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Spencer Model 1860 Carbine

This is a fairly attractive little Spencer carbine which appears to have lived through both the Civil War and the Indian Wars.   The Spencer along with the New Haven Arms Henry Rifle were America's most advanced repeating rifles.   The gun held seven cartridges in a detachable tubular magazine located in the stock of the gun.   While it wasn't as fast as the Henry and didn't have that weapon's magazine capacity (fifteen rounds to the Spencer's seven), the Spencer was rugged, more plentiful in terms of manufacture, and the firepower was quite impressive.   President Lincoln test-fired the Spencer and endorsed its adoption by the Army.  Confederates on the other hand, had less kind things to say about the weapon as the unfortunate ones who went up against Union Cavalry armed with the gun could only respond with muzzle loaders.   With a flick of the lever and manually cocking the hammer, the gun could be emptied within a few seconds.   By 1864, the Spencer carbine had emerged as the Union's premier cavalry weapon.   One of the side benefits in the advanced technology of weapons capable of feeding fixed ammunition was that their copper cased ammunition was basically waterproof; a very interesting advantage in the rain or...a river???   The following is a story we found in a 1956 edition of Lincoln's Choice by J.O. Buckeridge.   P. 175.   The following event took place during Sherman's 1864 Atlanta Campaign:

The sinuous Chattahoochee (river), a vital Confederate waterway flowed as a strong line of natural defense from the Northeast to the Southwest, a few miles above Atlanta.   Its bosom oft was stained with American blood as the Federals strove to get to the other side.   From its shores many exciting fights were witnessed, but none was more amazing than the under-water demonstration of the seven-shooter.

Minty (Brigadier General Robert H.G. Minty) ordered a detachment of his Spencer-armed men (most likely from the 3rd or 4th Ohio Cavalry) to ford the Chattahoochee.   At this point the river was about three-quarters of a mile wide and head deep for most of the way across.   Large rocks in the water gave the men some protection as they started wading, under heavy fire from the other shore.   As the Rebel bullets began to splash thickly around them, the Federals kept to the deep water.  They pulled their heads under as they worked the trigger-levers of their seven-shooters to throw out the spent shells.   The amphibian cavalrymen would bring their guns up, let water run quickly from the barrel, take aim, fire, and duck, to repeat the operation.

This was pure magic to the astonished Confederates.  All were biters of paper cartridges that too much spit might spoil and rain would ruin.   Minty's men, advancing through the depths, could hear the Rebs call out to each other; "Look at them Yankee sons-of-bitches loading their guns under water...What sort of critters be they anyhow...It's no use to fit agin fellus that'll dive down to the bottom of the rivah and git that powder and ball," and like expressions of a natural resignation to an invincible weapon.   As if by common impulse, the men on shore, about 200 in number, dropped their muzzle-loaders and meekly waited, in surrender.

Overall condition of this gun grades to NRA Antique Very Good.   The serial number on this example is in the 35,000 range with 22" barrel.  The original case colors on the frame have faded out to a nickel/silver appearance with the balance of the metal worn to gray.   Some light pitting around the saddle ring bar...otherwise metal is smooth with a pleasing light patina.   At some point, the wood appears to have been lightly cleaned but good wood-to-metal fit that's not under-sized.   The stock retains retains its original military inspector cartouche on the left side behind the saddle ring.   The .50 caliber bore is excellent with 3-groove rifling identifying this carbine as a post-war Civil War rebuild performed by the Springfield Armory from 1866-74.   The top of the frame has the Spencer arms address which is partially worn which is also indicative of of Civil War carbines that were pulled out of arsenal storage (beginning in late 1866) and sent to the Springfield Armory for rebuilding.   Some of the guns rebuilt by Springfield have Stabler cut-off devices which allowed the weapon to fire single shot with the cartridges in the magazine held in reserve.   This carbine never had the Stabler installed.   These rebuilt Spencers went on to serve in the Indian Wars out West where it was the US Cavalry's primary weapon until the early 1870's.   Complete with original sights, swivels, and saddle ring.   Nice working action.   Good example of a Spencer used in the Civil War and Indian War era cavalry carbine.

Item# 9222




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