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The Rifles of the 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
by John Thurston

The author has researched the arms used by the 64th during the late unpleasantness and have arrived with the following data listed below. As re-enactors, since we portray various units during our re-enactments, we do ask that all enlisted men be armed with three band muskets [Model 1855/61/63 Springfield’s, Model 1853 or later Enfield’s]. This is for safety reasons as well as we are trying to portray the unit mid-war, and they would have been so equipped by then. Some members carry .69 smoothbores or converted rifles. This is acceptable as it enhances our arms display to the public. Other than these rifles we would ask any member who might want to use something different on the field (and many other muskets or refilled muskets are acceptable) that they ask a board member for their advice.

The 64th was originally issued 1841 Rifles, which were appropriate for their skirmishing origin. They were later mainly issued 1861/63 Springfields. By individual purchase the unit’s members bought Henry repeating rifles, which they had during the North Carolina Campaign with Sherman. Outlined below are records, which document weapons, used throughout he 64th’s history.                                                           

Date

Rifle/Bayonet

Caliber

Number

Comments

1/2/1862

Long Range Rifles

?

599

2, 6

Sword Bayonets

?

599

 

2/1862

US [Windsor]

?

?

1

6/14/1862

1841 Rifles

?

?

3, 7

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

4Q/1862

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

339

 

1Q/1863

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

324

 

2Q/1863

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

133

 

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

160

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

3Q/1863

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

292

 

4Q/1863

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

259

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

1Q/1864

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

422

8

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

198

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

2Q/1864

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

330

 

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

160

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

3Q/1864

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

312

 

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

111

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

Enfield R.M.

.577

2

5

4Q/1864

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

183

2

U.S. m/1840-45

.58

112

 

Sword Bayonets

 

 

 

4Q/1864

U.S.R.M. m/1855-63

.58

303

 

Comments:

1.     “During the Organization representatives…believed that they would be armed with the popular Manard [Maynard] Breech loading rifles but they failed and the Battalion was armed with U.S. [Winsor] rifles – a very neat and durable arm.” [From the Field & Staff Books, Illinois State archives]. The 1841 Rifle was originally called the United States rifle (later the Mississippi Rifle after Jefferson Davis’s unit in the Mexican War who were from Mississippi). Robbins, Kendall, & Lawrence, one of many contractors, made the Mississippi rifle under contract from 1845 to 1850. They made 10,000 rifles over the 5-year period. Behind the hamper vertically was the word Windsor, VT in two vertical lines [or Windsor]. These rifles were later rifled in 1855 to .58 caliber and equipped to hold a sword bayonet. Later many were converted to use a triangular bayonet.

2.     Abstract of issues to 64th Regiment of Infantry of Jan 2, 1862; 599 Long Range Rifles and Sword bayonets. [Reports Illinois Q.M., Page 1795,1863].

3.     “The Yates Sharpshooters, consisting of six companies, armed with Mississippi riles and saber bayonets” [Siege of Corinth] Ottawa Illinois Quartermaster, Page 1795, 1863

4.     Lists compiled from ordnance returns and ammunition acquisition found in records groups 94, 109 and 156 in the National archives. In general the lists cover the period between 1863-1864. These list the 64th carrying Model 1840/45 Rifles of .58 calibers. The report specifies rifles.  These are probably 1841 Mississippi rifles as mentioned elsewhere.

5.     The Cunningham collection contains a Keen made Enfield rifled musket, marked on the stock: J.W.B. Co. B 64 Ill.

6.     The book American Military Equipage, 1851-1872, Volume II: State Forces lists the 64th as receiving 1855 rifles (1841 rifles with the Maynard primer) in 1861 and Springfield rifles in 1862-1865. The majority of these rifles were burned during the evacuations of Harper’s Ferry and were replaced by 1841 version of the same rifle without the Maynard primer.

7.     An undated photo of Pvt. William J. Cash, Company B, 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry shows him clearly with an 1841 Mississippi rifle.

8.     A member of the Company D, 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was equipped with a heavy Prussian flintlock percussion conversion (believed to be a model 1831 Boker of .72 caliber).

Conclusion:

The 64th Illinois was most likely equipped with the 1841 “Mississippi” Rifle when first mustered in December 1861. This fits into their Sharpshooter image for the initial six companies and the four other units [13th, 14th, and 16th in May 1861 and the 42nd in July 1861] of Illinois Volunteers were also equipped with similar weapons. The difficulty is in pinpointing their conversion to the 1861/63 Rifle. It was most likely early 1864 as this was when the unit was sent back to Chicago for recruiting the additional companies [G, H, I, K] and when returning to duty were re-equipped with new rifles in February 1864 when remustered.

The unit’s conversion to Henry repeating rifles is not recorded in the Army register as these were private purchase and not government issue, but seemed to have started as early as July 1864 (although one rifle was purchased in 1863). 

Illinois units were also initially given the following style rifles when first mustered:


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