This old Springfield Model 1842 musket was just discovered right here in Georgia having come straight from a family who have had it in their possession for over 50 years. We get lots of emails and calls about old guns, but I could have never guessed what we were in store for when our phone rang last month concerning this old warrior.
Upon actually seeing it for the first time, I noticed a somewhat worn but beautifully inscribed name in the wood just beside the triggerguard. It read "CHARLES L. ROSS F.R." This was actually one of three different names found on this musket. The other two are "MG GREEN CO I" scratched into the right side of the stock and the initials "ASP" located on the other side of the triggerguard. While I've taken time to thoroughly research Charles L. Ross, I haven't had much time to spend with the latter two names, so this will have to be an adventure for someone else to embark upon.
Upon seeing the names and the well-worn condition of this 1842, I almost immediately had a strong suspicion this was Confederate. It's been pointed out over the years that putting ones name on a gun, usually in the wood, was somewhat of a fad during the Civil War, but this was especially true of the Confederate Soldier. Perhaps this was due to competition amongst fellow soldiers or units in a quest to find and retain better weapons. Given the vast array of different arms used by the Confederates, or in many cases, lack of quality arms, it was probably necessary to etch your name onto a good weapon as proof of ownership if you intended to hold onto it for long. Often today when we find these guns, it's evident that a piece may have gone through a succession of pre-war, war-time, or post-war owners with former owner's names removed or altered in place of new ones. Civil War guru Bill Adams once relayed a story found in a VA newspaper of an older Veteran of the Mexican American War who joined the Confederate Army in VA receiving the very same Model 1842 he'd carried in the previous hostility. Furthermore, many men were killed, wounded, furloughed on sick leave, or simply picked up a better gun off the battlefield. That's what makes this rifle so interesting as it bears three different names without a single one damaged....perhaps one could surmise this as a sign of respect towards a fellow soldier or comrade.
So who was Charles L. Ross F.R.????? Well, our search started out a little slowly at first as there were 138 individual soldiers with the name "Charles Ross" who fought in the Civil War. Fortunately, this man must have been proud of his name as he had taken time to include his middle initial when he carved his name. This really helped narrow down the field considerably as there were only 2 listed by the name "Charles L. Ross". Both Charles L. Ross's were Confederate...one in Company E of the 19th Mississippi Infantry. The other Ross was in Company C of the 2nd GA Independent Infantry Battalion from Macon, GA. Naturally, at this point, I was leaning towards the latter of the two Confederate Ross's since we knew this musket has resided here in a single Georgia family for at least the past 50 years. The next part of the search revolved around deciphering what the letters "F.R" after his name could have meant. Since many Georgia units had names, we took this direction and soon learned that Company C. of the 2nd Georgia Independent Infantry Battalion called themselves the "Floyd Rifles". This realization left no question as to which Charles L. Ross carried this weapon during the Civil War. From there we conducted several U.S. Federal Census searches and paid a visit to the brand new Georgia State Archives facility in Jonesboro, GA. It's also located right next to the Southeastern Branch of the National Archives. We found the staff at both facilities highly capable professionals and very helpful in assisting us with our research.
Background: Charles Lewellyn Ross was born in Macon, GA around 1842. The 1860 Census lists Charles Ross as 17 years old, one of seven children living with his parents, Martha and Thomas Lewellyn Ross. His occupation is listed as a Clerk....Ross appears to have had a long career before and after the war as we also find him listed as a clerk in the 1880 census. Depending on what type of clerk, we could make a logical conclusion that he could read and write and could even surmise he must have had exceptional penmanship. Given the careful placement of his name on the gun and the attention to carving the name, it's apparent Ross had some talent in calligraphy as his name shows exceptional detail compared to what we usually find on Confederate owned guns. Another interesting note from this Census is Ross' father, Thomas, is listed as a U.S. Deputy Marshall. Since it was customary for the U.S. Marshall to conduct the Census, the 1860 Census for Bibb County, GA was actually done by Thomas Ross....his family is the first one listed and done in their father's hand.
