We found this old Confederate Fayetteville rifle in a pawn shop...in all the years I've been in pawn shops (and I've been in A LOT), this is the first I can recall ever coming across a true Confederate-made weapon. Guess we were finally due to find something and strangely, this was exactly the same time and general proximity to where we turned up a scarce Confederate Gillam and Miller rifle in the previous year! The lock is dated 1863 and appears to be a Type IV as there is no provision for a bayonet lug. The left side of the stock has the Confederate soldier's initials who carried this rifle..."J (carved backwards) M". As you can tell from the pictures, this rifle has lived two lives...one in the military during the Civil War and another one as shotgun in the civilian world following the war. This was the fate of many a Confederate gun following the Civil War as implements of war were slimmed down and put back to work by thousands of hard-scrabble farmers across the South and on the frontier. Many served their owners for decades past the war helping their owners put meat on the table and no doubt discouraging uninvited wild animals from dining on their crops and fields.
The Fayetteville rifle was well qualified for military and postwar work as it was one of the highest quality weapons produced by the Confederate States. That's not surprising considering a sizeable portion of Fayetteville's machinery and armory workers came from the captured Harpers Ferry Arsenal in Virginia. The arsenal possessed the machinery and skilled work force to produce many more guns than it ever did. According to Dr. Murphy's book on Confederate Longarms, the primary reason can be traced to a single but important component on the gun. It appears the arsenal suffered greatly from shortages of barrels which were being supplied by the Richmond Armory. This bottleneck in the flow of production kept the Fayetteville Arsenal idle for extended periods of time and it never reached its full production potential.
In 1865, production came to a halt when the arsenal was captured by the Union Army under General Sherman. With the war winding down, Sherman did not allow his troops to maintain the level of destruction in North Carolina that his troops had wreaked on Georgia and South Carolina. From what I've read, this seems to be also partially supported by the fact that the state had voted for secession in 1861 by a single vote. With half of the inhabitants of the state against the war, it seemed prudent to reel in his bummers and keep the peace. However, Sherman was much less kind to facilities that supported the Confederacy or those that were owned outright by the Confederate government. Thus, the army Fayetteville arsenal was not spared and its walls and buildings were razed in 1865 by Union troops.
Condition-wise, the gun is in good working order and in spite of the alteration looks pretty good for a Confederate weapon. The metal is still fairly smooth and the wood is quite nice nice. It could be restored to its former military configuration with only a few parts, a good piece of wood, and most importantly, a person's time to do the work. For the record, let me be clear in stating that this is a real Fayetteville and aside from the alteration is completely original. It's not a parts gun, a gun built up from a Union musket. First the Bad News: Stock has been cut down to a sporting half-stock. Here is what's missing: forewood, original sights, brass barrel bands, band springs, and sling swivels. Bore has been reamed out to .65 caliber smoothbore. Now, here is the Good News: The gun is all original in terms of existing components. Barrel is uncut and measures its correct 33 inches. Ramrod is original and appears correct for this gun. Original iron Fayetteville fore-end cap was retained and used as the tip for the half-stock. Good Confederate proof marks on the barrel "V P" and Eagle head" 100%. Lock markings are still mostly legible...Fayetteville is legible 90% "1863" is nearly all there 80%, Confederate Eagle symbol about 60%, and the "CSA" stamp underneath is mostly most there 66%. "CSA" on buttplate is all there 100%. Note: Fayetteville rifles are one of the only Confederate weapons that were originally marked with their country of origin, "The Confederate States of America" or "CSA" for short. The only marking that is missing on this gun is the inspector cartouche on the left side of the stock which appears to have been rubbed off.
Very few of these Fayettevilles survived the War and/or 150 years. Today, it's not uncommon to see Fayetteville rifles with price tags between the $10,000 - 20,000 range. For the money, this one is bargain-priced. With a few parts and a little sweat equity, this one could easily be restored, giving some collector out there a nice looking Confederate Fayetteville for a fraction of their full retail value. Over the years, we've often heard groans from collectors about these old warriors that were converted into shotguns. Many share the opinion that it's basically impossible to get an altered gun back to its military configuration and look right. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over the years, we've sold two restorations that were once just like this Fayetteville. One was a Springfield Model 1812 and the other was a Confederate copy of the Mississippi rifle made circa 1862 near Nashville, TN. Both turned out to be FANTASTIC guns that were placed back to their former military glory. We were completely upfront that these had their missing wood restored but were so masterfully done that the new owners didn't care. BTW, neither one had wood spliced under the barrel bands (which is a short cut)...they were right out in the open but done so well they were invisible. Just look at this extremely rare (there are only about 10 of these known) Tennessee-mfd Mississippi rifle:
All in all, this would make a nice winter project for someone and allow a Confederate collector on a budget enough money to go out and buy another good Confederate rifle with the money saved. Best of all, you'll be resurrecting a part of American history that is slowly fading from view with each year that passes.