This is one of the least often encountered of US military primary issue long arms of the Civil War era. The US M-1851 Cadet Musket was one of a series of long arms specifically designed and manufactured at Springfield Armory for the use of the Cadets at West Point, as well as some of the other military academies in the US, like the Virginia Military Institute. The M-1851 was a single shot, muzzle loading, percussion musket in .57 caliber that was essentially a scaled down version of the musket that was in current service, the M-1842 percussion musket. The musket was slightly smaller throughout, when compared to the M-1842. The barrel as 40” instead of 42”, and the lock was from the smaller M-1847 family of percussion carbines, and not a full sized musket lock. The stock was also proportionally reduced in overall size (mostly notably in the smaller buttstock and much slimmer wrist), and as already mentioned, the guns were produced in .57 caliber instead of .69 caliber. Approximately 4,000 of these muskets were produced between 1851 and 1853. Springfield production records indicate that 2,840 were produced in fiscal year 1852 (July 1, 1851 through June 30, 1852) and 1,160 were produced in fiscal year 1853 (July 1, 1852 through June 30, 1853). The use of the “fiscal year” production system at the national armories helps to explain the fact that 1-year date mismatches between the lock and barrel of a musket are not uncommon. Of the 4,000 Cadet Musket produced, between 200 and 300 were sent to VMI by order of President Zachary Taylor in late 1851 or early 1852. This explains why all of the concretely identified examples of VMI issued M-1851 muskets are dated 1851. However, US Ordnance Department records indicate that as many as 650 may have been requested by VMI, although the additional deliveries cannot be substantiated. As rare as the M-1851 Cadet musket is, an even less common and truly scarce variant of the musket exists – a rifled and sighted version. According to Springfield Armory records, 341 of the muskets in storage at the armory were altered to rifled muskets in 1857 by rifling them with 3 grooves and adding a long base, adjustable rear site of the same style and pattern used on the rifled and sighted US M-1842 muskets that were altered during the same time frame. In addition to the long-range rear site, a taller iron front site was added to the front strap of the upper barrel band, and the tip of the trumpet shaped ramrod was machined to be concave in order to accept Minié style conical ammunition. It is believed that all of the rifled and sighted arms were delivered to the US Military Academy at West Point for the use of the cadets.
The US M-1851 Rifled & Sighted Cadet Musket (Flayderman 9A-306) offered here is in about VERY FINE overall condition. The musket is 100% complete, correct and original. The gun retains both sling swivels, the long-range rear site and the original full-length ramrod, which retains the threads on the end and has the correctly modified tip for the use of elongated ball ammunition. The lock of the musket is clearly marked behind the hammer in three vertical lines: SPRING / FIELD / 1853, and is marked with an (EAGLE) / US forward of the hammer. There is no date on the tang. The breech is crisply marked with the usual Springfield Arsenal V / P / (EAGLE HEAD). The upper tang of the buttplate is marked with the usual US forward of the mounting screw, and is also marked with the rack number B / 65 below the screw. This mark is stamped into the buttplate. The rack or identification number B 4 is engraved into the lower barrel band. This style of mark is typical of pre-Civil War state militia markings. The number 20 is branded into the stock on the belly, forward of the triggerguard. The two different style rack numbers are likely the result of the gun being marked at West Point, and then subsequently when it was sold as surplus. The buttplate marking is mostly likely the West Point rack number. The number on the barrel band is so similar to those found on many state issued US M-1855 rifles that I am confident that this mark was placed there when the musket was purchased by one of the states. The West Point cadets were more than likely issued M-1855 family arms by 1860 or so, since these guns had the new Maynard Tape Priming system that was the current standard for US military long arms.
The action of the musket works perfectly and remains crisp and tight. The iron barrel and furniture has a medium pewter patina, and the barrel appears to have been lightly cleaned many years ago. The rear site retains about 20%-30% faded and mottled original blue finish, and the spring shows about 50% bright fire blued finish. The metal of the barrel is mostly smooth throughout, with only some small scattered patches of light peppering, pinpricking and minor age discoloration. The bore shows even light pitting along its entire length, but retains very good 3-groove rifling. The lock is slightly darker and has a smoky patina with some light, mottled traces of case hardened finish. The wood to metal fit of the musket is excellent throughout the musket. The stock is in about FINE condition overall and retains very nice edges and lines throughout. The stock does show numerous bumps and dings from use and storage, but shows absolutely no abuse. The stock is solid and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The stock has a very attractive reddish-brown tone to it.
Overall this is a really attractive, complete and correct example of a scarce rifled & sighted US M-1851 Cadet Musket. The multiple rack markings indicate that the gun more than likely saw service after its days at West Point, and may even have ended up in the hands of a Southern Soldier. Whether you a US Martial Long Arms collector, collect West Point memorabilia or simply want to complete a grouping of Civil War era percussion weapons from the National Armories, this would be a great example to own. These guns do not appear on the market regularly, especially in the rifled & sighted configuration. The equally rare socket bayonet is also available in the Edged Weapons – Bayonets section of our web site as well. If you like unique and rare US military weapons, it would hard to beat this one for condition, quality and uniqueness. SOLD