The Union Carbines

ARTIFACT: NATIONAL ARCHIVES | PHOTO: BRITTANY VENTURELLA

DOCUMENT CITATION: John Cleves Symmes, Washington Arsenal, May 10, 1855; Vol. 2, p. 85; Reports of Tests and Experiments on Various Types of Ordnance and Ordnance Stories, 1820 – 183; 1846 – 61; Records Relating to Various Subjects, Experiments, 1812 -1913; Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Record Group 156; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.

John Cleves Symmes, at Washington Arsenal, description and review of Inventor Gross' gun. 

Between these two orders, the quality of the Gwyn & Campbell increased as the contractors worked to accommodate the government with a higher quality weapon.1 In March 18, 1864, the Cosmopolitan Arms Company bought a new rifling machine.2 That acquirement, as well as the change in model between the September 18 order and the February 27 order, demonstrated the Cosmopolitan Arms Company working fulfill the government expectations as well as complete the next contract. They adapted to the government’s wants, just like the other carbine manufacturers.


1.Dec. 31, 1861 b

Because of the shortage of arms, Major Benjamin Henry Grierson of the Sixth Illinois Cavalry sought out the Cosmopolitan Arms factory. After several correspondence and personal visits on both sides, the Cosmopolitan Arms Company obtained a government contract.1 P.V. Hagner of the Ordnance Department in New York signed the contract and added requirements for improvements, such as a “wrought iron breech box” and the rounding of sharp edges.2 Several Illinois troops used those Union carbines made for this contract. After receiving the contract on Dec. 31, 1861, the company sent out the first shipment of 840 carbines on June 18, 1862 and the second shipment of 300 carbines by July 2, 1862. 3b Production-type Cosmopolitan Carbines, made for this first contract, were delivered at $27 each.4 The order also included 114,000 cartridges.5


Initially, the 6th Illinois was issued Union Carbines.3 However, some men in the 6th Illinois Cavalry were issued Sharps, instead of the Cosmopolitan, and later Spencers.6

Contracts

2. August 4, 1862

In this contract, the government ordered 2,000 Cosmopolitan carbines and 200,000 cartridges.7  Production was postponed due to the new patent, and the company made deliveries, containing 1,000 carbines each, on April 11 and April 28, 1863. The carbines delivered were the Gwyn and Campbell, Type I, Long Sight Model.8 The government paid $20 per carbine and $15 per one thousand cartridges.9

3. April 29, 1863

Ten thousand carbines were to be delivered at the rate of 600 per month or as many as they could have produced before the inspection date of November 1, 1863, a date assigned by Chief of Ordnance Ripley. Yet, the date was extended to Dec.  31, 1863 by Secretary of War Stanton. Each gun was priced at $20, and every 1,000 cartridges were $18.10 One thousand two hundred carbines were delivered on October 30, 1863 and 1,000 more were delivered in December 1863. The carbines that completed the contract were the Gwyn and Campbell, Type I, Long Sight Model.11 

4. September 18, 1863

Campbell and Gwyn immediately sent, upon order, two sample carbines:  one to Assistant Chief of Ordnance Col. George D. Ramsey and one to Ordnance Inspector Lt. Col. P.V. Hager.12 Ramsey was unsure about issuing another contract to the Gwyn & Campbell Company due to the needed improvement of the contemporary model, especially its poor rifling. According to Historian and Antiquarian Thomas B. Rentschler, “Additional criticism notes a sloppy and rough breech frame, poor-quality swivel bars and rings were rough, lockplate thin in front, tumbler loose in plate and notches rough, levers sound but rough, and the mainspring was of the old hook form without swivel to aid its action.”13 The list of complaints continued. Those critiques required minor adjustments to create a better version of the carbine, and, upon making those changes, they obtained their needed contract (listed below).14​ 

Between September 18 order and the February 27 order, the quality of the Gwyn & Campbell increased as the contractors worked to accommodate the government with a higher quality weapon, including better rifling for increased accuracy.13 In March 18, 1864, the Cosmopolitan Arms Company bought a new rifling machine. That acquirement, as well as the change in model between the September 18 order and the February 27 order, demonstrated the Cosmopolitan Arms Company working fulfill government expectations as well as complete the next contract. They adapted to the government’s wants, just like the other carbine manufacturers.

