Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3156: Exceptional Civil War Tower Pattern 1856 Percussion Short Rifle

Auction Date: December 2, 2011

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $3,500 - $5,500

Exceptional Civil War Tower Pattern 1856 Percussion Short Rifle

Manufacturer: Tower
Model: Pattern 1856 Short
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 577 percussion
Barrel: 33 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 4494
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 176
Class: Antique

This Tower Pattern 1856 Short Rifle was manufactured in Birmingham, England, for export to the United States c. 1862. The rifle has a blued barrel, lock, forearm tip, trigger guard and buttplate. The blued, iron, forearm tip, trigger guard and buttplate distinguish the Pattern 56 Short Rifle from the Pattern 53 Rifle-Musket which had brass furniture. The right side of the barrel has a lug for a sword bayonet. The barrel has a block mounted iron front sight blade and adjustable folding leaf back sight with 400 yard base and 1100 center notch. The barrel is secured by two screw fastened bands. The oil finished, English walnut stock has the lower sling swivel mounted behind the trigger guard finial. A brass and leather nipple protector is mounted on the trigger guard finial ahead of the trigger guard bow. The flat, flush-mounted lock plate is stamped with the British Crown behind the hammer and "TOWER" in front of it. The maker's or exporter's name "F. PRESTON" is stamped in small block letters on the left side of the upper barrel band. The top of the barrel is stamped with three British export proof and view marks on either side of two "25" gauge marks. These are the correct view, proof and gauge markings for rifles and muskets exported from Great Britain to the United States during the Civil War. The rifle was manufactured by the Birmingham gunmaking trade for export and has no British military "Broad Arrow" or other property marks. Popularly known as the "Sergeants Rifle", the Pattern 56 Short Rifle was adopted by the British Army in 1856 and issued to the 60th Rifle Regiment, the Rifle Brigade and Sergeants in line infantry regiments. During the Civil War, Pattern 56 Short Rifles were imported by both the United States and Confederate governments. The Ordnance Department and northern state governments (notably Massachusetts) purchased approximately 8000 Pattern 56 Short Rifles during the Civil War. Approximately half of these rifles were imported by Colt and Schuyler Hartley & Graham. By February 1863, the Confederacy had imported 9,715 Pattern 56 Short rifles from Great Britain. In comparison with the more than 900,000 Pattern 1853, Enfield Rifle-Muskets imported for issue to the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War, Pattern 56 Short Rifles are rare. These light, handy, rifles were popular with troops. Export-marked Pattern 56 rifles like this example are rarely encountered with any original finish.

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel, lock, trigger guard and buttplate retain 90% of the original blue finish and show only minor handling wear. The blue finish on the barrel bands has faded to an attractive blue-gray finish. The percussion nipple, bolster, hammer and adjacent portions of the barrel and lock show no flash pitting. The action is crisp. The bore is dark from age but the rifling is crisp and shows no significant wear. The lock and barrel markings are extremely sharp. The stock is in very good condition; the edges of the flats around the lock, barrel channel and ramrod channel are sharp. There is an old, minor and nearly undetectable repair on the right stock heel at the junction with the buttplate heel. The ramrod is period but a replacement. The balance of the stock shows minimal storage and handling marks. This is a very fine example of a scarce Civil War Tower Pattern 56 Short Rifle.

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