early on the morning of September 14, 1864, collecting men as their camps were passed.  Some men didn’t join the moving column until after the sun was up.  Hampton turned slightly left onto the Quaker Road and headed south.  Once the column reached Rowanty Creek, it moved quickly southeast roughly parallel with that body of water.  They crossed Weldon Railroad well to the south of Ream’s Station, almost at Stony Creek, before reaching the Rowanty itself and Wilkinson’s Bridge.  Here the Confederates settled in for the night.  Day one of the raid was a complete success.  Hampton had made his destination without alarming any Federals about what his column intended.

The raid would continue on September 15…

 September 15, 1864: Crossing the Blackwater and Planning the Attack

Brief Summary: After bedding down on the night of September 14, 1864 just west of Rowanty Creek, Hampton’s Confederate troopers got an early start on the morning of September 15, 150 years ago today. Hampton’s men crossed Wilkinson’s Bridge and headed past Belsche’s destroyed mill, a site they’d see more of on their return.  After reaching the Jerusalem Plank Road, the column utilized that thoroughfare for a bit before turning off onto the road toward Cabin Point and a destroyed bridge over the Blackwater on the afternoon of the 15th.

That destroyed bridge, and its rebuilding, was the key to the entire operation.  Hampton had deliberately chosen this route to cross the Blackwater, because he knew that the Yankees knew this bridge had been destroyed and was impassable.  Hampton brought along handpicked “mounted engineers” commanded by Lt. John F. Lanneau, an engineer on Hampton’s staff.  These men were given the appropriate tools prior to the expedition and now set to work rebuilding the bridge over the Blackwater.

While this bridge work was ongoing, Hampton gathered his subordinates and explained the plan.  Rosser’s Brigade and the handpicked men from Young’s and Dunovant’’s brigades under Lt. Col. Miller of the 6th South Carolina Cavalry would overwhelm the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry at Sycamore Church, then head north to rustle the cattle at Coggins’ Point.  Rooney Lee’s Division would head northwest up Lawyer’s Road and guard the left flank near Prince George Court House.  This was the direction of the main Union army and the supply depot at City Point, and more trouble was expected in this vicinity than any other.  James Dearing’s brigade was to head northeast to Cocke’s Mill and block the road to Fort Powhatan to the northeast.  Fort Powhatan, erected on the James River, was also thought to be a potential, though lesser, source of trouble.  Once Rosser et al had gathered up the cattle and had a good head start, Lee and Dearing would be recalled and the whole force would beat a hasty retreat to the Confederate lines.

Lanneau’s men worked hard and had finished a suitable bridge over the Blackwater by nightfall.  Hampton’s Confederate troopers crossed this previously impassable waterway and headed northeast.  When the column reached Lawyers Road, they split up.  Lee headed northwest on Lawyers Road towards Prince George Court House to set up his blocking position, while Rosser, Miller’s picked men, and Dearing moved northeast.  They too would eventually split so that Rosser et al faced Sycamore Church in the center, and Dearing faced Cocke’s Mill on the right.

The 1st District of Columbia Cavalry, about 400 men, guarded Sycamore Church and Cocke’s Mill.  Major J. Stannard Baker led two battalions at Sycamore Church while Captain Will S. Howe and the remaining battalion were camped at Cocke’s Mill.  As Hampton prepared to attack, the sleeping men of the 1st DC Cavalry had no idea what was about to hit them…but that is a story for tomorrow, September 16.

September 16, 1864: 2,500 Union Cattle Rustled

Brief Summary: In the early morning hours of September 16, 1864, two of Hampton’s three wings of Confederate cavalry planned to slam into the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry at Sycamore Church and Cocke’s Mill.  Their goal was the large Union cattle herd at Coggin’s Point, currently grazing on the grass and clover of fire eater Edmund Ruffin’s plantation.

In the darkness, George Shadburne, the scout from the Jeff Davis Legion who had originally reported on the cattle to Hampton back on September 5, proposed a plan to quietly use a ravine to swing around the Union camp at Sycamore Church  and capture the 1st DC Cavalry in their beds.  Tom Rosser had other ideas.  He convinced Hampton to let him charge straight into the Union camp and surprise them before they could offer any resistance.

