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CALISHER & TERRY CARBINE – 1856 BRITISH PATENT – STRONG CONFEDERATE ASSOCIATION – AS CARRIED BY J.E.B. STUART – VERY NICE COMPLETE SPECIMEN:  Developed for the British army in the late 1850’s by the Birmingham and London firm of the same name, the Calisher-Terry Carbine is one of the imported firearms associated with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War - specifically one is known to have been carried by Major General J.E.B. Stuart, C.S.A., and another was owned by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 

Known as both a “Door Bolt” and a “Folding Bolt-action” system, the Terry Carbine was operated in a very similar fashion to today’s modern bolt-action firearms.  The handle, which is hinged on the rear right side of the receiver, is pulled out perpendicular to the axis of the barrel, rotated 90 degrees up, and pulled to the rear. The cartridge is inserted through a milled slot in the right side of the receiver, and the bolt is closed.  Upon being closed, the arm of the bolt handle fills the loading aperture. The bolt is secured in position by two rear-locking lugs which engage the milled shoulder in the receiver. The bolt face has a chamfered head which seats into the mouth of the correspondingly shaped chamber. A percussion cap is placed on the nipple, and when struck by the hammer, ignites the combustible paper cartridge.  A unique positioning of the nipple in relation to the chamber directs the flame from the percussion cap into the middle of the cartridge, as opposed to the rear of the cartridge as in most of the other contemporary firearms of that period.  By igniting the cartridge in the center of the powder charge, the charge burned both forward and rearward, and perhaps was thought to provide a faster and more even burning of the powder. 

The Terry Carbine employed a special cartridge developed by Terry in 1855 consisting of a combustible paper cartridge infused with nitrate, containing 55 grains of powder and a 530 grain conical bullet which is described in various sources as being both solid and having a cavity in the base.  A greased felt wad was attached to the base of the cartridge at the rear of the powder chamber.  When the cartridge was fired, consuming the paper wrapped powder charge and expelling the bullet, this wad was left behind at the face of the bolt, sealing the chamber and acting as a gas check.  When the bolt was withdrawn to reload the carbine, the felt wad remained at the front of the chamber, forward of the next cartridge loaded.  Upon firing the second, and any subsequent cartridges, the wad was propelled through the barrel ahead of the bullet and served to lubricate the barrel and reduce the build up of fouling. 

The Terry Carbine was subjected to testing by the British Army in 1858.  The tests were successful and after making an impressive showing, The Calisher & Terry firm received an order for at least 1,000 carbines for use by British cavalry units through the early 1860’s.  The Terry carbines were eventually supplied to other units throughout the Commonwealth, being used through the early 1870’s.  Calisher & Terry went out of business in 1870. 

These carbines have enjoyed a strong association with the Confederacy primarily due to the two specimens identified to luminaries of the Confederacy.  The most famous example of a Calisher-Terry Carbine is the one carried by Major General J.E.B. Stuart who earned his fame in the Army of Northern Virginia as the legendary commander of General Robert E. Lee's cavalry.  Stuart was known for his interest in innovative cavalry equipment, so it is perfectly in character that he selected a carbine of modern design for that time.  The second most famous Calisher & Terry was found in the personal possessions of President Jefferson Davis upon his capture at the end of the War.  These two carbines still exist and now reside (respectively) in the collections of The Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.  

Aside from these two historic and identified guns, as with so many of the arms that were purchased abroad to arm the Confederacy, there survives little documentation as to how many Calisher-Terry carbines were imported by the South.  Due to the necessity of closely guarding any records of international arms purchases at the time, the inherent nature of blockade running, and the characteristic lack of surviving records from any defeated government or nation, the lack of a definitive number is not particularly surprising.  Certainly, it stands to reason that more than two Terry Carbines were brought into the South, and with the demand for serviceable arms, it is very likely that those that were imported were placed into service with the Confederate Army.   

While documented deliveries of the Calisher-Terry Carbine have not yet been uncovered, strong circumstantial evidence exists that at least some of these carbines saw use in the South, and perhaps as many as 200 may have been purchased by the US Government. In 1861, Henry Calisher traveled to New York with “200 Long Enfields”, which he offered for sale.  It seems more likely he would be more inclined to market his own arms, and it is possible, if not probable, that these two hundred were in fact the Terry Patent carbines.  