5. February 27, 1864

The company arranged for three thousand carbines plus two pattern carbines to be shipped at 500 per month with deliveries starting before March 25, 1864. The carbines were $20 each, and the cartridges sold at $18 for every 1,000. The carbines were shipped in varying numbers:  750 in May, 880 in two August deliveries, and 1,370 delivered on three October dates. The type of carbines varied as well: 750 Gwyn & Campbell, Type I, Short Sight Model; 1,380 Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, First Model; and 870 Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, Second Model.15 Historian James Timothy Brenner said that the varying sizes of deliveries were because "of a modification of the weapon ordered by the [Ordnance] Department."16 However, if Historian Thomas B. Rentschler is correct in his numbers, it is due to the company creating new model. It is unknown if the multiple models was inspired by the government.

In March when the carbines were tested, the results came out negative and the government’s complaints about poor rifling continued as well as their critiques concerning a flaw in the lock plates and other below-standard parts.17 Upon request, the company sent two more carbines to be tested, which were accepted despite some of their poor-quality parts.18 Another pair of carbines would be tested once again.19 The company arranged for three thousand carbines plus two pattern carbines to be shipped at 500 per month with deliveries starting before March 25, 1864. The carbines were $20 each, and the cartridges sold at $18 for every 1,000. The carbines were shipped in varying numbers:  750 in May, 880 in two August deliveries, and 1,370 delivered on three October dates. The type of carbines varied as well: 750 Gwyn & Campbell, Type I, Short Sight Model; 1,380 Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, First Model; and 870 Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, Second Model.17 Historian James Timothy Brenner said that the varying sizes of deliveries were because "of a modification of the weapon ordered by the [Ordnance] Department."16 However, if historian Thomas B. Rentschler is correct in his numbers, it is due to the company creating new model. It is unknownif the multiple models was inspired by the government.

6. November 19, 1864

This contract was for 1,000 carbines. The company and government arranged that 500 carbines were to be delivered by Nov. 30th 1864 and 500 by Dec. 31, 1864.20 They were delivered on those dates, along with a million cartridges at $22.50 per carbine and $24 per thousand cartridges. Five hundred of the carbines were the Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, Second Model, and the other 500 were the Gwyn & Campbell, Type II, Third Model.



Overall, 10,551 Cosmopolitans and Gwyn & Campbells were purchased for use in the Civil War.21 The model of Union Carbines that was most sold to the government was the Gwyn & Campbell, Type I, Long Sight Model.22 According to Flayderman’s Guide, approximately 8,500 Gywn & Campbell Type I and II were made.23



a According to Flayderman’s Guide (5th edition), the U.S. Ordnance Department entered into a contract with the Cosmopolitan Arms Co. thirteen times for the Gwyn & Campbell. The possible years are not listed.

B 4 Flayderman’s attributes the 1,140 carbines just to the Illinois cavalrymen.24


1 Thomas B. Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War: A Definitive Illustrated History of Two Rare and Unusual Civil War Cavalry Carbines and Their Use in the Field (Lincoln: Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 2000),
35-36
2 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 45; James Timothy Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement:  The Ordnance Department and Two Ohio Carbines” (MA thesis, Ohio State University, 1977), 65.
3 Rentschler, Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 36; William B. Edwards, Civil War Guns: The complete story of Federal and Confederate small arms:  design, manufacture, identification, procurement, issue, employment, effectiveness, and postwar disposal, (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle, 1982), 111. NOTE: Edwards does not consider the first contract a formal contract.
4 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 44-45; James Timothy Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement:  The Ordnance Department and Two Ohio Carbines” (MA thesis, Ohio State University, 1977), 65.
5 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 40
6 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 36
7 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 45-46; Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 66.
8 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 45-46
9 Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 66
10 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 47; Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 66.
11 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 47
12 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 49; Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 68.
13 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 49
14 Carl L. Davis, Arming the Union:  Small Arms in the Civil War (Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, Inc., 1973), 87.
15 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 50
16 Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 69
17 William A. Thornton to George Ramsay, April 18, 1864, Letters Received, Ordnance Office Records, quoted in James Timothy Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement:  The Ordnance Department and Two Ohio Carbines” (MA thesis, Ohio State University, 1977), 70.
18 Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 70
19 Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 71
20 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 52; Brenner, “The Politics of Civil War Weapons Procurement," 73.
21 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 53
22 Rentschler,  Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War, 57
23 Norm Flayderman, Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms … and their values, 5th ed. (Northbrook: DBI Books, Inc., 1990), 495.
24 Flayderman, Flayderman’s Guide, 5th ed., 493