Superior Example of an 1863 Confederate Fayetteville Rifle with Rare Markings

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Superior Example of an 1863 Confederate Fayetteville Rifle with Rare Markings – Fayetteville rifles were manufactured with machinery captured from the U.S. arsenals at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and shipped to Fayetteville, North Carolina, in early 1862. Research indicates that approximately 8,000 to 9,000 rifles were manufactured between 1862 and 1865 at the Fayetteville Armory, and the gun evolved as a simplified version of the finest U.S. manufactured rifle made at the Harpers Ferry Armory, the Model 1855 U.S. rifle. This rifle is a rare, Type III model, boldly stamped “1863,” “Fayetteville,” with the eagle motif on the lock. There is no date on the breech end of the barrel. It has the distinctive Fayetteville S-shaped hammer. The stock, which remains in excellent condition, exhibits the inspector’s cartouche on the flat, opposite the lock; the cartouche is a script “PB”, the initials of the Fayetteville master armorer, Philip Burkhart. The butt plate, with “CSA” stamped in the tang, as well as a large letter “C”, the trigger guard, both barrel bands (which show the typical “U” stampings) and the nose cap are brass. The gun retains its original sights – a blade front sight and a three-leaf rear sight. The barrel is rifled .58 caliber, and the bore remains clean with rifling in a bold, original state. The rifle was fitted with a saber bayonet lug which remains with little to no wear from use. The V.P. and eagle are visible on the barrel near the breech plug. The original, iron ramrod, which remains in place, has a tulip shaped tip.

As stated earlier, there is no date near the breech plug, but there are the initials “W.W.” in the area around one inch back of the rear sight. This matches the stamp on other Confederate guns of Walter Watson, a British arms inspector and gunsmith, recruited by Major Caleb Huse; Watson would become associated with the Fayetteville Armory, as the war progressed, and he remained in Fayetteville, after the war, as a hardware merchant and gunsmith. In addition to Burkhart’s cartouche in the stock, three additional stamps are visible: “W. Watson, N C” (opposite the lock) and two stampings of “Walter Watson” above some indecipherable letters, on either side of the buttstock, near the mid-edge of the buttplate area. Ed Holloway, in his book Confederate Longarms and Pistols makes a good case that the Enfield M Rifle was built by English Gunmaker Walter Watson in Fayetteville, NC, for the Confederate firm Murdock Morrison (thus explaining the “M” stamped on the lock plate). Holloway notes several M Rifles exist that were stamped with Watson’s cartouche. (from a short online article by Lodgewood Mfg. that discusses the Enfield “M” rifle). Watson may have assisted in the manufacture of this Fayetteville rifle.

In all likelihood, this rifle was manufactured “in the white.” The underside of the barrel is bright and shows no detectible evidence of brown finish. It seems likely that some time ago, perhaps in the 19th century, a coating of a linseed oil mixture, commonly seen applied to other antique weapons left in the white state, was applied to curtail oxidation. The residue of this coating is visible on the lock, buttplate, trigger-guard and barrel bands. It appears to have been applied to the wooden stock as well, thereby enhancing its appealing, reddish-brown color.

The rifle is in exquisite condition; it would rate at a level commensurate with the NRA Fine to Excellent condition standard, a feature nearly unheard of with these mid-war, Confederate arms. The hammer faintly displays its original casehardened colors. The cone is original, and the bolster area is free of detectible pitting. This rifle is a classic example of the Fayetteville (NC) armory’s, mid-war production, evidencing rare markings indicative of production assistance by British gunsmith, Walter Watson. The South had to reach long and hard to produce such weapons, and production had to be coordinated with the Richmond armory. Its barrels could only be produced when there was available iron and steel; the distinctive red walnut stocks were from Georgia forests around Macon. A linen sling is attached and is included with the rifle.