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Auction Date: September 11, 2015

Lot 3016: New Haven Arms Co. - Henry Rifle

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Historic Illinois Civil War New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle with Cavalry Saber and Documented History
Estimated Price: $37,500 - $65,000
Item Views 159 Bid Activity Average
Serial #New Haven Arms Co. - Henry Rifle ManufacturerNew Haven Arms Co. ModelHenry Rifle
TypeRifle Gauge44 Henry RF Catalog Page14
Barrel24 Inch FinishBlue/brass Grip
Stockwalnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionHenry Lever Action rifle manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company circa 1864 and British Pattern 1821 troopers saber from Edgar County, Illinois. The rifle and saber are accompanied by copies of notarized statements that state the weapons were the property of Ms. Mary Belle Littlefield Bonwell (1934-2014). Ms. Bonwell told her son that the weapons were given to her grandfather Jacob Littlefield by his cousin who was a Civil War veteran, and were kept in a closet in the family home in Edgar County all her life. Edgar County is located in East Central Illinois and portions of a number of Illinois regiments were raised in the county during the Civil War. The second letter/affidavit includes states that the rifle and sword belonged to Samuel H. Light (1834-1914). Who, according to the Illinois Civil War Muster Roll, joined the 7th Illinois Cavalry on September 15, 1861. He re-enlisted as a veteran on March 30, 1864, and mustered out on November 4, 1865, as a sergeant. It a Bonwell descendent states: "I have a letter dated October 30, 1863 addressed to my great-great grand father, Ashel Littlefield, who was a good friend and brother-in-law. The letter describes some war events that he was involved in." A copy of the latter letter is included along with other documents relating to the family. The rifle has the distinctive octagon barrel with integral 15-shot magazine and brass ("Gunmetal") receiver and crescent buttplate. The barrel/magazine are blued. The hammer, trigger, and lever are color casehardened, and the stock is straight grain, oil-finished walnut. The rifle has the later production features which include: (1) square back, nickel silver, front sight, (2) folding leaf rear sight with rounded top, center notch and slide stop screw, (3) large brass magazine follower, (4) beveled follower cut in the receiver, (5) second style receiver which lacks the rear sight dovetail found on rifles up to about serial number 3000, (6) sling swivel on the left side of the stock and sling hook loop on the left side of the barrel, (7) second style buttplate with sharp pointed heel, (8) cap head buttplate screws and (9) second style New Haven Arms Co. legend. The buttplate has a hinged trapdoor and the butt trap contains the four piece, jointed steel cleaning rod with brass tip furnished with Henry rifles in this serial number range. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped: "HENRY'S PATENT OCT. 16. 1860./MANUFACT'D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS CO. NEWHAVEN. CT." This second pattern legend is slightly larger than the legend used on Henry rifles thru serial number 3500 and uses all serifed (Roman) letters; the early legend used serifed letters for all the characters except the second "NEWHAVEN" which was stamped with block (Gothic) letters. The small "W" inspection mark utilized by Oliver Winchester is stamped on the lower tang behind the lever latch. The serial number, "6886," is stamped on the top of the barrel between the rear sight and the receiver. The rifle was not disassembled to examine the serial number on the lower left side of the receiver tang, stock, and buttplate because the tang and buttplate screws had not been disturbed and remain indexed on the axis of the bore. The saber that accompanies the rifle is a close copy of the British Pattern 1821 trooper's saber which was also the basis for the U.S. Model 1826 Dragoon saber. The saber has a slightly curved, 35 1/2 inch, flat back, spear point blade with single fuller. The brass hilt has a three-bar guard and brown leather covered grip. This saber differs slightly from the British Pattern 1821 saber which had an iron guard and had a back piece with half-round ears pinned to the grip. The saber has a light weight iron scabbard with prominent drag, two iron suspension bands and rings, and a flat throat piece. The saber and scabbard are unmarked, but it appears to be a British made piece imported to the United States during the Civil War. Although the Federal government purchased fewer than 2000 Henry rifles during the Civil War, experts believe that most of the Henry rifles manufactured through early 1865 were privately purchased by Federal soldiers who were willing to spend their pay for the firepower provided by the 15-shot Henry rifle. One of the primary retailers for the New Haven Arms Company was located in Louisville, Kentucky. Henry rifles were especially popular with soldiers in Illinois and Indiana regiments who had the opportunity to purchase them with re-enlistment bounties while returning home on furlough during the summer and fall of 1864. This rifle was almost certainly purchased by an Illinois trooper in 1864 with his re-enlistment bounty in anticipation of the final campaigns of the war.

ConditionFine. The Henry rifle remains in un-touched "attic" condition that supports the statement that it had been stored in the closet of the Littlefield home for many years. The rifle is all original and shows minimal handling wear. The barrel and magazine have a very attractive plum brown patina with 25% of the original blue finish visible primarily in protected areas. The barrel edges are sharp and the legend is crisp. The barrel has scattered spots of surface rust that are consistent with years of storage but no significant pitting. The rear sight is original to the rifle and the sight spring remains functional. The brass receiver and buttplate have never been polished and remain in fine condition with an attractive, untouched patina. The receiver and buttplate show very minimal handling wear. The side plate joints are perfect, and the side plates show no sign of ever having been removed from the rifle. The hammer, trigger, and lever have a deep brown patina. The stock remains in excellent condition with the Henry "bump" on left side and nearly all of the original oil finish. Like the other components, the stock shows only very limited handling wear. The saber is in good overall condition with a very fine blade. The blade has been sharpened and retains most of the original polish including the reverse polishing marks on the ricasso. The brass hilt has a good looking, untouched patina. The saber retains the russet leather washer at the throat and about 75% of the leather wrap on the grip. The twisted wire wrap that was originally on the grip is missing. The scabbard is in fair condition and is covered with surface rust and has three shallow dents in the body. This is a really exceptional example of an "attic condition" Henry rifle and Pattern 1821 saber that surfaced after 150 years in storage in a Central Illinois farmhouse. If you want to own one Henry rifle, this may be the one!
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