Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 142: U.S. Contract Whitney Model 1841 Percussion 'Mississippi Rifle'

Auction Date: May 14, 2021

Outstanding 1853 U.S. Contract Whitney Model 1841 Percussion 'Mississippi Rifle' Dated 1852

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $12,000 - $18,000

Outstanding 1853 U.S. Contract Whitney Model 1841 Percussion 'Mississippi Rifle' Dated 1852

Manufacturer: Whitney Arms Company
Model: 1841
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 54
Barrel: 33 inch round
Finish: brown/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1901
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 141
Class: Antique

This is an extraordinary example of a U.S. contract Model 1841 rifle that was manufactured by Eli Whitney at the Whitneyville Armory in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1852. The rifle is in the original .54 caliber round ball configuration and has none of the alterations performed on most Model 1841 rifles prior to or during the Civil War. The rifle has a color casehardened lock plate and hammer with browned barrel. The trigger, screw heads, and band springs have a fiery niter blue finish. The buttplate, patch box, trigger guard, side plate and barrel bands are brass. The rifle has the distinctive over-sized brass patch box. The barrel has a half-moon shaped brass blade and a fixed rear sight. The steel ramrod has a flared brass tip. The patch box contains a spare percussion nipple. The lock plate is roll-stamped "N. HAVEN/1852" in two vertical lines behind the hammer and "E. WHITNEY/US" in two lines ahead of the hammer. "US" is stamped on top of the buttplate. The barrel tang is dated "1852". The top of the barrel is stamped with the proof and inspection marks "US/SM/V P". "STEEL" and the small Ordnance sub-inspection mark "C" are stamped on the left barrel flat. The left stock flat is stamped with the Ordnance final inspection mark which consists of the Ordnance Sub-Inspector's script initials "JPC" in a boxed border and the script initials "WAT" within an oval border. A small "M" Ordnance sub-inspection mark is stamped on the ramrod tip and trigger guard. A small "B" Ordnance sub-inspection mark is stamped on the upper barrel band and side plate. A small "H" Ordnance sub-inspection mark is stamped on the patch box. The Model 1841 rifle was considered to be the best designed and most handsome of all U.S. percussion longarms. It gained fame during the Mexican War when the 1st Mississippi Rifles commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis and armed with Model 1841 Rifles played a key role in the U.S. victory at Buena Vista. Initially issued to light infantry and the U.S. Mounted Rifle Regiment, Model 1841 Rifles saw wide use with both the Federal and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Most Model 1841 Rifles were altered to .58 caliber, to accept bayonets or fitted with long range sights prior to and during the Civil War. Unaltered Model 1841 Rifles in the original Mexican War configuration are scarce.

Rating Definition:

Excellent. The rifle is as issued and shows only storage wear. The barrel retains 90% of the original deep brown finish with crisp markings. There is no wear on the percussion nipple, bolster or adjacent areas of the lock and barrel. The lock plate and hammer retain 95% vivid colors of the original casehardened finish, only slightly darkened. The brass patch box and furniture have an un-touched bright patina and appear to have never been polished. The barrel, lock markings and single letter Ordnance inspection marks are crisp. The stock is in excellent condition with raised original 'feathered' grain, and only a few small chips from handling. The final inspection cartouches on the left flat are extremely crisp. This is an exceptional example of a Mexican War configuration Model 1841 "Mississippi". Because of the wide usage these rifles received before and during the Civil War, new condition rifles like this example are very rare. This is one of the best examples of a Model 1841 "Mississippi" Rifle ever offered for sale by the Rock Island Auction Company and is one of the very best examples of its type extant. This museum quality Model 1841 Rifle would be the center-piece of any U.S. martial arms collection.

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