This is a wonderful example of what I firmly believe is a Confederate alteration to carbine of an Austrian M-1842 musket. This gun was recently featured in an article in North-South Trader’s Civil War Magazine (Volume 35 / Number 4 / 2011), written by Russ Pritchard Jr and myself, which discussed the use of the Austrian M-1851 cavalry carbine during the American Civil War. This particular example was pictured on pages 32 and 33 of the article and is discussed in the section that deals with Arsenal & Depot Repaired Carbines. As noted in the article, the low esteem that Austrian cavalry carbines and smooth bore muskets were held in by the US Ordnance Department meant that repair and alteration of these guns via US Ordnance system would have been unheard of. The gun was altered from its original Augustin Consol Lock (tube lock) configuration by converting it to percussion via the brazing on of a large Germanic style percussion bolster. The original Augustin hammer was retained, and as apparently happened on a regular basis, the hammer spur was subsequently repaired after breaking. This repair would have been very unlikely to have been performed by the US Ordnance Department for any reason. The musket was further shortened to carbine length, with the smooth bore .69 barrel being cut to 20 1/8” and the overall length of the gun being reduced to 35 3/8”. The most distinctive feature of the altered “carbine” is the cast brass half loop that is screwed to the top of the guns wrist, which secures a forged iron sling ring that is approximately 1” in internal diameter. The wood loss and wear along the leading edge of the top of the comb of the stock clearly indicates that this make shift carbine spent some significant time hanging muzzle down from this sling ring. The gun is a classic example of a Confederate altered, “make do” carbine. These guns tended to be made from damaged muskets scavenged from battlefields in the Eastern Theater after Confederate victories. As a side note, the Confederates were rarely in the position to scavenge arms from Western Theater battlefields as they rarely found themselves in control of them! The gun uses most of its original Austrian parts, but as noted the gun has been shortened, modified with a sling ring system and repaired to make it functional again. The assembly number 252 is stamped on the top of the barrel band, in wood behind trigger guard and faintly on triggerguard. The top of the breech is stamped W / 197. The letters V. A. are stamped on the metal side plate opposite the lock. These could be the initials of the man who carried the gun, a marking indicating “Virginia” or could simply be completely spurious. They are clearly very old and I believe that the letters have been on the gun for at least 100 years but I cannot guarantee that they are from the Civil War era. They may have been added when the gun was take home as a souvenir after the war.
Overall the gun rates about GOOD as an antique arm, and about VERY GOOD when considered as a battlefield relic. The gun shows significant use and wear and has a thick oxidized brown patina over all of the metal surfaces. There is light to moderate pitting over all of the metal surfaces of the gun. The dark brown lock is clearly dated 851 forward of the hammer, for 1851 and still has a fairly visible Austrian Eagle to the rear of the hammer. The lock still functions well on all positions remains crisp and mechanically fine. The original percussion conversion cone is in place in the large bolster. The gun has had the sling swivel from the triggerguard removed, an unnecessary piece of furniture with the arsenal added sling ring on wrist. The gun has a very old button head ramrod in the channel under the barrel, which is probably a period of use replacement. The altered musket retains only the lower barrel band, and the spring that holds it in place. The other bands having been removed when the stock was shortened. The stock is dry and like the rest of the gun untouched and uncleaned. The stock retains strong edges and shows no indication of having been sanded. It shows a significant number of bumps, dings and bruises, as well as some minor gouges – all sings of the heavy use the gun saw, both as a musket and in its second life as a carbine. The leading edge of the comb shows significant wear and some minor wood loss, the result of the carbine having been carried from the sling ring. There is a cut in the bottom of the wood near the end of the stock that may have been intended for the attachment of a rudimentary nose cap, but no such cap is present. A little oil added to this dry stock would actually enhance the wood a bit. Other than the real battlefield use and the period shortening of the stock, there are no significant flaws in the stock. It is complete, solid and free of any modern repairs or alteration.
Overall this may be a well used and somewhat rough looking altered musket, but this is one of the few times that I firmly believe that it is a genuine Confederate alteration to make a useful carbine from a less than useful musket. The gun is simply untouched since the period of use and has such a thick, unmolested patina that it is clear this is the genuine article. The gun is well documented both in text and photographs in a major Civil War publication and a copy of the magazine will be included with the gun for the new owner to display with and to further document his purchase. It is a great looking gun that will fit in well in any Confederate arms collection. SOLD