The Spanish 1857 rifle has long hand an association with the US Civil War. Noted firearms historian Tim Prince recently wrote the following about the Spanish 1857 musket:
"Most early war purchases of the Spanish M1857 Musket are associated with the Kentucky “Orphan Brigade”, while the later war purchases appear to have entered the Confederacy in Texas, having passed through Mexico on the way. Some good period documents discuss the various acquisitions by southern buyers, and the US government sold at least 392 surplus “Spanish Rifles” during the early 1880s that appear to have been captured from the Confederacy. One particularly interesting reference to the rifles appears in the Spanish newspaper La Iberia. The article, published on July 1, 1864 refers to the use of the Spanish Rifles both by Spanish colonial troops and their acquisition by Confederate buyers. The article reads in part:
'Units of the Spanish Army in Cuba are currently equipped with expensive and inefficient Liège rifles, while La Euscalduna (a Spanish arms contractor) has to sell their precision weapons to the Confederate South Commissioners, eager to buy them.'
Firearms From Europe Second Edition by Hartzler, Whisker, Yantz & Noe, strong documentation is provided these may well have been purchased by the Confederate government. In a letter sent to Theodore Lewis (a CS arms purchasing agent), dated July 19, 1861, from CS agents W.G. Betterton & J.E. Chalard. 6,500 “Spanish Enfields’ were reported to be in Havana, Cuba and ready for shipment to the Confederacy at a price of $13.00 per gun. However, the paper trail does not end there. While this letter does not confirm the importation of the guns, only their availability, the following is concrete evidence that at least a handful of these guns entered America and were eventually sold as surplus by the Federal government. Whether these surplus guns were US purchases or captured CS purchases we do not know, but this new research proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that at least a few of the Spanish made the rifles made landfall in America. The following documentation comes from the National Archives and was kindly provided to me by Civil War import arms researcher and author David Noe. All the following comes from government publication R6 156-124, better known as Abstract of Reports of Sales of Ordnance Stores: 1864-1907. Within these reports the following listings were found for:
.577 Spanish Rifles:
September 27, 1880: 56 pieces were sold @ $.35 each to Francis Bannerman, all listed as "Unserviceable". (Volume 5, page 373)
October 25, 1881: 1 piece was sold to S.R. Starr for $1.00, listed as "Unserviceable". (Volume 6, page 27)
December 3, 1881: 334 pieces were sold @ $.78 each to Simon Belcher, all listed as "New & Serviceable". (Volume 6, page 38)
One other gun is listed as being sold to Charles Townsend for $1.00, also unserviceable. (Volume 6, page 217)
Several long-time collectors and researchers have long postulated that the Confederacy received at least two batches of these Spanish rifles. The first batch in late 1861 or early 1862 has always been associated with the famous Orphan Brigade from Kentucky. The Orphan Brigade was a collection of regiments from Kentucky that were mustered into Confederate service. Because the state of Kentucky never officially joined the Confederacy, these regiments were considered “orphaned” as these soldiers fought for the Confederacy without the support of their home state. The brigade included the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 9th Kentucky volunteer infantry regiments. These guns are inevitably dated 1861on the lock and have a serial number under 500 on the lock, stock, and breech. The second group of rifles appears to have entered the Confederacy in late 1863 or 1864 and are 1863 dated. These guns have higher serial numbers, typically in the mid 3,000 to mid-4,000 range. We have direct documentation of at least some of these later imports from the Official Records of the War of Rebellion. In a letter dated December 22, 1863, CS Major General Bankhead McGruder reported from his headquarters in Texas that “300 Spanish Rifles’ had been recently received. These would have likely been the 1863 dated guns that collectors encounter today. However, the O.R.’s shed little light on the earlier importation of the guns, and this is what I have spent some more time researching. The association with the 1861 dated Spanish Enfields and the Orphan Brigade originated with an Id’d Spanish M-1857 rifle that is concretely attributed to a member of Colonel Hiram Hawkins 5th Kentucky infantry. Hawkins helped to establish the 5th Kentucky Infantry, CSA and eventually became the Colonel of the Regiment. Hawkins also helped to outfit the unit out of his own pocket, including the purchase of several imported rifles. While no history of the unit officially identifies these guns, there is much circumstantial evidence that there were several Spanish Enfields included in that purchase. In addition to the Id’d extant example, there have been several the Spanish Enfields that have surfaced in Kentucky, and typically with a strong provenance and family story of Confederate Civil War use. These guns tend to appear in two states of condition: quite good or rough. This is easily explained by the fact that the original 5th KY was mustered out of service on October 20, 1862. The unit was then reformed, and the original members were offered the option to go home with an honorable discharge, re-join the newly reformed 5th KY or join another of the many CS units that were being formed in Kentucky at that time. This explains the very good condition guns, as they likely went home with the soldiers who opted out (the ID’d gun in a private collection has this story associated with it). The guns of the men who stayed to fight further would necessarily show significantly more wear than the guns that went home in the fall of 1862. The final piece of the puzzle as to why Hawkins purchased Spanish guns was recently revealed while doing some research on the Orphan Brigade “that puzzle piece is William Preston. Preston, who would eventually serve as the Division commander for the 5th KY, was a Kentuckian who had a long pre-Civil War political and military service record. Preston served with distinction in the Mexican War as Lt. Col of the 4th KY volunteers. After the war he entered politics and became a very powerful and well-known Whig politician in Kentucky. When the Whig party dissolved, Preston joined the Democratic Party and threw his political support to Democratic Presidential candidate James Buchanan. After his election as President, Buchanan repaid Preston by making him the Minister to Spain, and for the next few years Preston was based in Madrid, Spain. In fact, Preston was on his way back to American when the war broke out. A quick search of the Official Records shows that with the coming of the war, the Confederate government relied on Preston to help them establish contacts in Spain for the acquisition of arms. While Preston was skeptical about the availability and quality of Spanish arms, he appears to have been more than willing to help the Confederacy obtain whatever arms were available from Spain. Additional records reveal that Preston returned to the southern states via Cuba. This dovetails with the letter from Cuba and the timeline work out well. All this circumstantial evidence provides strong support for the stories about Confederate used Enfield pattern rifles that were manufactured in Spain."
This particular Spanish M1857 rifle is in very good condition. It is all original and features great markings.
The stock is in great condition and shows some evidence of light refinishing. However, none of the parts are "proud" of the stock and the edges and lock mouldings are still well defined; indicating that any efforts to re-sand the stock were minimal.
The lock plate features its original maker's mark and the hammer holds solid on both full and half cock.
The bore is good with no rust and some light pitting in the last 10" of the bore near the muzzle.