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Spencer Model 1860 Trapper Carbine --Recently Found in N. Georgia, Captured?--

We just found this Spencer Model 1860 Carbine in a small collection we recently acquired right here in north Georgia. There were a variety of antique guns including in this group including a .50 caliber Georgia-purchased 1st Model Maynard Carbine. Judging from the heavy brown patina and dark red/brown walnut, it has been in Georgia for a VERY LONG TIME and likely used in Sherman's Atlanta Campaign by a Union cavalry regiment when they passed through in 1864. The Union may have had strong numbers in terms of infantry but Sherman was not blessed with cavalry as talented as the Confederates. In late July, 1864, Sherman had three divisions of his cavalry routed in raids from Macon to Atlanta, with over two thousand troops lost or captured including Union Major General Stoneman along with 700 of his men, to Confederate General Joseph Wheeler. That could very well be how this Spencer ended up here and furthermore, it shows possible evidence that it may have been sabotaged before being captured. Union soldiers armed with repeaters were acutely aware the advantages in firepower of the Spencer and Henry rifles used in the Atlanta Campaign and were likely reminded of their responsibility to not let such technology fall into enemy hands. I can remember reading an account of two Union soldiers during the Atlanta Campaign bending the barrels of their 16-shooter Henry rifles so as to render them useless, shortly before their capture by Confederate forces:

...at the Battle of Dallas, Georgia, May 27, 1864, Orderly Sergeant Albert C. Thompson and Private John Randall of Co. D (66th Illinois Infrantry) were posted in a captured rifle pit and failed to hear the order to fall back in the face of an overwhelming attack. They "stuck to their rifle pits and worked their sixteen shooters (Henry Rifles) for all they were worth," noted an eyewitness. When finally forced to surrender, they had fired their last cartridges, "and bent the barrels and broke the [stocks]" of their Henry rifles. Surpised by the fact that only two soldiers had caused so much trouble (allegedly shot ten or more men), their captors became "mad as hell," later remembered one of the prisoners. After being taken to General Pat Cleburne's headquarters for interrogation, they were sent south, and ultimately wound up at Andersonville Prison. Page 64, "The Historic Henry Rifle" by Wiley Sword quoted from the New Haven Arms Company Letter Book.

Perhaps that was the case here with this seven shot Spencer. That said, when we found this carbine, the seven round detachable magazine tube which fits in the buttstock was missing and the barrel had been cut several inches long ago with a small front sight installed...this was a long time ago.

Could the cavalryman who knew the Confederates were closing in on him, tossed his magazine tube and fired his Spencer into the ground muzzle down to turn his repeater into a single shot with a bad barrel? Who knows but either way, someone went to a great deal of trouble 150 years ago to remove the damaged front portion of the barrel, re-crown the muzzle. The barrel was cut from its original carbine length of 22" to a trapper size of 17-1/2". They even cut a new dovetail to re-install a front sight. Judging from the crown of the muzzle and the heavy patina, it has been this way since the Civil War. Who would have gone to that much trouble to salvage it? Provided ammunition was available, the work was likely performed by a Confederate arsenal which were plentiful in Georgia.

Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Good as altered. The metal has a dark smooth patina with no pitting. There is a small streak of light very old blue paint on the left side of the barrel from back when people used to paint their ceilings either light green or blue to keep birds or bugs from nesting...common in this region in old homes. The markings are good. The top of the frame reads: SPENCER REPEATING. (a bit light at the front from a worn roll die) <over> RIFLE. BOSTON MASS. <over> PAT'D MARCH 6. 1860. The serial number is in the 28,000 range and it looks to be a pure 1860 with no post war gov't alterations such as the stabler cut off. Bore has its correct original six groove rifling, original rear sight, saddle barrel, and sling swivel on the base of the buttstock. The action appears to be in good working order. Hammer still has both half and full cock positions. The stock has plenty of dings, scratches, and dents from the war along with a slight oval wear spot on the left side from the metal sling attachment issued to Union cavalrymen. The wood is solid however with no cracks and has never been sanded or refinished. In fact, both inspection cartouches are visible on the left side of the stock just behind the sling bar. As stated earlier, when we found this little carbine, it was missing its seven shot magazine but we were able to pick up an original circa 1863 production (perfect for this carbine) that is a perfect match in terms of age and wear. It fits and goes perfectly in the gun. See photos. Interesting example of an early Spencer Carbine that was lost in Georgia during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Item# 2007




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