M1841 Mississippi rifle

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M1841 Mississippi rifle
Type Rifled Musket
Place of origin  United States,
Harper's Ferry
Service history
Used by  USA
1 Mississippi Regiment
 Confederate States of America
Wars Seminole Wars
Mexican–American War
American Civil War
Production history
Designed 1840
Manufacturer Harpers Ferry Armory, E. Whitney
Unit cost 16 dollars
Produced 1841-1861
Variants bayonet mounts
Specifications
Weight 9 pounds 4 ounces (4.2 kg)
Length 48.5 inches (1,230 mm)
Barrel length 33 inches (840 mm)

Cartridge .54 ball,.58 minie ball
Cartridge weight 0.5 ounces (14 g)
Caliber 0.54, 0.58
Action percussion lock
Rate of fire 2-3 per minute
Muzzle velocity 1,000 to 1,200 feet per second
Effective firing range 0-1100 yards
Maximum firing range 2000
Feed system muzzle
Sights blade (front), V-notch, leaf, ladder sight (rear)

The M1841 Mississippi rifle is a muzzle loading, rifled, percussion rifle used in the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.

A replica of the 1841 Mississippi Rifle over a replica Colt Third Variation .44 Revolving Holster Pistol "Dragoon"-c:1849

History[edit]

When Eli Whitney Blake took over management of the Harpers Ferry Armory in 1842, he set about tooling up under his new contract from the U.S. government for making the model 1841 percussion rifle. Machinery and fixtures for making the 1822 contract flintlock musket had to be retooled or replaced in order to produce the lock and barrel of the new model. Whitney, Jr. had the good sense to hire Thomas Warner as foreman, who, as master armorer at Springfield Armory, had just been making the same kind of major changes there. Thomas Warner had spearheaded the drive to equip the Springfield Armory with a set of new, more precise machines and a system of gauging that made it possible for the first time to achieve, in the late 1840s, the long-desired goal of interchangeability of parts in military small arms. Under his tutelage, Eli Whitney, Jr. equipped the Whitney Armory to do likewise.

The nickname "Mississippi" originated in the Mexican–American War when future Confederate president Jefferson Davis was appointed Colonel of a Mississippi volunteer regiment; the Mississippi Rifles. Colonel Davis sought to arm his regiment with the Model 1841 rifles. At this time, smoothbore muskets were still the primary infantry weapon and any unit with rifles was considered special and designated as such. Davis clashed with his commanding General Winfield Scott who said that the weapons were insufficiently tested and refused the request. Davis took his case to the President James Knox Polk who agreed with Davis that his men be armed with them. The incident was the start of a lifelong feud between Davis and Scott.[1]

At the Battle of Buena Vista, Davis's regiment helped provide the decisive push that drove the Mexicans from the field. In June 1846, the army offered him an appointment as a brigadier general of a militia unit but he declined. In traditional Southern style he believed the appointment was unconstitutional. The United States Constitution, he argued, gives the power of appointing militia officers to the states, not to the federal government.

The Model 1841 was replaced by minie ball firing Model 1855 US Rifle, which became the standard issue weapon for regular army infantry, and ultimately the Model 1861 & Model 1863 Springfield.

By the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi rifle was generally considered old-fashioned but effective. In the rush to arm troops in 1861 many new soldiers considered themselves fortunate to have any rifled arm while many of their comrades carried smoothbore muskets. It was carried by some Union troops up until at least 1863 (with the 45th New York Infantry armed with theirs until after Gettysburg), but Confederate cavalry and sharpshooter units used them until the end of the war, as evidenced by surviving Confederate ordnance requisitions.

The Mississippi rifle was sometimes referred to as a "yagger" rifle, due to its smaller size and its similarity to the German Jäger rifles.

Design and features[edit]

The Mississippi rifle was the first standard U.S. rifle to use a percussion lock system. Percussion lock systems were much more reliable and weatherproof than the flintlock systems that they replaced, and were such an improvement that many earlier flintlock rifles and muskets were later converted to percussion lock systems.

The Mississippi rifle was originally produced in .54 caliber, using 1:66 rifling and no provision for fixing a bayonet.

In 1855, the Mississippi rifle was changed to .58 caliber, so that it could use the .58 caliber Minie Ball that had recently become standard. Many older Mississippi rifles were re-bored to .58 caliber. The rifle was also modified to accept a sword type bayonet.

The first Mississippi rifles had a v-notch sight. This was later replaced with leaf sights with 100, 300, and 500 yard ranges. A ladder sight with ranges from 100 to 1100 yards in 100 yard increments was fitted on some later rifles.

References[edit]

  1. ^ p.2 Taylor, John M. Compassion is Always Due to an Enraged Imbecile in ''While Cannons Roared 1997 Brasseys
  • Brown, Stuart E., The Guns of Harpers Ferry, Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Co., 2002, ©1968., 157 p., ISBN 0-8063-4640-X
  • "Confederate Tales of the War" By Michael E. Banasik