This is a nice example of a late-war Confederate Enfield musket marked with the Anchor S viewer's on the stock comb and one of the few you'll find with an 1864 manufacture date. This one is attic fresh with lots of patina. It has a great maker's cartouche in a large oval on the right side of the stock that reads 'E. Bond, GUN MAKER, Shadwell St., Birmingham'. Eaton Bond of Birmingham was the brother to EP (Edward Phillip) Bond of London, who was another prolific maker of Enfields during the early part of the war. Eaton was also a shareholder in the London Armoury Company. See page 22 of The English Connection by Pritchard and Huey.
Over the years, we've seen enough Anchor S marked Enfields to begin to recognize a steady pattern. Thus far, they have all been of Birmingham manufacture and all have had 1863 or 1864 dated lock plates. The 1863 dated ones are are the most common but occasionally one like this 1864 turns up. Of the Anchor S marked Enfields, these 1864's are my favorite because there is no time overlap due to the fact that the Union had ceased purchasing Enfields by the early fall of 1863. The other aspect that I like about these late war Confederate imports is that they have a tendency to be in a little nicer condition due to a smaller window of service before the end of the war.
Since it often took months between the time manufacture, shipment to Bermuda or Nassau, followed by trans-shipment through the Union blockade (usually) to the port of Wilmington, an 1864 dated Enfield would have likely been delivered at the earliest several months into that particular year. Because it had more than one inlet from the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape Fear River, Wilmington was the last major Confederate to remain open on the east coast until it was finally blocked by the Union in early January, 1865 due to the fall of Fort Fisher. This is not mere speculation as there is surviving documentation of military cargo delivered through the Port of Wilmington from mid-July 1863 through December 1864. Known as the Payne papers, these recorded the names of blockade runners, the dates they arrived and what was offloaded in Wilmington. There is specific mention of crates of Enfield rifles, Enfield carbines, Austrian rifles, as well as the purchase of 900 Kerr revolvers. That said, we could make an educated guess that this rifle was delivered sometime between the spring through late fall of 1864. It would have likely been delivered through somewhere between 5-14 months of service before the end of the war.
This Enfield has great wood and the Anchor S symbol is sharp and clear. The edges of the wood are still quite sharp with a little bit of spark erosion to the edge of the wood just behind the fence of the bolster. This one saw some action not to the extent you'll find on an average 1861-62 dated example which often saw several years of combat. There is one distinct notch cut into the top of the comb. Who used it and where? Petersburg? Atlanta? I wish we knew.
The metal is in great shape with a very heavy uncleaned patina. I can't remember the last time we had a Confederate Enfield with the original washers still present at the ends of the tension screws for all three barrel bands Under all the crud on the side of the barrel are the Birmingham proofs and the double "25" gauge markings. Both sling swivels are present with the screw for the swivel on the trigger guard being a correct replacement. The is some pitting around the bolster and the top of the cone on the original nipple has broken off many years ago. If desired, I will include an original percussion nipple/cone for this rifle. Like many Enfields we find today, the rear sight was removed which was often a preference of many Confederate soldiers. I've never researched it but very few weapons manufactured in the South during the war had adjustable sights...with the exception of Richmond and Fayetteville rifles which had the Model 1855 leaf sights. No doubt, these were made from captured Federal tooling taken from Harpers Ferry in 1861. They just were not big believers in adjustable sights. One story I read concerned the capture of a number of "Yankee" Enfields at the battle of Pickett's Mill near Dallas, GA in 1864. Balls were noted as "sailing over our heads and into the trees behind the lines" during the battle. Upon capturing the Union position some 300 yards away, it was discovered that the ladder sights on their Enfields had been set for 500 yards causing their shots to harmlessly pass over. Upon capture of these rifles, it was duly noted that these sights were quickly removed so as not to cause any more confusion. Most of these men grew up on farms using rifles with either fixed sights or no sights. The fact that the Confederacy produced very few rifles with adjustable sights gives an impression that this sentiment went well up into the upper ranks. The mechanics are good. Bore was still loaded with something which turned out to be an old firecracker and a lot of debris. It appears to have been used as a shotgun after the war as there is almost no rifling left. This was a very common practice after the war.