This is an old Enfield Pattern 1861 2-Band Artillery carbine manufactured by Barnett of London. It's in relic condition and was found by an antiques dealer on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation several years ago. From there, it was sold to a friend, another collector/dealer in South Dakota...and on to us about four years ago. The iron components are pretty rough and pitted but surprisingly, it still has its original 2-leaf rear sight and its front swivel. The ramrod, rear swivel, and lockplate are gone. When it arrived from South Dakota, it had an "Enfield" marked lock which was incorrect and did not match the gun. It soon occurred to us that this had been added (probably by the dealer who found it) to make the carbine look complete. Upon some further discussion with our contact in South Dakota, we felt it likely that it had been found without a lockplate. One theory was that the lock could have been removed by the US Army as a way of disarming the tribe. The Army was known to have disarmed the Sioux on several occasions including Dec. 29, 1890 which turned into "Wounded Knee"...notice I don't use the word "Battle" in front of that event...which I'll explain shortly. The wood is not in great shape but surprisingly intact for a rifle left in the elements for many years. There are some areas where filler was used to patch up the back of the stock and areas above the lockplate. The original Barnett cartouche is still visible on the right side of the stock in the form of a large oval.
The Oglala Sioux tribe who inhabit the Pine Lake Reservation were participants in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn in which Custer's 7th Cavalry were wiped out. As the crow flies, Little Bighorn is approximately 200 miles from where the US Government eventually situated the Oglala Sioux at Pine Ridge. As someone of European descent with perhaps only a small amount of Native American ancestry, I tend to think of people as living in one place...we stay on parcels of property that you own with clearly defined boundaries...and venturing into someone else's land uninvited is termed "trespassing". However, in Indian cultures, especially among hunting tribes, other than rough terrain and rivers, tribal land or territory was not owned, with few boundaries. They migrated to wherever conditions were most favorable in terms of hunting and/or weather. For example, here in Georgia, it's believed that the Cherokee moved along the rivers...south to lower land in the Winter and north into the mountains during the summers where it was cooler. Moving your family over 200 miles of distance for a Sioux back in the 19th century was not a big deal as it was part of their culture to use the land to their advantage. That said, the clash between European farmers who left their continent primarily in pursuit of land and Native American tribles who had no concept of land as property left the US Government with a quandary on its hands. Their solution to this came in the form of treaties which placed these tribes on tracts of land known as reservations which destroyed their hunting patterns and the basis of their culture.
The Pine Indian Reservation is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota, approximately 50 miles south of the Black Hills. It was formed as part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 that set aside 60 million acres to tribes in the region. This lasted until 1876 when the US Gov't violated the treaty and opened 7.7 million acres to homesteaders and private interests. What a strange coincidence...that's the same year of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The boundaries of what eventually became the Pine Ridge Reservation as we know it today were determined in 1889...when the Gov't tried to buy an addition 10 million acres of their land for homesteaders. Another strange coincidence, this was just prior to the Wounded Knee Massacre which occurred in 1890. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
At the time, circa 1889-90, the Army was fearful of a new religion that had swept over the tribes known as the Ghost Dance...which was sort of a last ditch attempt at returning to the old ways. As tensions grew, the US Government became concerned that Chief Sitting Bull, who led the Sioux at Little Bighorn and by some strange coincidence, had been completely against the sale of land to the US Gov't, was now considered a threat towards keeping the peace. They ordered his arrest during which he was killed by Sioux policemen. This caused quite a stir amongst the Sioux and many fearful of the US Gov't began to flee their reservations in small bands. On Dec. 29, just two weeks after the death of Sitting Bull, the US 7th Cavalry intercepted a Sioux band of 350 led by Chief Bigfoot (who had taken in about 40 of Sitting Bull's followers) and were attempting to make their way to Pine Ridge to procure supplies. Surrounded and out-numbered, the Army entered the camp and began disarming the tribe. It's believed that an accidental discharge from a Sioux tribesman's weapon sparked the battle and gave the 7th Cavalry all the excuse they needed to exact revenge from 14 years earlier. What ensued resulted in what is probably one of the most shameful acts in US history. Over 150 mostly unarmed Sioux were killed...some say as high as 300, including many innocent women, children, and even infants. For their heroic deeds, the 7th Cavalry was awarded not 1, 3, or even 5, but 20 US Congressional Medals of Honor. I don't normally try to add much in the way of social or political opinions on this site which is here to sell antique weapons, but sometimes the two become so intertwined that it's hard not to add some background into understanding who owned these guns and what was "actually" happening. More often than not, once we start reading for ourselves, we learn that what seemed like simple glossy stories we've heard from fellow collectors and watched on TV over the years, take on an entirely different meaning.
While we're not going to claim this Barnett carbine ever saw use in the hands of the Sioux at the Battle of Little Bighorn (there are millions out there with those sorts of claims), it is a true Sioux Indian Gun that is still pure (note that there are no tacky brass tacks or faked rawhide patches added). However, that said, I will add that from personal perspective, out of the more than 1,000 antique and historical guns we've sold over the past six years, this is the closest we've come to finding something that theoretically could have been in Montana on June 25, 1876.
Here are some facts:
1. We do know that Enfield rifles were used at Little Bighorn based on excavation of the battlefield following a grass-fire in 1984 in which a multitude of different projectiles were found.
2. Stating the obvious, this percussion style Enfield was manufactured several years prior to the 1876 battle. While most early Barnett Enfields were never dated during the Civil War, I have seen a few that were post war production with the latest dates being around 1868-1870. It never ceases to amaze me how many guns out there with claims of being used in a particular battle or owned by a certain outlaw...were manufactured after the event or death of the owner. This does fit the correct time-frame.
3. It came from the Pine Ridge Reservation where descendants of Sioux warriors who fought at Little Bighorn currently reside.
Can't prove it so we're just selling this as an interesting Sioux artifact...nothing more. All in all, an interesting piece of American history that we're sure would have quite a story to tell if it could only talk!