This is a very rare example of a Confederate-Purchased Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle with Caleb Huse inspection markings. The lock is marked Barnett London with correct London barrel proofs. While Barnett Enfields have a strong association with the Confederacy, the Caleb Huse markings provide definite proof of Confederate purchase...See Page 28 of the 2nd Edition Firearms From Europe by Whisker. Huse's marking is simply a small circle containing the letters "CH" over "1" located on the comb of the stock near the top tang of the buttplate. Standard 39" barrel in .577 Caliber is secured by 3 bands. Original ramrod, brass furniture, sling swivels, and ladder sight. This rifle just recently came from a family in Maine which had owned it for many years. It was probably captured and brought home as a War Trophy.
Condition-Wise, its in NRA Antique Good+ to VG Condition. As you can see from the photos, the rifle has been cleaned at some point in its life. Still, it is in remarkably nice shape and well above average with sharp lines, excellent markings, and shows little usage. Given the clean lines, it displays and photographs quite well...for a contrast, just look at our other Barnett P53 rifle which is in untouched attic condition. Atypical of most Confederate Enfields which received hard war-time use, then often use as a shotgun or hunting rifle on a farm followed by decades of storage in a hot humid climate, this rifle shows relatively little use. It hasn't been fired much as there is no wood erosion around the nipple bolster and almost no pitting. The action works perfectly at both full and half cock positions. The bore is in Excellent condition, still bright and shiny with strong 3 groove rifling...even at the muzzle. In spite of the cleaning, the wood is in very good condition and has an attractive tiger-striped pattern or curl. The CH/1 marking is in good condition and located forward of the top tang of the buttplate along the comb of the stock.
So who was this guy? Major Caleb Huse was the principle buyer for the Confederacy in Europe where in 1861, he beat Union buyers in some cases by only days or just a few hours in securing contracts for large quantities of English-made weapons, primarily the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle. For what Robert E. Lee accomplished on the battlefield, Huse was probably equally qualified in his abilities of finance, securing large quantities of arms, and secretively running hundreds of thousands of arms through the blockade. This involved a clever system of trans-shipping arms aboard large English-owned ships to the British territorial ports of Nassau and Bermuda. From there, the cargoes were loaded onto smaller and much faster steam-powered vessels with light draught hulls often specifcally designed to run the Union Naval blockade of the entire Southern coastline. During the early part of the war, while the Confederate finances were still good and the blockade was far from effective, Huse was so efficient in getting arms into the South that Lee's Armies were often better armed in battle than the Union Army. Huse must have been a very intelligent military officer.....upon arriving in England, he probably didn't know the vast array of arms makers scattered throughout England so he simply found someone who did. This man was Sinclair Hamilton, the Superintendent to the London Arms Company and probably the best private maker of arms in England. While Huse badly wanted to buy arms from the LAC, they were locked up in contracts to the British Gov't for most of 1861. Fortunately for Huse, Hamilton knew every small arms maker in London and Birmingham and offered his services to Huse for a 2-3% commission on each rifle. Soon, Hamilton had every small arms maker in London was producing P53's for the South....makers like Parker Field, Bond, and of course, Barnett made arms that went almost exclusively to the South early in the war. Given the vast array of private makers with varying standards producing weapons for the South in both London and Birmingham, it was necessary to inspect these Enfields through a viewer. The most famous Confederate viewer mark is of course, the "JS" Anchor marking...as rare and desirable as these markings are in today's world, even more rare are Sinclair Hamilton's SH/C stamp, IC for Isaac Cambell & Co., and of course the CH/1 marking showing Huse's personal inspection of a weapon. Please also note the excerpt taken from the Payne Papers on Page 143 from the 2nd Edition of Firepower from Abroad. Payne was a Confederate ordnance officer stationed at the port of Wilmington 1863-65. In the photo, you will note that that the on May 2, 1864, theBlockade runner S.S. Minie delivered 168 Cases of Enfield rifles marked "CH". You will also note that there are 69 cases of Austrian rifles also marked "CH". In addition to buying Enfields in England, Huse also went to Austria in 1863 where he purchased approximately 30-40,000 Austrian rifles. Payne's notes on cargo which ran the blockade from Bermuda is responsible for much of what we know today about Confederate Enfields...especially some of the later shipments.
I'm going to try not to ramble on here but Huse really was an interesting fellow and the Civil War was just one chapter in an amazing life....some people believe that Margaret Mitchell based her main character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind on Huse's real life exploits during the Civil War. Ironically, Huse was born in Massachussetts. In his life prior to the Civil War, it is known he attended West Point and became Superintendent of the University of Alabama where he trained the Alabama Militia. After the war, he returned to the United States and became headmaster of a tutoring academy. One of his pupils in the year 1882 was a young John Pershing who would later command the American Expeditionary Force during World War One. Wiley Sword's book "Firepower from Abroad" gives an excellent account of how important Huse's role became during the Civil War and includes several pages of Huse's letters including some juicy ones between him and Girard & Co., the producer of the Lemat revolver, whom Huse obviously dislikes in spite of formal 1860's era pleasantries.