This is a scarce Confederate 2 Band Naval Short rifle in .577 Caliber with 33" barrel. Its JS Anchor marked with the blockade number and supplier's initial. I don't have much of a story on this one but it came from a family in Central Tennessee, not far from where the remnants of General Hood's Army of the Tennessee, follwoing the battle of Atlanta, were decimated at the battles of Nashville and Franklin in late 1864. The Naval rifle is a scarce variation of what many of us refer to as the 2 band Sergeant's rifle. At first glance, they appear to be slightly different than most 2 band rifles in that they have brass furniture instead of iron and are sling-mounted the same as a 3 band rifle. However, what made the Naval rifle unique from the Sergeant's rifle was its thicker barrel and 5 groove rifling. This made the Naval rifle an ideal weapon for Confederate Navy but Sharpshooters in the Confederate Army. Given the blockade number in the 4,000 range, (Confederate Navy purchases are usually much lower) this one was used in the Army on land. Next to a highly prized but scarce Whitworth rifle and the long range Kerr rifle, the 2 band Enfield Naval Rifle was the weapon of choice among this small but elite group of rebel marksmen. Operating between the Union and Rebel lines, this short but accurate rifle was easy to carry and proved to be a very effective weapon at wreaking havoc on the Union front lines.
Since the South often lacked effective artillery, rebel snipers played an important role in counter-strikes against batteries of Union Artillery...which often had free-reign in raking the Confederate lines from afar. Shelling was not only took casualties and weakend fortifications but it was hard on moral...particularly when your side didn't always possess capability of firing back. However, a well-trained group of snipers could curtail such activity to some degree and provide relief. By placing repetitive fire into one or more batteries of Artillery, enough lead poisoning the air within a battery, could often cause enough damage and chaos to disrupt a bombardment (within an hour in some cases). The end result was their foes were forced to flee and/or remove their field pieces so far back that they were no longer within effective range. These types of operations were greatly welcomed by Rebel infantryman who suffered the brunt of these barrages. Although too late, in one case, snipers were successfully deployed against the Union battery that had just killed General Leonidas Polk on Pine Mountain, GA in 1864...forcing the battery to retreat.
Due to the acute shortage of small arms at the beginning of the Civil War, the South turned to Europe to purchase the weapons it could neither manufacture in quantity, nor even possessed. England was the ideal choice and Confederate buyers Caleb Huse and Major Alexander were sent to secure contracts for Enfield muskets, rifles, and carbines. Huse beat Union purchasing agents by only days and while he was not able to acquire a large contract for machine-made Enfields at the London Armoury, he gained a huge advantage over Union buyers by employing that firms Superintendent, Archibald Hamilton, as its main liaison for purchasing. Hamilton knew every maker in London and Birmingham and quickly tied up probably all the London makers and much of Birmingham producing Enfields for the South. This particular rifle was built in Birmingham by the well-known firm Isaac Hollis & Sons. Purchased and inspected by the mysterious Confederate viewer we only know today as "JS" (Man at Arms recently published a new article that makes a strong case that this man was John Southgate...a Gov't inspector who lived only blocks from the London Armoury) in England, this Enfield was run through the Union Naval Blockade off the Southern coastline probably sometime around late 1861 or early 1862. With Archibald Hamilton knowing the British Industry from the inside out, acquiring Enfields in the early part of the war would have probably simplified Huse's task. However, getting those weapons back to the South and into the hands of soldiers in the Confederate army was complicated and risky. We don't know exactly how this was done...but one thing is for certain, the Union had plenty of informants and spies keeping an eye on Confederate activities all across Europe...especially in Great Britain. To purchase, inspect, warehouse, crate, secure shipping, all while trying to avoid detection, must have been quite a task. Early in the War, some shipments were able to go directly coast to coast....but as the Union blockade took hold, war supplies had to be trans-shipped to storage facilities in Nassau, Bahamas and Bermuda. From there, smaller ships were needed. These were mostly built in England for the sole purpose of running contraband. Stripped down, powered by steam with little to no rigging, these boats possessed shallow hulls and were sometimes painted grey or dark colors to avoid detection. Running the blockade successfully into a Confederate-controlled port took some luck and great skill from the Captain, Pilot, and crew.. Usually done at night, there are some amazing accounts of their failures and successes.
The Lock is Marked Tower over "1861" with a plain crown behind the hammer. The bottom of the stock has the JS Anchor marking...its visible but extremely fine as it was lightly stamped by the Confederate viewer. It has a blockade number engraved on the upper tang in the 4,000 range with the supplier's letter forward of the tang. In front of the buttplate tang is the letter "S" placed perpendicular to the numbers...this stands for "Scott and Son." who was one of the five main suppliers who sold Enfields through Archibald Hamilton to Confederate buyers Caleb Huse and Major Alexander. The five main suppliers were Bond "B", James "J", Scott & Son "S", Kerr "K", and Freed & Co. "F". Archibald Hamilton was both the Superintendent of the London Armoury Co. and secured quantities of Enfields by private contractors for the Confederates in London and Birmingham. Hamilton was so effective, in tying up Enfield production for the Confederates, that the "US Consul in London, F.H. Morse, was highly distressed to report in Oct. 1861 that "of Enfield rifles they (Confederates) have thousands now ready for shipment, and have all the armories here at work for them. With these (London makers) and what they are getting at Birmingham they must be receiving not far from 1500 per week.""P. 12 The Confederate Enfield by Wiley Sword.
Overall, this rifle is in NRA Antique Good+ to Very Good condition. The metal has turned mostly to a dark brown patina. Its complete with its original sights, brass furniture and sling swivels (front swivel is a replacement). Bayonet lug was removed long ago. The left side of the barrel is marked with dual "25" gauge marks which translate to .577 caliber along with Birmingham proofs. Wood is in very good condition....a pleasing butternut color that is turning darker from wear and age. Wood to metal fit is very good showing some slight shrinkage over the past 140+ years. Wood has no chips or repairs...one minor hairline (about 1.5") running from the top of the wood-line to the lock-plate screw. Very Good mechanics with hammer working on both half and full cock positions. The bore was filthy when we found this but we were able to get many decades of dirt and rust removed and were greatly relieved that a farmer or hunter didn't convert this rare gun into a shotgun as happened quite often on so many Civil War longarms post-war. We're happy to report that all of the 5 groove rifling is there and intact. This is a great example of a very rare rifle. With Whitworth rifles in the Confederate Serial ranges now bringing prices in the six figures and London Armoury-made Kerr rifles nearly impossible to find, a Naval rifle is quite a bargain for a collector wishing to acquire a Confederate Sniper rifle. Best of all, its Confederate marked...so there's no guesswork in who used it.