Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 31: U.S. Civil War New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle with Scope

Auction Date: December 3, 2021

U.S. Inspected Civil War New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle with Incredibly Scarce Telescopic Sight

Estimated Price: $45,000 - $65,000

U.S. Inspected Civil War New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle with Incredibly Scarce Telescopic Sight

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue/brass
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1951
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 38
Class: Antique
Description:

The U.S. Ordnance Department only purchased an estimated 1,731 Henry rifles between April 9, 1863, and November 7, 1865, for use by Union soldiers during the Civil War. Many others are known to have been privately purchased and used by Union troops who wanted the most advanced firearms they could get their hands on. Repeating rifles like the Henry and Spencer were a force multiplier for Union troops. Period advertisements in newspapers during the Civil War gave a rate of fire of 60 shots per minute and called the Henry rifle "the best ever offered to the public." Many veterans spent their reenlistment bounties to get their hands on one of these potentially life saving rifles. They were considerably rarer than the Spencer rifles and carbines that were the main repeaters supplied by the Ordnance Department during the war, in part because production of the Henry rifles was somewhat limited and also because the Henry was more delicate than a Spencer and fired a less powerful cartridge. This is an incredibly rare Civil War U.S. Type 1 Henry rifle manufactured c. 1863. Les Quick in "The Story of Benjamin Tyler Henry and His Famed Repeating Rifle" on page 146 estimates that only 800 of these Type 1 U.S. contract Henry rifles were ordered. Many of these rifles were used by the 1st D.C. Cavalry and subsequently the 1st Maine Cavalry. On page 125, Quick notes that telescopic sights (scopes) are extremely rare on Henry rifles, and that correspondence from the factory indicated they had plans to equip some Henry with telescope sights. George Madis, in the "The Winchester Book," indicated this correspondence was a Nov. 17, 1863, dated letter from Oliver F. Winchester himself saying, “We intend to make both globe and telescope sight for our rifles. It will take a few weeks longer." This indicates that New Haven Arms Co. intended to make or have made telescopic sights for the Henry rifles. Very few Henry rifles have telescopic sights, and most have clearly after-market telescopic sights like those by Malcolm. The sight on this rifle is not marked and could be a New Haven Arms Co. product. Regardless, it is definitely of the period of manufacture. It is fitted via a brass mount in a dovetail at the front of the octagonal section of the barrel and a long screw into the upper tang that allows for elevation adjustment. The eye piece has a small aperture. While the cartridge was less powerful than the long range cartridges developed in the 19th century, Civil War advertisements for the Henry stated "it carries with force sufficient to kill at 1,000 yards." The rifle has period replacement "iron sights" consisting a copper blade front sight on the muzzle ring and a dovetailed "V" notch on the breech section. The right side of the frame has "H" (faint) and "C" inspection marks, and the right side of the barrel at the breech has a "C" and "C.G.C" (generally reported to be Ordnance Inspector Charles G. Chapman). The barrel and left side of the lower tang have the matching serial number. The rear of the loading gate and round section of the barrel under the loading gate have the assembly number "966." The refinished but period and original factory replacement stock is also fair and has thin cracks in the wrist, gaps around the tangs, mild dents and scratches, some small chips at the toe and corners, and a smooth oiled finish. The early rounded heel buttplate and buttplate screws are numbered "3670," and the stock number is not visible. The buttplate is also from a martially inspected Henry and has an "H" on the heel on the right. Given this, the stock was likely repaired in the field during the Civil War.

Rating Definition:

Good with mottled gray and brown patina on the barrel, scope tube, hammer, and lever; replacement lever thumb screw, attractive natural aged patina on the brass frame and buttplate, usual edge wear on the frame and side plates, and visible wear consistent with use in the Civil War and after. The period replacement stock is also good and has thin cracks in the wrist, gaps around the tangs, mild dents and scratches, some small chips at the toe and corners, and a smooth oiled finish. The action is mechanically fine. The telescopic sight's lenses are a bit hazy, but the cross-hairs are distinct and the sight is functional. This is an already desirable U.S. inspected Type 1 New Haven Arms Co. Henry Repeating Rifle and is all the more desirable with its incredibly scarce period telescopic sight.



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