Arms of the Regiment

Arms:
This page discusses the Arms the 31st Indiana soldiers carried into battle.  To view pictures of 31st Indiana soldiers with their arms, see the "Uniforms of the Regiment" web page.

Five companies of the 31st Indiana were sent to Evansville, Indiana from Terre Haute via train on the night of September 21, 1861, to prevent the locks on the Green river in Kentucky from being destroyed.  These were companies A, C, E, I, & K.  The regiment had not yet received their arms prior to this date.  Governor O. P. Morton sent a train loaded with arms and accoutrements to Terre Haute, Indiana, which were to be loaded onto the train taking the "500 troops" to Evansville. 

In a letter published in the THE PARKE COUNTY REPUBLICAN newspaper dated October 2, 18611, Gus C. Ford of Company A, writes, "At 3 P. M. we were each given a new Enfield rifle, a pretty cante[e]n and cartridge box and thirty rounds of cartridges."  This occurred on September 22nd, 1861.

The following table lists the arms given to the 31st Indiana early in the regiment's life.  The information comes from the Indiana Armory Records.

Date

To Whom Given

Description

Sept. 21, 1861

Delivered to Maj. Gen. Love, Evansville

turned over to Col. Cruft 31st Reg.

 

70 altered Muskets and Accoutrements complete

10         "       "                        "           less bayonets

79 short Enfield Rifles &          "           complete

270 long    "          "                 "                "

41 long range        "                 "                "

32 Springfield Rifles                 "               "

3 rifled muskets                        "               "

3 percussion   "                        "                "

 

Total to date:

508

Sept. 28, 1861

Col. Cruft, 31st Regt. Evansville

460 rifled muskets with accoutrements.

 

Total to date

968

The above table supports Gus Ford's mention of receiving the Enfield rifles.  From diaries, letters and photos, it is clear that the majority of arms were the Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket. 

Company K received the shorter Enfield rifles.  This is based on the photo of Andrew Gosnell and James N. Sheperd, both of Co. K, and the Memoir of John Day.  John Day's Memoir states that on September 22nd at Evansville, Indiana, "We removed to the side of the city near the river and here we drew our arms Enfield rifles Co. K receiving short barrels, sabre bayonets and 40 rounds of cartridges." This proves that company "K" was armed with the Enfield Pattern 1858 Short-Rifle, or 1856 No. 2 or Bar-on-Band.

Another piece of support for the Enfield Rifle-Muskets and the Enfield Short Rife comes from an excerpt from a letter written in October of 1861 by a Eli S. Combs, Co. H; "...there is two kinds of guns in the regiment........the enfield rifles and rifled musket. "3  The regiment was now well armed, the Enfields being considered the "Best" of the Muzzle loading arms of the war. These arms would have been obtained by the efforts of the Hon. Robert Dale Owen, a former Congressman, who was commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton to obtain Arms for Indiana troops.

The reason for the emphasis on the 1858 Short Enfield is that there is an overwhelming belief that the only regiments that received this arm were Confederate regiments. 

Other soldiers (Company G) were disappointed in receiving converted Springfield Muskets (Co. G received their arms at a later date). These muskets were old flintlocks converted to cap locks. They expected that all would receive Enfields and made their displeasure known to Colonel Cruft. He explained to them that this was all that could be obtained at this time.4

Description of Arms: 5

Enfield Pattern 1858 Short-Rifle, also know as the Pattern 1856 No. 2 or Bar-on-Band:

Overall length 49 inches, barrel length 33 inches, caliber 0.577 inch, rifled with 2 barrel bands.  The furniture; butt plate, trigger guard, nose guard, left side lock screw escutcheons are entirely made of iron. The bayonet is a yataghan sword type that attaches to a bar on the front barrel band ("Bar on Band").  The sling swivel rings are located on the upper band and the rear sling ring is located to the rear of the trigger along the long tang of the trigger guard furniture. The stock comes to 1 inches of the muzzle and the upper barrel band is wider than the lower band and is pinned to the fore-end by a thick cross pin, approximately 9/32 inch in diameter. The bayonet bar is on its upper right side.  The barrel has three-groove rifling with a twist of 1 in 78 inches and uses progressive rifling that was adopted in 1858.  The rifling depth is 0.013 inches deep at the breech and is 0.005 inches at the muzzle.  The barrel is a light weight barrel nearly identical to the model 1856, weighing 3lb 10 1/2 oz.

This is the Enfield that is seen in the photo of Andrew Gosnell and James Sheperd (See "Uniforms of the Regiment" web page).

From the author's Collection

 

Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket:
Overall length 55 inches, barrel length 39 inches, caliber 0.577 inch, rifled with 3 barrel bands.  The furniture; butt plate, trigger guard, nose guard, left side lock screw escutcheons are made of Brass. The bayonet is a socket mount with triangular cross section.  The sling rings are located on the front band and the rear is attached to the front of the trigger guard.  This was the most popular of all foreign weapons used during the war.  It was used by both the Union and Confederates.

Both patterns were manufactured mainly in England.

From the author's Collection

 

 

Bayonets and Scabbards for the Above Enfields
Yataghan Saber Bayonet for the Enfield Short Rifle (above)
Bayonet for the Enfield Rifle-Musket (below)

From the author's Collection

Later in the war it appears that the regiment had many or all of its arms replaced.  Sanford Fordice of company H, mentions the following in a letter to his father and mother dated May 3, 1864;  "I must tell you we have Just Turned over all Our Enfield Rifles and drew New guns, Colts, Patent the nicest gun I ever Saw...."6  Since he does not mention that it is the Colt revolving rifle, I would think that it was the Special Model contract musket designed by and first produced by Colt. See Below

 

Colt Special Model 1861 Rifle-Musket:
Maker: Colt's Patent Firearms Co., Hartford, CT. Dates: 1861-1865, Cal. .58 rifled.
The Colt Patent contract rifle was similar to the US 1861 Springfield, but its parts were not interchangeable with the Springfield.

Sources:

1  THE PARKE COUNTY REPUBLICAN newspaper dated October 2, 1861
2  
Memoirs of Private John Day, 31st Indiana, Co. K.  (William Henry Smith Memorial Library )
3
  Letters of Eli S. Combs, 31st Indiana, Co. H.
4
  Memoirs of Private William Turner Glenn, 31st Indiana, Co. G.

5  
British Military Longarms, 1715-1865 By De Witt Bailey, first publication 1971. 
6   The Letters of Sanford Fordice, 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Co. H.

My thanks goes out to a reader who corrected the author on the correct model Enfield that James Sheperd and Andrew are holding.  I had originally made the mistake of thinking it to be the Enfield Pattern1858 Naval Rifle and that the Bayonet bar was on the barrel.  The P58 / P56 No. 2 "Bar-on-Band" Short Rifle appears to be somewhat rare.


This site was written by:
Dennis Hutchinson

Copyright 1998 - 2017 by Dennis Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved. This site may be freely linked to, but not duplicated in any fashion except by the author's consent. When permission is given, this copyright statement must remain with the document.

Last Update January, 2017

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I am especially interested in photos of soldiers from the 31st Indiana in their wartime clothing.  I am also interested in any letters, diaries, or biographical information on 31st Indiana soldiers

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