Original J. Henry & Son Saber Rifle, only 70 made
One of the 70 Saber Rifles made
between October/November 1861, J. Henry & Son provided these to the Catasanga Home Guard, an unidentified Pennsylvania Militia Unit. This example is in great condition, mechanically sound, with the distinctive J. Henry & Sons stamp on the lock plate and top of barrel. Due to a lack of a number on the barrel, this weapon was made without a matching saber bayonet when sold to the Home Guard.
In Depth Look:
The gunmaking firm of J. Henry & Son was established by
William Henry in Lancaster, PA, prior to the French & Indian War.
During that era Henry produced arms for the use of British colonial
militiamen, and even took the field himself as an armorer during the
campaign to recapture Fort Duquesne during 1758. In the years after the
French & Indian War, he served as a delegate to the Continental
Congress. By about 1760 he had left the gun trade and become a
successful Lancaster based iron monger, but his son John Joseph Henry
took up the family gunmaking business sometime around 1775 and the firm
continued operation under his leadership until 1811, when John Joseph
Henry II took over. During the early 1800s, the firm relocated to
Boulton, PA. The firm became known generally as the Boulton Gun Works
(some references spell it â€œBoltonâ€). After John Josephâ€™s death, his son
James took over, and in 1859 Jamesâ€™ son Granville joined the firm and
the name was changed to â€œJ. Henry & Sonâ€. During their nearly six
decades in business prior to the name change, the Henry family had
produced guns for the new United States government, for the states of
Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland and numerous fur trading companies
engaged in commerce with the many American Indian tribes. They also
worked as manufacturers for other gunmakers and retailers like Philip S.
Justice of Philadelphia, selling that firm both completed arms and
parts to manufacture arms from. It is also likely that the Henry firm
provided gun parts to other local Pennsylvania gunmakers like John
Krider and possibly Henry Leman. With the coming of the American Civil
War, and the calling for 100,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion,
(not to mention the calling out of Pennsylvania militia units for the
defense of the state) Henry looked to produce military arms to cash in
on the need for guns. He produced two patterns of military style rifles
and a cadet musket. The rifles were offered with either a socket or a
saber bayonet, and were known respectively in the Henry company records
as â€œMiniÃ© Riflesâ€ or â€œSaber Riflesâ€. Both
patterns of arms were brass mounted rifles with 35â€ barrels in .58
caliber. Most had a unique â€œrecurvedâ€ trigger guard that is commonly
associated with the arms made (or sold) by both Henry and P.S. Justice.
It appears that much of the brass furniture was probably obtained from
Bernard Leman of Philadelphia in 1861. It is not clear if both Henry and
Justice purchased brass furniture from him or if Justice acquired the
parts from Henry. Both patterns of Henry rifle also included a brass
patchbox that is also associated with arms made by Justice and Krider.
It appears that these patch boxes were left over parts purchased from
the Sharps Firearms Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. In 1859
Sharps had transitioned from brass mountings to iron mountings, and
apparently a large number of brass patchboxes in varying states of
manufacture were sold as unneeded surplus. It appears that the 285 â€œMiniÃ© Riflesâ€
produced by Henry during the summer of 1861 were sold almost entirely
to Justice, who sold them to the US government to help satisfy his
contract for rifles. However, Henry sold 40 of these rifles to the
Bethlehem Home Guard in August of 1861. Henry also produced some 952 â€œSaber Riflesâ€
during the summer of 1861, most of which (876) were also sold to
Justice, with deliveries starting in September of that year. However, 70
were sold to Henry to the Catasanga Home Guard in October and November,
and another 6 were used as sample rifles in an attempt to obtain other
This is one of the very scarce J. Henry & Son Saber Rifles. The 876
guns sold to Justice were Justice marked (either by Henry or Justice),
and only the 70 â€œhome guardâ€ saber rifles and the 6 samples were marked
with the Henry name. This rifle is clearly marked in two horizontal
lines: J. HENRY / & SON, on the left angled barrel flat near the breech and J. HENRY / & SON in two vertical lines on the lock plate, behind the hammer. The standard finish for the J. HENRY & SON Saber Rifle
was a color case hardened lock and browned barrel, with all small iron
parts blued and the brass mountings left bright. The standard production rifles also included a long base,
long-range rear sight similar to those found on some Whitney long range
sighted arms and some Harpers Ferry altered Mississippi rifles. The
35â€ octagon to round barrel is full length and has a dark brown
patina. The metal of the barrel is mostly
smooth, with some scattered areas of pinpricking and some light pitting
that is mostly confined to the breech and bolster area. The 4 groove
bore of the rifle is in FINE condition, retains crisp rifling with light rust along its length. The original front
sight is in place near the muzzle, as is the original saber
bayonet-mounting lug. The original and correct ramrod is present in the channel
under the barrel, and is full length, with fine threads on the end. The
lock of the rifle is in EXCELLENT mechanical condition,
and operates crisply on all positions. The brass furniture has a lovely,
mellow ochre patina.
The patchbox opens and closes smoothly and the brass trigger guard and
upper barrel band retain what appears to be the original sling swivels.
The stock of the rifle is in FINE condition, showing no indication of
having been sanded, and the sharp edges remain sharp as they should be,
with good definition and fine wood to metal fit throughout. There are
the usual bumps, dings and minor surface mars from handling, use and
storage over 150 years, but nothing serious or abusive. There are two significant cracks opposite of the lock plate. This is a typical crack for Civil War era
muskets and is the result of the lock screw being over-tightened. The
crack is tight and stable and does not detract from display in any way,
but it is mentioned for exactness.
Overall this is a very scarce example of a rare J. Henry & Son Saber Rifle
in very crisp and original condition. With only 76 of the total
production of these rifles being sold or delivered by Henry to someone
other than PS Justice, and with the rifle being Henry marked instead of
Justice marked, it is a very rare gun. Even including the 876 delivered
to Justice, less than 1,000 of these rifles were produced. This is a
great rifle to add to a collection of Pennsylvania made military arms,
Civil War secondary martial rifles or just a collection of J. Henry
is a fine condition, very crisp and complete example of a rather scarce
Civil War rifle that you will be very glad to add to your collection.
When ordering firearms from Regimental Quartermaster, please be aware of the following:
- Due to state law in New Jersey, we are unable to ship firearms there.
- We can not ship our Firearms outside of the United States.
- Must be 18 years of age to purchase any firearms.
NOTE: ALL black powder musket and revolver shipments require an adult signature for delivery! Due to Legal Restrictions we do not ship firearms to New Jersey or outside the U.S.