Further clouding the North American history of the Calisher-Terry Carbines is that it is unclear whether Calisher sold those two hundred carbines were sold directly to the representatives of the US government or to the firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham of New York.  It is known that a number of arms were delivered to the Confederacy through purchases at the Schuyler, Hartley & Graham store in New York.  If Calisher sold his carbines to SH&G, it is quite possible the entire lot was purchased by a Southern agent who in turn arranged for their shipment south.   While the definitive record of the service of the Calisher-Terry Carbines during the Civil War has yet to be written, there is little doubt that to some extent these sturdy carbines were present on American battlefields during those violent years.    

This is a well marked example, with the stamping on the top of the receiver “TERRY'S PATENT .30 BORE” fully legible.  “30 Bore” is the common English manner of stating the caliber, which a measure based on the number of round balls of that particular diameter needed to equal 1 pound, or translated to the decimal system used in the United States, the barrel is .53 Caliber.  The top of the bolt boss and the rear flat of the lock plate are both stamped with fully legible British proof marks.  The butt stock is stamped on the right side flat “CALISHER & TERRY / MAKERS / WHITTALL St / BIRMINGHAM” and the majority of this stamp is fully legible.  Forward of the hammer, the lock plate bears a stamp, “CALISHER – TERRY / 1862”.  As seen on the comparatively few surviving examples, there is considerable variations in the manner in which Calisher marked his lock plates.  Again, there are no definitive records which survive to explain the chronology or reasoning behind these variations, however this marking is substantively consistent with other known examples.    

The straight grained stock is obviously one intended for military use, showing none of the embellishments such as checkering at the wrist and on the forearm that are seen on other examples of the Terry Carbine that were intended for the civilian market.  A number of surviving examples of these carbines that were placed into service throughout the British Commonwealth bear unit stampings on the flats of the butt stock plainly identifying them to Australian, New Zealand, and South African police and militia units – all of which would generally preclude those examples as possible Confederate associated arms.  Discovered in a well established and long standing collection of Confederate arms, this carbine presents as one would expect of those imported during the Civil War.   

This carbine shows some evidence of use, but survived the passing years in remarkably nice condition.  It is in full form, complete with all the components, to include the unique full length ramrod which is often missing from surviving examples, and of particular note, the butt stock trap still retains the original ramrod/cleaning rod extension with the integral slot for a cleaning patch.  The barrel is full length, and is complete with both front and rear sights.  The rear sight is complete with the slide and leaf.  The bore is in excellent condition, retaining very strong rifling with no pitting and only minimal frosting.   

The unique bolt system is in excellent condition, and the bolt handle snaps into place with no play or looseness due to wear – as tight as the day it was made.  The lock mechanism is very strong and functions with a crisp trigger pull and spring action and the lock retains much of its original smooth dark finish.   

The surface of the barrel, lock and all of the iron furniture has an even naturally aged plum color, turned from the original blue.  The surfaces of the bolt, lock plate, hammer, barrel band, ramrod and cleaning jag are all smooth.  The barrel, trigger guard and buttplate have an overall light, scattered pitting as can be seen in the photographs.  The pitting seen on these noted surfaces of this carbine is virtually universally consistent with the same surfaces on almost every other known Calisher-Terry Carbine I have seen.  With the exception of two high grade specimens which featured finely checkered stocks and in one case, extensive engraving – both obviously special order or presentation pieces – all of the Calisher-Terry Carbines I have seen have had this same light pitting on those particular iron surfaces which leads me to be believe the quality or molecular makeup of the iron used by Calisher for those components may well be the culprit.  If nothing else, this degree of consistent pitting is a signature feature of these carbines, aiding in their identification.   

The stock is complete, and while showing the expected signs of wear and handling, has no structural damage such as cracks, or breaks.  The wood has an attractive grain, a pleasing natural patina, and a beautifully aged rich color.   

This unique and quite scarce Calisher-Terry Carbine was collected back in the days when such special pieces were still regularly coming out of family estates, and even at that time this was a special discovery.  Overall, this carbine presents very well and would be an attractive addition to a Civil War Cavalry collection, and it survives as a credible representation of the carbines used by the Confederacy.  (0108)  $6750



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