Shotguns

I am not really a fan of the shotgun but I must admit at close range there are few weapons more dangerous. But it is really only a close range weapon. This particular one was made in England and is of very fine quality. It is short and handy of the kind ideal for the close work a coachman or bartender has occasional need. During the War Rebel Cavalry and Union teamsters used them to good effect but as military arms they were rapidly eclipsed by various breech loading carbines like the excellent Sharps carbine. The problem with a shotgun is its range and men with carbines or rifles can cut them to pieces at range.

Judging from the man who brought this to me for repair I believe this William Moore made shotgun was likely made sometime in the 40’s. It has been well used and well cared for. When it was handed to me one nipple had snapped off and it was necessary to remove and replace it. It took a little work but I was able to accomplish the task with some time and effort. As it was a man I consider a friend I refused to accept anything but his thanks for my work.

I have seen many a shotgun over the years and found the English made to be among the best. That said as the American gunmakers have fully adopted the American system of manufacture their new models are superb. The new model by Remington is a site to see and I fully expect breech loading shotguns like that to fully eclipse these nice hand made English guns in short order. I fully expect the double shotgun will remain the master bird gun until the end of time.

Froe

The froe is an interesting and versatile tool. It can be used to rive boards, slats, fence rails, shingles and a variety of other items. Most that I have seen have been made by a local blacksmith and many of those from used files. I can not say that I have seen one mass produced. I own two of different sizes that are handy for different tasks. The bigger one is used for larger tasks and the smaller one for more detailed work. In all honesty I use the larger one to make the seats for stools more often than not while the smaller works well for shingles and shakes.

I have spent many a quiet winter eve splitting shingles for summer projects. It is a relaxing and productive exercise. Even when I find I do not need them I can easily trade or sell them off to those who do. The spoil makes good kindling for the various stoves and fireplaces around my place.

A froe in combination with a club or wooden mallet can produce a large number of shingles in short order without a lot of wastage. A simple tap or two with a club or mallet combined with a bit of light pushing and pulling of the froe allows for steady even splitting of all manner of wood. My smaller froe has been hard used enough that I question how much longer it will last. Though due to my fondness for the thing I may well take it to a local smith and have him forge weld a repair of a hairline crack I have noticed on the socket.

The short ladies of my life

The short ladies of my military career are pictured here. My beloved .58 caliber Colt Alteration of the superb M1841 which I carried throughout the Civil War. The excellent .69 caliber Special Model M1842. The .71 caliber Dragon modele 1842 T for Dragoons. And on the bottom a shortened M1809 Potsdam. All four are very interesting arms.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love affair with the .58 caliber M1841 I carried throughout my Civil War service. It is a weapon that is short, handy to use and puts the bullet where I aim. There were several different versions of this excellent arm in my Regiment and they were generally well liked by the men who carried them. They would largely be replaced in the spring of 64 with the excellent M1861 series arms which included the M1861 itself as well as M1863, M1864 and even a couple M1855’s there were also a few of the Special model M1861 in the mix. All were excellent arms which I had few things to complain of. The most common broken or damaged parts of these weapons were the mainspring and the nipple both of which would break in hard use. I had no real issues with any of the various M1841 arms that were in the Regiment, I recall no serious issues with them at all. They were a fine arm that my men often used to effect well past 400 yards.

The Special Model M1842 is an interesting rifle. It is not a common weapon and I do not recall seeing more than a half dozen in my US Army career. I believe we had several in the Regiment at the time we were initially issued out weapons from the Minnesota Arsenal. By the time we left Jefferson Barracks outside of St. Louis I believe our Regiment had all but completely been rearmed with various versions of the M1841 though K Company, I believe, received a full issue of first rate M1855 rifles. There are several interesting stories of how the Special Model M1842 came to be and all seem to center around the Explorer Fremont. Supposedly, he wished a .69 caliber rifle to deal with grizzly bears as he had encountered them on one of his early expeditions and did not feel the .54 caliber bullet of the M1817 or M1841 was sufficient to deal with such a creature. They were made for only the year of 1847 at Springfield Arsenal and the majority of parts are interchangeable with the M1842 musket. Those I have seen bear no eagle upon the lockplate. The reason for this absence is supposedly a slight to then Colonel Fremont a he apparently went around standard army channels to have the weapon made for him. Whatever the truth I care not as the weapon is a good one; accurate, reliable and quick to the shoulder it puts bullets where they need to go. I must admit my curiosity as to why the US Army did not produce more of these excellent arms. I am told only 3,400 were manufactured which seems foolish to me as it is an excellent arm.

The Dragon modele 1842 T or Dragoon model M1842 was an excellent arm. While I learned to use a rifled weapon on the Voltigeur or Light Infantry. It was some longer than the Dragoon model, I find that I prefer the shorter Dragoon model as it is more handy and quicker to the shoulder. In my own experience using the Voltigeur model in the Crimea the .71 caliber bullet is a man stopper and accurate enough to make life uncomfortable out to at least 400 meters. The modele 1842 is an excellent arm but it is not a parts interchangeable arm. This one was manufactured in 1847 at St Etienne and I am glad to own it. I am pleased to say that I have dropped a running deer at close to two hundred yards.

This M1809 Potsdam is another short weapon; though she did not leave the Potsdam Arsenal this length. She was professionally shortened at some point. Who or where this was done I do not know, but it was very well done. I paid less than a dollar for it. I cleaned and did a simple repair to her then sold her on for use as a shotgun. The shortened length makes her lighter and handier than her original length but the recoil is some uncomfortable. The lack of rifling relegates this arm to a a short ranged shotgun. She was originally intended for a .71 caliber ball but their use during the Civil War was most common with the standard .69 caliber buck and ball then in use with both the US and Confederate armies. The buck and ball cartridge of the US Army was a single .64 or .65 caliber ball and three or four .31 caliber buckshot. In my opinion there are few cartridges that are more lethal at close range. But at anything past 100 yards men with rifled arms can cut them to pieces. The reality of the combat I experianced and knew of during the War such a weapon was still quite effective as I can think of only two occasions where I ever fired my weapon at targets more than one hundred yards distant. At the siege of Vicksburg, a small skirmish and at Alatoona Pass I took men under my sights who were well past three hundred yards distant.

All four of these arms along with the excellent English P56 were hard used during their military service. I like to refer to them as my short ladies. They are fine young ladies who my lovely wife need never be jealous of. I supplement the income from the tavern, inn and bakery by taking in weapons and repairing or selling them on occasionally. I am always sad to see M1861 or P53’s that have been turned into shotguns for use on the farm or in the woods. For a man like me who fully appreciates the effect of a rifled arm I find such butchery of a fine weapon as a sin, but I am also a realist and know these arms are readily available for a pittance and as a result men feel no remorse at making them fit their immediate needs.