Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3087: New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle 44 Henry RF

Auction Date: April 21, 2013

Rare Civil War Engraved and Documented U.S. Contract New Haven Arms Henry Lever-Action Rifle

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $55,000 - $85,000

Rare Civil War Engraved and Documented U.S. Contract New Haven Arms Henry Lever-Action Rifle

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 inch octagon
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 2903
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 50
Class: Antique

This is an exceptional example of a historic Henry lever action rifle that was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Co., for the U.S. Ordnance Department in 1865. The Ordnance Department purchased a small number of Henry rifles from the New Haven Arms Co., to arm the U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry (VVI) regiment. Most of the identified Henry rifles are associated with the 3rd VVI Regiment. The 3rd VVI was one of nine Veteran Volunteer regiments recruited in early 1865 to serve as an elite corps of experienced infantry. The VVI regiments were armed with Sharps, Spencer and Henry rifles and VVI soldiers were allowed to retain their rifles on discharge. The 3rd VVI was organized in February 1865 at Camp Stoneman, District of Columbia, served in the Shenandoah Valley and Washington defenses and was discharged at Camp Butler, Illinois, in July 1866. The rifle is accompanied by a letter from the Springfield Research Service (SRS) which states that information in the National Archives shows this rifle, serial number 7,419, was issued to Pvt. Lewis Reibrecht, Co. B, 3rd VVI. The SRS letter states that Pvt. Reibrecht was born in Wurtemberg, Germany and was 25 when he enlisted in the 3rd VVI on March 29, 1865. His occupation was listed as an engraver. Pvt. Reibrecht was discharged at Madison, Wisconsin, on March 29, 1866. The SRS letter states that it can be assumed that Pvt. Reibrecht kept Henry rifle serial number, "7419" when he was discharged. U.S. Contract Henry rifles issued to the VVI regiments lack the ordnance inspection marks found on the 900 Henry rifles in the 3,000 serial number range that were purchased for issue to the 1st D.C. Cavalry Regiment. This rifle has a blue barrel with the distinctive Henry brass receiver and crescent buttplate. The hammer and lever have a casehardened finish. The barrel has the late nickel-silver square-back front sight blade and dovetail mounted folding leaf rear sight. The rear sight has a 900 yard center notch and retaining screw at the top of the leaf. The receiver lacks the rear sight dovetail found on early production Henry rifles. The brass buttplate is the Second Style with sharply pointed heel. The buttplate has a hinged trap door and the trap contains the Second Style four-piece jointed steel cleaning rod issued with Henry rifles in this serial number range. The straight grain black walnut stock has a varnished finish. The left side of the stock has a factory sling swivel and the left side of the barrel has a factory screw-fastened loop for a sling hook. Sling swivels were standard features on late production U.S. contract Henry rifles. The top of the barrel is roll-stamped with the Second Style two-line legend "HENRY'S PATENT.OCT.16.1860./MANUFACT'D. BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS.CO.NEWHAVEN.CT." using all serifed letters. The serial number, "7419" is stamped on the top of the barrel in front of the receiver, the left side of the lower receiver tang, inside of the upper tang inlet of the stock and on the inside of the buttplate below the trap door. The buttplate and receiver have the late style cap screws which are correctly not stamped with the rifle serial number. The left side plate is engraved: "L. Reibrecht ." in Old English letters above "Co.B.3rd U.S.V.V. 1st A.C./1865". An oak leaf and acorn motif is engraved on the left front receiver flat. The right side plate is engraved with a scroll surrounded by delicate foliate engraving and the right front of the receiver is decorated with a stylized seven-pointed star with a small bird on a branch in the center. The remainder of the top and sides of the receiver and upper tang are decorated with delicate and well executed scrollwork and floral designs utilizing a combination engraved and wriggled lines and punch-dots. Identified U.S. contract Henry rifles are very rare. However, there are two other inscribed and engraved Henry associated with Co. B, 3rd VVI. Henry serial number "7365" inscribed to "L. Spangenberg" and a Henry rifle inscribed "Christian Handel", serial number unknown, are illustrated on pages 34 and 35 of "THE BOOK OF WINCHESTER ENGRAVING" by R.L. Wilson. The Handel rifle is also pictured on page 45 of "THE WINCHESTER BOOK" by George Madis. All three rifles share similar engraving styles.

Rating Definition:

Very good plus. The rifle is original and shows field use but no abuse. The barrel has an attractive, crisp mottled brown patina. The edges are sharp, markings are clear and the barrel is crisp. The rear sight is complete, retains the leaf spring in the base and is original to the rifle. The brass receiver and buttplate have a very fine, attractive untouched patina. The side plate joints are sharp and there is no indication the side plates have ever been removed from the rifle. The receiver and buttplate show minimal handling marks. The receiver engraving is crisp. The stock is very good with an old coat of protective varnish applied and only minor handling wear. This is an outstanding example of a rare U.S. contract Henry rifle with National Archives documentation and extraordinary period engraving. It would be hard to find a better example of an engraved U.S. issue Henry rifle.

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