A desirable find for the Confederate collector or collector / historian who especially appreciates the interestingly historical side of Civil War collectables, this all original to the period offering was a purchase of arms buyer Caleb Huse who, at the outbreak of the Civil War, traveled through Portland, Maine to Europe with orders from the Confederate States Government to buy all the long arms and accoutrements he could arrange. This nice old B 44th Mass. marked Potts & Hunt forager began its evolution into the American Civil War as part of a shipment intended for Confederate issue but when the steamer was captured passing through the tentacles of the Union Anaconda Plan, the British made Pattern of 1853 Rifled Musket was taken as spoils of war and brought as part of the captured blockade runner cargo before prize court for adjudication. In accordance with prevailing wartime Prize Law for ship captures at sea, if the court ruled in the Navy's favor, the ship and cargo would be sold at auction, with half of the proceeds going to a fund for disabled sailors and the other half awarded to the officers and crew of the vessel that captured the blockade runner.
While it would require research, if one wished it is quite likely that prize court records exist that would establish the precise identity of the Confederate blockade runner that our Potts & Hunt Enfield was taken from on its way to prize court and purchase for issue to the 44th M V M. ( There are several references in the Civil War years New York Times to presiding Judge Sprague and activities before the Boston District U. S. Prize Court. ) Thanks in part to 44th Mass. Vols. regimental historian Cpl. James B. Gardner's firsthand account ( RECORD OF THE FORTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEER MILITIA IN NORTH CAROLINA published in 1887), we know on page 44 that The regiment is armed with Enfield rifles captured from an English steamer and their belts, bayonet sheaths, and cap pouches were similarly obtained. A further, firsthand account is recorded in 44th M V M veteran John J. Wyeth's Leaves from a Diary Written while Serving in Co. E, 44 Mass., Dep't of No. Carolina (Boston: L. F. Lawrence & Co., 1878) when on September 14, 1862 while still in camp at Readville, Mass. he writes; Our guns are on the field somewhere, they are Enfields. Further that: It is reported that our arms are a lot captured from a blockade runner and intended for the rebels. On September 24 Wyeth writes, Our rifles have been delivered.
Lost in time whether, as we suspect, this forager began its association with the 44th M V M as an extra of the Regiments Enfields that was altered for foraging in the field, or was altered by its owner after mustering out. Alteration work to 47 inches in overall length with a 31 inch barrel altered to 69 cal. smooth bore, is clearly period and of pleasing quality with a well contoured fore end utilizing the original brass nose cap with bead front site and notch cut barrel band rear site. Utilizing the original Enfield ramrod rather than a lighter civilian style wooden ramrod, seems to lend credence to the likely hood that the alteration dates to military camp use. Of interest with respect to the 44th Mass. forager is an account on page 123 of the earlier mentioned Regimental History by Cpl. James B. Gardner that points to a particular reliability the regiment placed on foraging while in North Carolina. On the occasion of approaching a number of pigs, lean and active as hounds writes the 44th Veteran, many were sacrificed to appease our hunger. He advises further that had it not been for their foraging success we could hardly have gone so far into the enemy's country. He states that no meat was given out after our start, that their five days rations were consumed in three days. Indeed at one point in the march some received only a single piece of hardtack in a forty-eight hour period making the fruits of foraging a primary source of food.
In deference to the intricacies of Confederate markings in this collecting field, we will rely here on our photo illustrations to describe markings that will be evident to the knowledgeable Confederate Tower collector. We will point out the classic armorer chisel match markings frequently referred to as roman numerals on Confederate arms and the bold P&H marking of known Confederate supplier Potts & Hunt. (For reference to these and other Confederate Enfield characteristics we highly recommend the groundbreaking The English Connection by Russ Pritchard Sr. and C. A. Huey.) Just visible in the wood adjacent to the butt plate tang is the small circle viewer marking as is referenced on page 115 of the above with a photo illustration and, 'This mark appears on the comb of the stock of a Pattern of 1853 by Potts & Hunt of London'. Not a critical piece of information in light of the obvious Confederate lineage demonstrated by this piece, it should be pointed out that the lock plate and hammer offer two incised lines around the periphery. Rarely observed on Potts & Hunt London marked actions, this feature seems indicative of early Civil War Confederate purchases Potts & Hunt arms. Upon close inspection we find a lightly period inscribed Masonic Device on each side of the butt stock. Saving the worst for last, the forward ramrod guide has some period solder reinforcement where it is fastened to the barrel. While clearly period the reinforcement is of lesser quality in workmanship thus worthy of mentioning. (Could easily be remedied but we'd leave the field repair as part of the gun's history.)
As for the 44th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia it can be said the unit was raised to fill the Massachusetts quota under Lincoln's 1862 call for nine month troops. Its nucleus was the 4th Battalion of Infantry, M. V. M. Organized at Readville, Mass. and mustered in September 12, 1862 the 44th moved North Carolina in late October. Here the Regiment in Action at Rawl's Mills, the Demonstration on Newbern and Foster's Expedition to Goldsboro whereupon, of particular interest with respect to our Potts & Hunt forager, Co. B of the 44th Mass. was detached for outpost duty at Batchelor's Creek until May when the Company rejoined the Regiment in Newburn eventually to participate in the Expedition toward Kingston then to Dover Road and finally return to Boston where it was mustered out on June 18, 1863. Regiment lost during service 12 men killed and mortally wounded with an additional 29 by disease.
An outstanding offering, pure period original with an appealing natural smooth chocolate brown patina on iron components and an attractive age sheen on brass and wood. Buy with confidence! We are pleased to offer a no questions asked three day inspection with return as purchased on direct sales! Just send us a courtesy e-mail to let us know your item will be returned per these provisions and your purchase price will be refunded accordingly. Thanks for visiting Gunsight Antiques! COLOR=#0000FF>


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