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First Model Henry Rifle

This is a good example of a mid-Civil War production First Model Henry Rifle in .44 Rimfire.  This repeating rifle revolutionized the firearms industry. Manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company from 1860-1866, its debut over-lapped the American Civil War. The serial number of this rifle is in the 4,600 range which is a prime Civil War production.  According to Wiley Sword's book on the Henry Rifle, this rifle would have been built in March, 1864.  At the time of its manufacture, most Henry rifles were being marketed by dealers in the Mid-West who were selling them like hotcakes to Union Regiments throughout the Midwest in states like Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.  For example, two documented Henry Rifles, also in the same 4600 serial range as this rifle were used by soldiers in the Civil War; one carried an officer named D.M. Freeman in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and another by a Sergeant  E.A. Moore of the 10th Illinois Veteran Volunteers Infantry.  This particular rifle bears a partial inscription on the left side plate, "Jesse Ne???" and what appears to be his Regiment underneath..."88".  We've been through some rosters of  "88th Regiments" without much luck, but have found some names of soldiers whose names could fit this inscription.  If someone, who had more time for research and sleuthing, could connect the historical dots, this rifle could become quite valuable as an Civil War ID'D Henry.

For some background, the early months of 1864 must have been a prime moment for Oliver Winchester and the New Haven Arms Company.  After years of toil and restraints on production capacity, the popularity of the Henry was finally catching on...largely from tales of unprecedented firepower on the battlefield. The timing couldn't have been better for Oliver Winchester for at the moment of this rifle's production, President Abraham Lincoln was in a terrible bind..the war had been dragging on for nearly 3 years and the South was still largely intact with plenty of fight left.  With no significant gains, the American populace was growing tired of the mounting losses and a movement, led by former Union General McClellan was gaining popularity in the Democratic Party to end the War as a divided nation.  With the fall elections looming and facing almost certain defeat, Lincoln knew that his only chance for re-election and preserving the Union, rested in the Union Army's ability to change the tide of War quickly with some sort of major Union Victory. In order to accomplish this, he had to find a military leader who wasn't afraid of Lee, develop a plan of attack, and keep the Union Army intact so it could carry out a massive assault on the Confederacy.  Lincoln didn't have much trouble with the first two problems...he placed General Ulysses Grant in charge of the entire Union Army who in turn came up with the plan which was basically to put the pressure on Richmond and Atlanta until the Confederacy cracked under the strain.  Grant would personally lead the Army in the East against Lee  while his friend William Sherman would lead the Army of the West in an attempt to take Atlanta.  The problem was there soon wouldn't be an Army left to fight as about half the Union Army, their best veterans who'd signed up since 1861, would be going home over the next few months as their 3 Year Terms of Enlistment expired.  In order to keep the Union Army intact, Lincoln worked with Union Generals to come up with something to entice these war-weary soldiers to re-enlist.  Starting in 1864, any soldier who decided to re-enlist was granted 30 days leave, a large bounty, and an extra stripe for their uniform denoting Veteran Volunteer status.  With the War put mostly on hold during the Winter months of 1864, many veterans returned back home for the first time in 3 years on their 30 day furloughs during Jan., Feb, and March, 1864.  That's where these Henry rifles fall into the story.  With large sums of money (I believe Veterans re-enlisting and even new recruits received about $200 dollars in bounty money) in their pockets to spend while on leave, some of these returning Veterans must have suddenly viewed the incredibly high $42.00 price tag for a Henry Rifle as a pretty good life insurance policy.  Quite a number of these were purchased and brought South where they were carried throughout the Atlanta Campaign which lasted from May through September, 1864. From there, they went all the way to Savannah, the Carolinas, and the final surrender of Confederate Armies in NC and VA.  There are documented stories of these rifles in almost every battle through the Atlanta Campaign and Carolinas and over the years, I've talked with Relic Hunters who've unearthed Henry Shell casings from Kennesaw Mountain North of Atlanta all the way to Bentonville, NC.  Read almost any book on the Atlanta Campaign, and you'll find mention of these Henry Rifles. 

Overall condition of this rifle is NRA Antique Good+ Condition with good edges and nice markings throughout.  This is a good solid rifle!  The metal has turned mostly to a smooth grey-brown patina while the brass is has a mellow patina that is light.  If you look closely, there are some light scratches present on the left side of the gun...probably from the buckle of a leather sling...where a soldier carried it.  Good screws throughout.  We checked the barrel, stock, buttplate, and buttplate screws.  The numbers are all 100% all matching.  The stock is in good+ condition...very solid with good wood to metal fit with good square corners...not rounded over.  There are some dings here and there but all in all, very respectable wood for a Civil War era Henry.  Good mechanics...the action is solid and responsive. The bolt is still in .44 Rimfire with its dual firing pins intact.  The bore is in Very Good+ condition with strong rifling that's still fairly bright.  No major pitting, no rings, or bulges...one of the best bores we've seen on a Henry Rifle.  Comes with a letter of authenticity from Henry Expert and Collector Norm Vegely.  A lot of Norm's research is featured in Les Quick's new book on the Henry rifle. 

Item# 1045




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