Ross enlisted as a Corporal in the 2nd GA Independent Infantry on April 20, 1861 where it was assembled at Norfolk, VA. He is listed as being a member of Company C (Floyd's Rifles) along with 8 other soldiers with the same family Ross surname to join Company C. Of the 1019 men belonging to the 2nd GA, he was one of only 84 men and two Ross men to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 10, 1865. The April 20, 1861 Muster roll lists Ross as "PRESENT" and "RECEIVED 1 BLANKET and 60 CARTRIDGES". Since no Enfield rifles were imported until the Fall of 1861, the primary weapons available in the South were Models 1816 and 1842 Muskets taken from Federal and State arsenals. These 60 cartridges very well may have been for this exact Model 1842 musket. Another muster roll dated December 11, 1861 shows Ross is promoted from a "1st Corp to 5 SGT". The Muster roll for Sept.-Oct., 1862 lists Ross as "Absent on Sick furlough in Georgia". The 2nd GA served initially in North Carolina and returned to Virginia during the Seven Days' Battles and fought at Malvern Cliff under General J.G. Walker. The 2nd was subsequently transferred to Wright's Brigade in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia seeing action from Fredericksburg to Appomattox. At Chancellorsville in 1863, the 2nd sustained 28 casualties with 2 men killed and 26 wounded.
On July 2nd, 1863, the 2nd GA Infantry was part of A.P. Hill's 3rd Corps and ordered to take part of Cemetery Ridge and crossing the one mile open plain raked by artillery and gunfire before traversing the hill. This was the same field General Lee disastrously ordered Pickett's men to charge across the following day on July 3rd. However, on July 2nd, Wright's brigade successfully reached the heights of Cemetery Ridge and briefly captured several batteries of artillery before being forced to retreat due to lack of reinforcements, a collapsing right flank and natural barriers that prevented the left flank from providing support. As dangerous as the ascent to Cemetery ridge had been for the 2nd GA, the ensuing retreat must have been an even more harrowing experience for these young men as they were fired upon at point blank range as they were forced to withdraw. Many of these men were killed, wounded, and captured including the Second's commander, Major George W. Ross (likely related to our Charles L. Ross) who was mortally wounded at Cemetery Ridge and captured while trying to retrieve several pieces of captured Union Artillery. Of the 173 men of the 2nd GA engaged at Gettysburg, they suffered a nearly 50 percent casualty rate. Here is an excellent link to a summary report by Capt's Moffett and Girardy, Commanders of the 2nd GA Infantry, Wright's Brigade following the Battle of Gettysburg:
Muster rolls show Charles L. Ross as being present during the Battle of Gettysburg. The following is what we discovered on the Muster Rolls of Ross family members of Company C after the Battle of Gettysburg:
Charles L. Ross ....Present.
Major George Ross. Present, wounded and taken prisoner...died August 2, 1863.
Francis C. Ross. Present, wounded in wrist, taken prisoner, exchanged July 30, 1863, furloughed August 12, 1863.
William J.F. Ross. Present, wounded in knee, taken prison, paroled August 23, 1863, on wounded furlough Sept.-Oct., 1863, returned to active duty and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant November 22, 1863.
Following Gettysburg, Charles Ross appears present on Muster rolls for the remainder of the war. In addition to the muster rolls, we also found a commendation of $42.90 for rations during his sick leave signed by Major Ross, CR Redding..Capt of Co. C, and Charles L Ross' own signature. We also obtained copies of C.L Ross' surrender Record stating he surrendered on April 10, 1865 at Appomattox C.H. and was paroled on April 18th. Interestingly enough, the surrender records state his former residence and destination as being Chattanooga, TN. This was probably a bit of a lie on Ross' part because his hometown of Macon had not surrendered to Union Authorities....at least not until April 20th. In order to be released, it would have been wise for him to state his hometown was a city already under Union control. I believe one of Lee's requests to General Grant was to allow the surrendered and now former Confederates to return home with their horses and weapons. If so, this would be a plausible explanation for how it was discovered here in Georgia over 50 years ago.
The musket itself is in NRA Antique Good condition with the metal showing evidence of having perhaps been lightly cleaned many decades ago. Over the years, it has turned back to a light brown patina. Overall, this rifle is completely unaltered and in its original configuration. The lock is dated 1852, marked Springfield with the American Eagle under the bolster. Sling swivels and original ramrod are intact with the rod slightly protruding past the muzzle....as the channel probably has about 1/2" of dirt left over from the Civil War still down there. There is typical pinprick pitting around the bolster and rear of the barrel from firing where sparks from the caps splattered fulminate over the metal. The wood shows lots of carry wear and use with a deep dark patina but intact with no serious cracks, repairs, or damage. There is some minor burn loss to the wood just behind the bolster, and one would expect no less of knowing its history. All three names in the wood show handling wear but are still completely legible and intact.
This musket will come with copies of Charles L. Ross' Civil War records, 1860 and 1880 census records, along with a letter from the family who has owned this musket for the past 50 years. In addition, we feel much more of this rifle's history should come to light with research on M.G. Green and the additional initials in the wood.