Lot 847: Carbine, J.H. Merrill, Pat 1858/1861
August 11, 2013
Garrison, NY, USALive Auction
Maker: J. H. Merrill
Model: 1st model with brass furn
Year: C. 1861
Age: C. 1861
Description: The Merrill carbine bears a unique breech system with a long lever released by a spring latch, and is percussion primed using a paper cartridge. Manufactured by H. Merrill, Baltimore Maryland. Standard features include brass buttplate, brass patch box, brass trigger guard, single brass band, saddle riding ring and bar on the left side, two leaf hinged sight, rifled with three grooves. The patch box utilized on the first model was eliminated on the "second" type. Marks on lock forward of the hammer, "J. H. MERRILL BALTO. / PAT. JULY, 1858 / APL. 9. MAY 21 - 28 - 61", serial number rear of the hammer, "7328". Matching serial number also appears on the breach tang. Breech lever is marked "J. H. MERRILL BALTO. / PAT. JULY, 1858". Copper faced breech bolt.Provenance: Florida collector
Size: 22.125 Bbl., 37" overall
Weight: 6 pounds 10 ounces
Condition/Bore: Stock has two X's carved into the stock, dings, crisp lock, nice brass patina, bore clean.
History: James H. Merrill born Washington, D.C.
Notes: A total of 14,055 Merrill 1st and 2nd model carbines were delivered, with the final 4,100 being the improved model made under the August 11,1863 contract. In the Type II, production was streamlined to meet wartime needs and the patch box was eliminated and the top latch greatly simplified."Records indicate that 14,495 Merrill carbines of both types were purchased by the War Department during the Civil War. Among others, these arms were delivered to the following volunteer cavalry regiments: Twenty-seventh Kentucky; First, Fifth and Eighteenth New York; First New Jersey; the First and Third Wisconsin. Generally the Merrill carbines were not highly regarded. James H. Merrill of the Merrill Patent Fire Arms Company, Baltimore, Maryland, received his initial patent pertaining to this carbine on July 20, 1858, U.S. Patent 20,954. This was supplemented in 1861 by several additional patents involving improvements and refinements to the original. These include numbers 32,032 and 32,033 dated April 9th; 32,451 of May 28th and 22,536, dated October 22nd of the year. The basis for these patents was the copper-faced breech bolt, or plunger, which, being attached to the top-mounted operating lever, which, being attached to the top-mounted operating lever, drives the combustible cartridge forward into the breech and serves as an effective gas seal. A few Merrill carbines are known with tinned finishes, indicating possible naval use; others have been noted with all metal parts finished bright, and still others have been with browned barrels. These are exceptions, however, and the standard finish is as noted previously.""While the U.S. government was lax in their acceptance of Merrill's firearms, the agents of the C.S.A. were more agreeable to beefing up their small supply of weapons for the impending conflict. It is possible that several hundred went to the Confederacy until the Federals captured Maryland and Baltimore and then held the state and city under force of arms for the duration of the war. General Benjamin Butler announced that during his May 13, 1861, seizure and occupation of Baltimore he found 'several manufactories of arms, supplies and munitions meant for the 'rebels.'Even after the capture of Baltimore, it took a few months for the smuggling of items from Baltimore to be cut off. An account dated August, 1861, in the 'Official Records of the War of the Rebellion,' reports that a gentleman, traveling down the Eastern Shore of Virginia across the bay from Baltimore, had exhibited 10 Merrill breechloading rifles that he was taking farther south. The summertime and fall flow of armaments southward was not closed until November of 1861, when Brigadier-General Henry Lockwood's Eastern Shore Campaign cut off the passageway of goods through that peninsula into Virginia. This is not saying that the Merrill from knowingly sold to the Confederacy after it sider the problems of ordnance supplies for a lone weapon or even a dozen? Would the Confederate States undertake such a task? Unlikely! But if Southern cavalry used a sufficient number of Merrills or similar weapons to justify a supply of ammunition, then it would be cost effective to manufacture it for such a weapon. Interestingly enough, P.E. Thomas had to sign a loyalty oath to the United States in June, 1864 when posting bond for delivery of 1,200 carbines. While this was a common practice during the war, no records of such oaths appear in the government records for James H. Merrill and L.W. Thomas. Perhaps P.E. Thomas had been the Southron link" - Faller, THE GUN REPORT, July, 2001. "...The nervous Federal Government gave instructions to the United States Marshal's Office to search suspected persons or companies and seize all firearms. In a June 4 (1861) note, Secretary Cameron instructed the U.S. Marshal of the Baltimore District to close a manufacturing facility. 