One squadron from the 11th Virginia Cavalry led the way, but they drew fire from the Union picket on the road and had some trouble with the reserve picket line.  Eventually, weight of numbers and the advantage of surprise won the day, and Rosser’s men bagged Major J. Stannard Baker from the 1st DC Cavalry as well as many men from the two battalions he led at Sycamore Church.

Rosser’s attack was heard by the right and left wings, letting them know it was time to play their roles as well.  Dearing’s men on the right overwhelmed the remaining battalion of the 1st DC Cavalry at Cocke’s Mill, taking up a blocking position against Fort Powhatan to the northeast.  These Union troopers retired in the direction of what they thought was safety at Sycamore Church, not knowing Baker’s men had already been overwhelmed.  They too were captured.  On the left, Rooney Lee’s division moved to the intersection  of Lawyer Road and the Stage Road near Wilkin’s farm and, after a short recon  mission toward Prince George Court House, they dug in.  Their mission was to block any Union advance coming from the direction of the main Union lines to the west or the Union supply base at City Point to the northwest.

This left one more item on the agenda, the capture of the cattle by Rosser’s Brigade and a picked group of one hundred men from Butler’s Division.  Facing them were less than one hundred civilian herders and a portion of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry under Capt. Henry Gregg, the brother of cavalry division commander David McM. Gregg.  After the Federals refused to surrender, White’s 35th Virginia Battalion scattered Gregg’s men quickly, at which point Rosser’s men rounded up the cattle and headed back toward Sycamore Church.

At this point the raid changed to a race for the Confederate lines, at least as far as cavalry can “race” when burdened with almost 2,500 cattle. Hampton sent couriers to his right and left wings to recall them to Sycamore Church.  Rosser and the cattle would head out first, followed by Dearing, with Rooney Lee’s Division bringing up the rear and attempting to hold off any Union incursions.

The Union cavalry started out on a two-pronged pursuit.  Kautz led the 3rd New York Cavalry back to Sycamore Church, but the Confederates were long gone.  In addition, the 2nd Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac, temporarily under the command of General Henry Davies, pursued down the Jerusalem Plank Road, just as Robert E. Lee had predicted when Hampton brought the idea of the raid to his attention.

As the cattle continued towards the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers, Rosser’s Brigade threw up a blocking position near Ebenezer Church on the Jerusalem Plank Road on the afternoon of September 16.  Davies struck this position in an attempt to get to the cattle, but after several attacks he called things off.  Hampton tried to surround Davies, but he had already withdrawn north several miles.  One last abortive attempt to find the cattle by Davies’ men south of Reams’ Station to the east was attempted.  Davies called off the pursuit for good after this.

Hampton, meanwhile, continued on to the south and west, eventually camping just west of Wilkinon’s Bridge over Rowanty Creek, the same spot the Confederates had spent the night of September 14.  The cattle spent the night of September 16 just west of Freeman’s Ford over the Nottoway River south of Ebenezer Church.

After multiple skirmishes and the successful rustling of the cattle on September 16, all that was left for the Confederates on September 17 was to make the final portion of the trek back to Confederate lines. Up the Boydton Plank Road.  Would they make it….?

September 17, 1864: Beefsteak for the Confederate Army

Brief Summary: After an eventful September 16, 1864, Hampton had a relatively easy time on September 17, the last day of his beefsteak raid.  On this day 150 years ago, Hampton’s men shepherded almost 2,500 stolen Yankee cattle back into Confederate lines southwest of Petersburg.  The Federals failed to mount a concerted, or even determined, pursuit.

At the cost of just over 60 casualties all told, Hampton had captured hundreds of Yankee troopers, embarrassed the Federal high command, and most importantly, had secured 2,468 cattle for the nearly starving Confederates in Lee’s trenches.

Meade had feared just such as attack when two of his cavalry divisions had been sent with Phil Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley.  Gregg’s remaining division from the Army of the Potomac as well as Kautz’s understrength division from the Army of the James simply could not hold all of the key points they needed to in enough force to dissuade the Confederates from just such an attack.

Despite Confederate post-war claims of the herd feeding Lee’s army “for two months” or “to the end of the campaign,” in reality they only provided rations for several weeks.  Lee’s supply issues were too great for the raid to make a major, game changing difference.  It was one of the last hurrahs for the proud Army of Northern Virginia.

Meanwhile, Grant was already planning to tighten the noose around Petersburg and Richmond even more at the end of the month…