Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1036: Rare Iron Frame New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle with Inscription

Auction Date: December 4, 2021

Extremely Rare Well-Documented Iron Frame New Haven Arms Company Henry Rifle with 5th Tennessee Cavalry Inscription

Estimated Price: $50,000 - $75,000

Extremely Rare Well-Documented Iron Frame New Haven Arms Company Henry Rifle with 5th Tennessee Cavalry Inscription

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 inch
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 642
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 36
Class: Antique

This extremely rare iron fame Henry lever action rifle inscribed: "5th TENN. CAV. JULY/27. 1862." in two lines on the left side of the side plate and frame. The New Haven Arms Company manufactured an estimated total of 400 Henry rifles with iron frames. Some 89 iron frame Henry rifles have been identified by collectors. This rifle, serial number 165, is listed on page 78 of "The Historic Henry Rifle" by Wiley Sword and pictured on page 159 of "Civil War Guns" by William B. Edwards. Tennessee regiments served in both the Federal and Confederate armies during the Civil War; there were two 5th Tennessee Cavalry regiments. The Federal 5th Tennessee Cavalry regiment was mustered into service on July 15, 1862, and saw extensive service with the Army of the Ohio and Army of the Cumberland between August 1862 and February 1865. The regiment had one officer and 68 enlisted men killed in action and one officer and 175 enlisted men who died of disease. The Confederate 5th Tennessee Cavalry regiment was organized in December 1862. The July 27, 1862, date inscribed on this rifle along with the fact that Henry rifles were primarily (although not exclusively) purchased by individual Federal soldiers indicates this rifle was carried by a member of the Federal 5th Tennessee Cavalry regiment during the Civil War. In addition to the iron receiver and buttplate, this rifle has a receiver rear sight dove-tail, loading lever loading lever without spur and buttplate with rounded heel that are features of the first 400 iron and brass frame Henry rifles. The lower tang has no provision for a lever latch, and the front edge of the receiver has a rectangular follower cut. The 24-inch octagon barrel has an integral 15-shot magazine, half-moon shaped, German silver, front sight blade and first style, folding leaf rear sight with "1000" yard mark beneath the center notch. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the first style New Haven Arms legend: "HENRY'S PATENT OCT. 16. 1860./ MANUFACT'D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS CO. NEWHAVEN. CT." in two lines. This early style legend has the second "NEWHAVEN CT." markings in block letters rather then the serif letters used in the rest of the legend. The serial number is stamped on: (1) the top barrel flat behind the rear sight, (2) the left side of the lower receiver tang, (3) the inside of the stock upper tang inlet, (4) the inside of the buttplate heel, (5) the shanks of both hand-fitted buttplate screws, and (6) the shanks of all three tang screws. All of the visible serial numbers match. The straight grain walnut stock has the nearly vertical comb found on the earliest Henry rifles. The rifle lacks the sling swivel and loop for sling hook that were extra cost features on early Henry rifles. A Sharps swivel is fitted to the bottom of the stock immediately behind the lower tang. The sling loop has been modified to accept a snap hook from a standard cavalry carbine sling. All iron frame Henry rifles are extremely rare. This well-documented rifle appears to be the only unit inscribed iron frame Henry rifle. Irrespective of whether the inscription refers to the Federal or Confederate 5th Tennessee Cavalry regiment, this rifle is an extremely rare iron frame Henry that unquestionably saw action in the Civil War.

Rating Definition:

Good. This rare rifle displays the wear expected of a weapon that was carried on horseback and saw extensive service. The rear sight lacks the early lost elevator bar and the magazine follower is an iron field replacement. The bolt is missing the upper extractor and firing pin. The receiver, tang and buttplate screws all show screw-driver wear and the edges of both side plates are battered. The barrel legend and serial number are crisp. The well-executed frame inscription is faint but fully legible. The barrel has a deep brown patina with scattered age spotting and scratches and some silvering on high points. The receiver has a mottled brown patina with age spotting and scattered handling marks. The trigger and lever have a mottled brown patina. The buttplate is covered with mottled age spotting. The stock is varnished and shows moderate-heavy service wear with numerous shallow bruises and scratches. There is a shallow chip on the left wrist above the lower tang. This is an extremely rare iron frame Henry rifle with well-documented unit inscription. This historic rifle would be a stand-out piece in the most advanced Winchester or U.S. martial arms collection.

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