'War DepartmentWashingtonJune 4Marshal; BonifantBaltimoreGet possession of the whole thirty five hundred tons. Stop the factory and take all the work they have done and the materials in hand. Don't fail to execute this order instantly. Simon CameronSec'y of War'While this order does not identify Merrill, Thomas & Co., a later sworn statement from Bonifant does. In his statement, the above directive is repeated with the following addition:'I hereby cirtifie (sic) that the above is a true copy of the order sent me by telegraph to stop the factory & seize the goods of Merrill & Thomas (in the) Sun Building.Washington BonifantU.S. Marshall'On June 5, Bonifant closed the factory and seized the weapons." - White"In July of 1861, Major General N.P. Banks wrote to Ripley asking about the possibility of procuring Merrill carbines. Ripley replied that the Merrill Company had defaulted on two contracts for experimental arms, and that the Secretary of War had annulled all contracts with the firm. He offered Banks no help. Ripley was forced to purchase some Merrills in October, but did not issue a contract to the firm until the end of December, when he ordered 5,000." - Carl L. Davis"During the 1863-1864 Ordnance Department survey of officers using the various breech-loading carbines in field use, 91 officers responded on the Merrill. The results were: Best - 5; Good - 14; Fair - 13; Poor - 16; Worthless - 43." - John D. McAulayMerrill carbines were issued to Colonel Dichell's 1st New York Mounted Rifles; Colonel William A. Barstow's 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry; 27th Kentucky; 5th and 18th New York; 1st New Jersey; 7th Indiana; 1st Wisconsin; 11th, 17th and 18th Pennsylvania."With Philip E. and Lewin W. Thomas, Merrill phased Latrobe out of his business and organized as Merrill, Thomas & Company in Baltimore, with offices and plant at 239 Baltimore Street. 'Baltimore St.' addresses are today in that sector known as 'East Baltimore Street.' Where the Merrill carbines once were made and rifle muskets converted to breechloaders, is now a dance hall under the shadow of the Drunk Tank at Central Police Station, Fayette and Fallsway."SHOOTING MERRILL'S CARBINE by Tony Beck - Many skirmishes enjoy firing a variety of Civil War weapons. I must admit that I am among that group. Over the years, just about all of the popular carbines, rifles and muskets have accompanied me to the line. In that time, I have developed some decided favorites. These choices have not necessarily been due to any particular functional advantage, but because they are just plain the most fun to shoot. James Merrill's carbine has displaced the Burnside at the top of my personal fun to shoot list.Merrill breechloaders are among the earlier Civil War contract carbine. They were issued in large numbers in both the east and west, yet today they are all but forgotten. Many were developed along the B&O railroad, which resulted in the capture of large numbers by the Confederacy. They were widely distributed in the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. Southerners generally reported favorably on the handy carbines. Federals, on the other hand, seemed to favor them only when no other breech loaders were available. By the fall of 1862 they were rather widely condemned within the ranks of the Army of the Potomac. As more modern weapons became available, Merrills were quickly replaced in eastern federal ranks. Few were still in the Army of the Potomac after the fall of 1863. Less well equipped Confederates and western Federals, however, used them throughout the war. Merrills did suffer more than other carbines from the typical problems of patent weapons. The arms were designed by a sporting arms company and were not rugged enough for the rigors of cavalry campaigning. In addition, they were not truly parts interchangeable. Sights and hammers proved to be a particular problem. They broke off regularly and replacements often had to be hand fitted. On top of this, ammunition was found to be excessively fragile. The 35th Va. Cavalry. General Ewell personally presented Col. White with a case of brand new Merrills in April of 1862. General Banks had thoughtfully left them in Winchester after his hasty departure from the Shenandoah valley. At one time or other, the 35th carried about every firearm used in the war and liked their Merrills
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