In the Spring of 2014, Valparaiso University’s Material Culture class studied artifacts from our collection, giving detailed historical context to some of our most unique and insightful artifacts. Thanks to Dr. Buggeln, Valparaiso University, the PoCo Muse collections volunteers, and the students for all the work and dedication put into this project.
The following research was compiled by Tyler Ingersoll:
Springfield Model 1842
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory
Date Produced: 1848
Primary Materials: Black walnut and iron
This gun was produced by the Springfield Armory in 1848. The gun is most likely a Model 1840, but was upgraded in the year 1848 to a Model 1842. The only difference in the two models is the firing system. The Model 1840 features a flintlock system and the Model 1842 features a percussion cap system, which has been added to this gun. The percussion cap system fired by placing a small cap on the nipple, which protruded from the trigger end of the barrel. Once the trigger was pulled, the hammer would strike the cap, causing it to ignite, sending a small flame into the barrel. This would then ignite the main powder charge and fire the bullet. The percussion system was more reliable than the flintlock system because flintlock guns relied on an open pan of powder that could be affected by the elements, becoming wet in rain or snow and causing the gun to fail to ignite. The upgrade to a percussion system made the gun more reliable and more effective.
This gun, despite being manufactured in 1848, was used during the Civil War (1861-65). Many of these guns existed in the early 1860s, making them popular for the first part of the war. The South especially relied on this model, as they did not have the technology and machinery to effectively manufacture their own guns. The armories in the north, Springfield and Harpers Ferry, had mastered the concept of interchangeable parts well before the war began, and had the ability to consistently produce guns throughout the war. The Confederate army from Virginia attempted to capture the Harpers Ferry armory (also located in Virginia), but failed due to the quick thinking of Lieutenant Roger Jones. He burned most of the armory and guns stored there, ensuring that the South could not use them. However, much of the machinery stored at the armory was not destroyed, giving the South the ability to begin manufacturing their own arms. This machinery was transferred to Macon, Georgia, one of the South’s few industrial cities. While the South could now manufacture its own arms, it failed to live up to the high production standards set by the North, who out produced the South during the war.