Exceptional US Civil War Spencer Carbine with provenance.
I recently offered a superb Spencer Model 1865 Carbine that was the best one I have sold. Unbelievably I have unearthed another one and this one has provenance to a Union Cavalry unit and is in remarkable condition.
The rifle has most its original colour including the case hardening on the lever and lock mechanism as can be seen. The bore is bright with deep rifling extant and the mechanism is perfect. The carbines wooden stock is in excellent order with the usual minor pressure marks of being issued but no major problems or repairs. The butt is stamped with a number of numerals indicating the unit it was issued to. The knox is stamped with the Spencer Repeating Arms Co address and the Model type (M1865) is stamped on the barrel. There is only a small amount of pitting on the carbine which is adjacent but not obscuring the address and the model number as can be seen. The photographs highlight this small blemish but they do not detract from the carbines eye appeal. This is a carbine that would grace any Civil War Collection as an exceptional example of probably the most reliable and best considered carbine used in the conflict.
The Spencer research society has identified the carbine to a block of weapons issued to the Union Army in August 1864 having been manufactured in June of that year. It was then supplied to K company of the 11th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. The vendor has told me that he bought the carbine 25 years ago and at that time had identified the cavalryman who had been issued with it. Unfortunately he lost the details in the passage of time but I have no doubt that this can be researched as US records are very good and the carbine is stamped with an issue number.
The 11th Michigan Cavalry was organized at Kalamazoo and Detroit, Michigan October 10 and December 10, 1863. Among its ranks was future Michigan politician and author Elroy M. Avery.
The Regiment was part of General George Stoneman's campaign into eastern Tennessee, western Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in 1865.
The 11th Michigan Cavalry was one of three in the Second Brigade of Brig. Gen. Simeon Brown of St. Clair. Engagements: In Kentucky: Hazel Green, McCormicks Farm, Morristown, State Creek, Mt. Sterling, Cynthiana, June 89, Point Burnside, June 30, 1864. In Tennessee: Clinch River,Nov.28; Cobbs Ford,Dec. 2: Bristol,Dec. 13; Paperville,Dec. 13, 1864. In Virginia: Abingdon,Dec. 15; Wytheville lead mines, Mt. Airey, Marion iron works, Seven Miles Ford, Mount Sterling, Sept. 17; Saltville I, October 13, 1864, Union defeat.(Saltville Massacre); Sandy Mountain, Marion, December 1718, 1864; Saltville II, December 1821, 1864, destroyed salt works; After Saltville, returned to Knoxville; arrived Dec. 28, 1864; Departed Knoxville, March 1621, 1865; Morristown, March 24; Jonesboro, March 25. Crossing into North Carolina and heading south, they conducted a series of raids on sites manufacturing goods vital to Lees troopsBoone, March 2829 destroyed Patterson yarn mill below Blowing Rock; Yadkin River; Wilkesboro, March 30; Jonesville, April 1; Mount Airy, April 2; Christiansburg, VA, April 3; Danbury, April 9 destroying the Moratock Iron Works; Salisbury, April 12 (Destroyed prison); Statesville, April 1316 (Taylorsville, April 14); April 14, Lincoln assassination; Morganton, April 1719; Marion, April 20; Swannanoa Gap, (the Army was blocked there and went around to Howards Gap) April 20; Hendersonville, April 24 ; Asheville, April 2528; Marshall, April 26; Wards Farm; Left Brevard, pushing through Saluda Gap in the Blue Ridge, they entered South Carolina, looking for Jefferson Davis. Caesars Head, April 30; Pickensville, Andersons Court House.
The regiment was consolidated with the 8th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment on July 20, 1865. Mustered out at Nashville Tennessee on September 22, 1865.
The Spencer repeating carbine was a manually operated lever-action, seven shot repeating carbine produced in the United States by three manufacturers between 1860 and 1869. Designed by Christopher Spencer, it was fed with cartridges from a tube magazine in the carbine's buttstock, as can be seen from the photograph of this particular carbine. The Spencer repeating carbine was adopted by the Union Army, especially by the cavalry, during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle-loading rifled muskets in use at the time.
At first, the view by the Department of War Ordnance Department was that soldiers would waste ammunition by firing too rapidly with repeating rifles, and thus denied a government contract for all such weapons. (They did, however, encourage the use of carbine breech loaders that loaded one shot at a time such as the Maynard carbine. Such carbines were shorter than a rifle and well suited for cavalry.]More accurately, they feared that the armys logistics train would be unable to provide enough ammunition for the soldiers in the field, as they already had grave difficulty bringing up enough ammunition to sustain armies of tens of thousands of men over distances of hundreds of miles. A weapon able to fire several times as fast would require a vastly expanded logistics train and place great strain on the already overburdened railroads and tens of thousands of more mules, wagons, and wagon train guard detachments. The fact that several Springfield rifle-muskets could be purchased for the cost of a single Spencer carbine also influenced thinking. However, just after the Battle of Gettysburg, Spencer was able to gain an audience with President Abraham Lincoln, who invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of the weapon on the lawn of the White House. Lincoln was impressed with the weapon, and ordered Gen. James Wolfe Ripley to adopt it for production, after which Ripley disobeyed him and stuck with the single-shot rifles
The Spencer showed itself to be very reliable under combat conditions, with a sustainable rate-of-fire in excess of 20 rounds per minute. Compared to standard muzzle-loaders, with a rate of fire of 23 rounds per minute, this represented a significant tactical advantage. However, effective tactics had yet to be developed to take advantage of the higher rate of fire. Similarly, the supply chain was not equipped to carry the extra ammunition. Detractors would also complain that the amount of smoke produced was such that it was hard to see the enemy, unsurprising, since even the smoke produced by muzzleloaders would quickly blind whole regiments, and even divisions as if they were standing in thick fog, especially on still days.
One of the advantages of the Spencer was that its ammunition was waterproof and hardy, and could stand the constant jostling of long storage on the march, such as Wilson's Raid. The story goes that every round of paper and linen Sharps ammunition carried in the supply wagons was found useless after long storage in supply wagons. Spencer ammunition had no such problem.
In the late 1860s, the Spencer company was sold to the Fogerty Rifle Company and ultimately to Winchester. You can see the Spencer influence in later Winchester lever action rifles. Many Spencer carbines were later sold as surplus to France where they were used during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
This is an exceptional example
Obsolete calibre no license needed.