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1853 Enfield

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This infantry weapon was a .577 calibre (ball) .58 calibre (barrel, internal diameter) muzzle loading rifle-musket designed and manufactured in Great Britain at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield (about 25 miles north of London.) It came about when the British Army decided to modernize from smooth-bore to rifled barrels, and was first used during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. Although proven to be remarkably accurate, the Pattern 1853 Enfield soon gained a bad reputation... as a contributing cause of the bloody Mutiny in British India of 1857 (over 100,000 deaths) sparked in part because of the required method of loading the Enfield rifle: tearing the paper cartridge with the teeth. A rumor circulated, stating that pig fat, or beef tallow were used in sealing/lubricating the paper cartridge; and that Muslim and Hindu soldiers in British service were being forced to chew substances forbidden by their religions.

The urgent need for rifles by North and South led to the Pattern 1853 being acquired by both armies; possibly 900,000 Enfield rifles made their way to America before 1866. The 12th Iowa Infantry was one of the first northern units to take possession of the Enfield, during muster-in, late in 1861. The 'kick' of the rifle, when fired, was of concern to some Iowa soldiers: they found that the firm recoil could be diminished by jamming a metal disc into the seat (base of the barrel, bottom of the breech.) A five-cent coin was found to fit snug into that position; as a result, many Iowa soldiers jammed half-dimes into the breech of their Enfields before Shiloh.

The effective range of the rifled musket was over 600 yards (although the minie ball would travel over 1200 yards), and accuracy was aided by adjustable ladder sights at the rear of the 39-inch barrel. If left down, as was usual in the heat of battle, the effective range was only 300 yards. A skilled marksman could fire three or four aimed shots per minute, using properly adjusted sights, and hit a 2-foot bullseye (in center of six-foot disc) at 600 yards.

The Pattern 1853 Enfield was 55 inches long (about 70 inches with bayonet attached) and weighed just under 10 pounds. It was used during the whole of the War of the Rebellion, and only became obsolete about 1869, with the wide-spread introduction of reliable breech-loading rifles with greatly superior rates of fire.

For a more in-depth discussion of the 1853 Enfield (and the 1861 Springfield, which strongly resemble each other) see the West Point-produced video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT1-n-mYmtQ  [Art Alphin discusses the rifled-musket]






Reference:  wikipedia





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It may be wondered:  'How did European-made arms find their way into the hands of the Union Army?'

On March 11, 1861, John C. Fremont was appointed 'Special Emissary to France' by President Abraham Lincoln. While in Paris (and during a side trip to London), Fremont sourced out arms suppliers, and with assistance of two of his own agents (Frederick Billings and Henry Stevens), negotiated contracts for sale and delivery of rifles, cannon, percussion caps, sabres, and cavalry saddles. Fremont directed Billings to complete perhaps $50,000 of purchases, and those arms were sent from Europe to Henry Stevens' brother, Simon, in New York, for onward shipment to St. Louis (where now-Major-General Fremont soon commanded the Department of the West.)

Much was left for the U.S. Government 'official purchasing agent' George F. L. Schuyler, who arrived in Europe shortly after Fremont left, in Summer 1861. Schuyler completed the purchases negotiated by Fremont's agents (approximately $150,000); then embarked on contract negotiation and purchases, on his own. 



N.B.   The 12th Iowa Infantry was mustered into service at Camp Union, Dubuque on November 25th, 1861. The regiment received its Enfield Rifle-muskets at Benton Barracks, Missouri on December 26th 1861.


References:  Abraham Lincoln Papers  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/malquery.html   (via American Memory, search 'George Schuyler')

Covert Operations as a Tool of Presidential Foreign Policy, by John J. Carter, 2000 (page 98).

The Letters of Jessie Benton Fremont, edited by Pamela Herr and Mary Lee Spence, Uni. of Illinois Press, 1993 (page 257).

Frederick Billings: a Life, by Robin W. Winks, University of California Press, 1998 (pages 137-8).

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d1092600))   (U.S. Government overseas arms purchase)

http://archive.org/stream/campaignsbattles01reed#page/n27/mode/2up   (Campaigns of 12th Iowa by D.W. Reed)



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