This is a very fine example of the Remington Model 1863 Short Rifle also known as the "Zouave Rifle". Fantastic condition with over 90% original barrel blue, GREAT cartouches, and silvered-out case colors on the lockplate mixing with patina. This one is in attic condition and could use a careful cleaning as it has some spots of rust here and there from long term storage. Lockplate and barrel are dated 1863 with "STEEL" and Proofs at the left side of the breech. The mechanics are perfect with a great bore; still bright and with strong lands and grooves.
There is a rather enigmatic history behind this rifle but its design somewhat suggests that it might have been intended as a replacement for US Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle and/or the Model 1855 Rifle which were both once built at the Harpers Ferry arsenal prior to its destruction in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. With the destruction and loss of one of the two national armories in the United States at Harpers Ferry, the machinery for the Model 1855 Rifle was lost. At the time of its destruction by the Union just prior to its capture by Confederate forces on April 18, 1861, Harpers Ferry consisted of two factories...a main works and a rifle works which was the original factory for the Hall Rifles and Carbines built during the 1820's. Following the Hall rifle, the rifle works was used to produce the US Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle followed by the Model 1855 Two Band rifles.
The Harpers Ferry rifle works has an important place in not only US history but world history as it was the first factory to mass produce a breech loading rifle but more importantly, using Hall's machinery, it was the first time components were manufactured with true and complete interchangeability with one another and without the need for hand-fitting. Dubbed "The American System", virtually every product made today is derived from this concept which Harpers Ferry was the first to achieve thanks to John H. Hall.
The Confederates shipped most of the surviving equipment and parts to Richmond where they was used to build rifled muskets for the Confederacy. It is my understanding that the rifle works was salvaged at a slightly later date and shipped further south to the captured Fayetteville arsenal and used to build two band rifles.
The Model 1863 Remington might have been an attempt to bring back the Model 1841 Mississippi with improved Model 1855 DNA as it is a rather interesting amalgamation of the two. As Remington was one of the original five private contractors that built the Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle, that they had secured other large contracts and delivered good products that passed inspection and at reasonable prices, they would have been a logical choice. The Remington Zouave shares several parts from the Mississippi rifle that Remington no doubt built on their original Model 1841 machinery. For example, the locks on the 1863 and 1841 are interchangeable. The hammer, trigger, and trigger guard bow are nearly dead ringers for those found on the Mississippi Rifle. Except for being enlarged from the original .54 caliber to .58, the barrel is also nearly identical to the Model 1841. From there stock is almost the same as the Model 1855 rifle, as are the rear sight, brass patchox, buttplate, and nose cap. From there, the barrels were blued instead of browned as found on the Missisippi and the lockplates were case color hardened resulting in quite a stunning appearance coupled with the brass furniture.
"The Remington "Zouave" rifle, as it is erroneously, but often referred to today, is among the handsomest of all military arms, and possibly represents the highest degree of craftmanship ever found on mass-produced martial weapons." See page 55, United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865 by Robert M. Reilly.
"One of the best made and designed military arms of the Civil War era. The origin of the name "Zouave" for this rifle has yet to be revealed. In official documents and the U.S. contract it was termed "Harpers Ferry Pattern." The great majority of them found in higher grades of condition suggest they were not issued; their usage remains a mystery. Flayderman's Guide to Antique America Firearms. 9th Edition.