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MODEL 1842 AUSTRIAN CAVALRY CARBINE – EXCELLENT EXAMPLE - CIVIL WAR USE BY BOTH UNION AND CONFEDERATE TROOPS WELL DOCUMENTED:  One of the more interesting European carbines imported at the start of the American Civil War, the Model 1842 Austrian Cavalry Carbine featured one of the shortest barrels at only 14” long, while having one of the largest rifled bores of any regulation small arm of the War at .71 caliber.  

At the onset of the American Civil War, the need for serviceable firearms drove both the Federal and Confederate armies to seek out and purchase available stands of arms from many of the European armories in order to equip their soldiers.  The Austrian Empire was one of the world’s major centers of small arms manufacturing - in fact, so much so that between mid-1861 and mid-1862 the purchases of foreign arms made by the Union Army included 10,000 “Bohemian Carbines”.  Bohemia, a region of Central Europe which generally represents the western 2/3 of the historic Czech lands, was an Austrian protectorate at the time of the Civil War.  These Bohemian carbines were later described on the Ordnance Department records as “.71 caliber Rifled carbines, Austrian”.  While these carbines were originally manufactured, and used, in Austrian service with a “tube lock” firing mechanism, the US Army had them converted to the standard percussion system by civilian contractors. 

The historic record of the use of these unique carbines during the Civil War is well documented.  In April of 1862 General Denver, then stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, reported that “some of the mounted regiments in this district are armed with the Austrian carbine…”.  One of the units specifically mentioned in reports as being armed with the Austrian Carbine was the 2ND Kansas Cavalry.  These carbines also found their way into Confederate service, perhaps as Federal stockpiles were seized during the process of secession of the various states or later captured from Federal troops.  One well documented example of an Austrian Carbine used by a Confederate soldier resides in the Kansas State Historical Society Collection – taken from Larkin Skaggs, one of Quantrill’s Guerrillas who was captured during the raid on Lawrence, Kansas in 1863.  Surviving the War, these carbines like so many of the surplus, and by then obsolete, firearms in government inventory were sold at auction to various civilian dealers who in turn, sold them wherever there was a market.  I know of one of these Austrian Carbines that was recovered in near relic condition from an undercut sandbar along a creek in Nebraska.  The butt stock was cut off just behind the rear trigger guard tang, evidence that the carbine was shortened to be used as a “blanket gun”, likely by a member of one of the Plains tribes that frequented that area.  These carbines survived in such numbers as to be offered in the famous Bannerman catalogs in the early 1900’s, at testament to their durability.   

This carbine shows some evidence of use, but survived the War and the ensuing years in remarkably nice condition.  This carbine is full form, complete with all the components, the barrel is full length, and both front and rear sights are present.  The bore retains very strong rifling - twelve lands and grooves – with minimal, light pitting.  The surface of the barrel, lock and all of the iron furniture retains a naturally aged, undisturbed attractive brown patina, with no significant pitting.  The lock mechanism is very strong and functions with a crisp trigger pull and spring action.  All of the components are stamped with matching assembly numbers. 

The stock is particularly attractive, showing consistent, naturally appearing stripes in the grain throughout the length, similar to the tiger striped maple used in early American firearms.   

On the cheek rest is very neatly stamped “M.B.S. BUSSARD” which appears to have been applied with some discipline, such as the maker or a government authority somewhere along the line.  In the description of this pattern of Austrian Muskets and Carbines included in his Militärgewehre und Pistolen der deutschen Staaten 1800 – 1870, Hans Dieter Götz writes, “As the production capacity of the Vienna State Armory was not nearly sufficient; orders were issued for entire weapons or weapon parts to [be manufactured by] dozens of large and small private manufacturers throughout the monarchy [the Austrian Empire].”  Götz goes on to state that the monumental task of compiling a comprehensive list of these private contractors has not yet been attempted.  A cursory search of various data bases does show that the surname of Bussard does have roots in Bohemia, and that connection coupled with the style of the stamping in the stock leads me to believe this is a maker’s stamp of the small firm that produced at least the stock, and perhaps the entire carbine.   

Above, and to the left of the maker’s stamp, just above the tail of the carbine sling ring bar, is a hand written inscription in the wood that appears to be a name beginning with “William”, with what appears to be a last name written below that – perhaps the name of the soldier to whom this carbine was issued. 

The stock is full form showing only signs of normal handling.  There is a tight age crack on the left side of the stock from the upper lock screw to the crest of the barrel channel – a sign of age that seems consistent with each of the specimens of this carbine I have handled.  The crack shows no weakness and the area is stable – simply evidence of the aging of the wood.  

This carbine have survived the passage of years in excellent condition without being altered and it would be an attractive addition to a Civil War Cavalry collection, with the added value of being a particularly credible and well documented representation of the carbines used by the Confederacy.  SOLD

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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