Canadian Spencer Rifles

For all discussions relating to military weapons and tactics of the Victorian period.

Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Bubberstone » 17 Feb 2012 17:40

Can anyone tell me if the Spencer rifles and carbines acquired by Canada around 1866 were marked? ie did they have the CM in the stock like the Peabody did?

I know that the ones handed over by teh Brits later had teh WD arrow on them but am curious about the first batch that was acquired by Canada.

Thanks!
User avatar
Bubberstone
New Member
 
Posts: 85
Joined: 29 Dec 2011 08:01

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby acanthus » 17 Feb 2012 19:29

Hi,

Some years back I made a study of Spencer rifles and carbines and in doing so, I recorded all the serial numbers that were available, and from the best of my knowledge, I never recorded any rifles or carbines with the marking you note, or alternately the WD broad arrow.

I would be most interested to learn what type of Spencer was acquired by Canada, and whether or not they were acquired as a serial number sequencial lot, or whether they were purchase at random in smaller lots as required for service; there is also the question as to whether the Spencer arms acquired in 1866 were US Army rejects that had been returned to the Spencer Company during the Civil War, or whether thay were post war production to fill a specific order for Canada.

I still have all my recorded serial numbers, which cover the 1860 Civil War rifles and carbines, the Model 1865 Spencer and Burnside conract models, the Springfield modified versions, later models and sporting rifles.

Although the numbers I have only represent a small percentage of the total, I did correspond with some collectors and museums in the US, and my records include all serial numbers I obtained as a result of that correspondence. I still have my research material, and it would be interesting to cross reference any serial numbers you might know of with my records.

Gordon
acanthus
Senior Member
 
Posts: 368
Joined: 09 Jan 2009 14:35

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Bubberstone » 18 Feb 2012 01:36

Defending the Dominion by Edgecombe shows a photo on page 39 of a Canadian post-1870 carbine marked with both the "W-arrow-D" and with the DC in a diamond.

My understanding is that Canada purchased 1300 carbines in 1866.

In 1870, the Imperial Govt handed over their stock bringing Canadian holdings to 2000 rifles and 2300 carbines (hence the WD mark found on some.

I could not find any info re the serial numbers that wewre procured.
User avatar
Bubberstone
New Member
 
Posts: 85
Joined: 29 Dec 2011 08:01

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Waggoner » 18 Feb 2012 03:46

The Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting had an article about the Spencer rifles. I don't recall reading about any government issue marks and I believe that all of the rifles were the Model 1865 ones. I can't speak to the carbines.

All the best,

Gary
Gary Campbell
Nil Sine Labore
OMRS 4556, MCCofC 782
User avatar
Waggoner
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 725
Joined: 08 Feb 2009 04:35
Location: New Brunswick, Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 18 Feb 2012 18:57

In addition to the 1,300 carbines purchased by Canada and the 2,000 rifles purchased by the War Department and loaned to Canada, Edgecombe notes that a further 1,000 Spencer carbines were acquired by the War Department in 1866 and "Appropriated for Colonial Forces" - hence the total of 2,300 carbines mentioned by Bubberstone.

To quote Edgecombe's summary at the end of the chapter:
Although the Spencer rifles and carbines were purchased in haste by both Canadian and Imperial authorities, those procured by Britain were marked with the W/|\D butt stamp but it does not appear that the Canadian weapons were marked with the CM butt stamp. By order, because they were seen as stop-gap weapons, they were not given unit marks on original issue. Given that Spencer carbines were on issue to the Canadian cavalry for five years from 1867 to 1872, it would be expected that some of them would have been stamped with the "DC in a Diamond" mark to denote Canadian Government ownership but none has been seen. A possible explanation for this might be that the 1,300 Canadian-owned carbines had been continuously on issue from the time of their acquisition by the pre-confederation Canadian Provincial Government and were never returned to stores for marking after confederation. At least some of the carbines acquired from the British in 1870 were marked with both W/|\D and DC marks as one appears in Denner's catalogue No. 44 of April 2000. Canadian and/or W/|\D marked Spencer carbines and rifles are considered rare as Denner has only offered one rifle and two carbines for sale over the years
Last edited by GrantRCanada on 25 Dec 2013 05:23, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Waggoner » 18 Feb 2012 19:19

Grant,

Thank you for the additional information! I hadn't realized that they were considered to be "rare"!

All the best,

Gary
Gary Campbell
Nil Sine Labore
OMRS 4556, MCCofC 782
User avatar
Waggoner
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 725
Joined: 08 Feb 2009 04:35
Location: New Brunswick, Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 18 Feb 2012 19:39

Yes .... although to clarify, the author was saying that it is "marked" examples which are considered to be rare - i.e. marked with either W/|\D or DC stamp. (Mind you, I think that such markings would really be the only way to confirm definitively that a Spencer rifle or carbine was one of the "Fenian Raids acquisitions" ......)

I gather the rarest possible "Fenian Raids breechloader" would be a Starr carbine - 1,000 of which were acquired by the British. Apparently, only 228 Starrs were turned over to Canada in 1870, the others having gone to the Royal Navy.

It would be nice to at least acquire a suitable Spencer Model 1865 rifle or carbine for my collection - though I expect I'd have to settle for a "representative example" rather than a marked one. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with my marked Canada Militia Peabody. (I understand that only the Peabody rifles are known to have been CM-marked.)
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Waggoner » 18 Feb 2012 19:50

Grant,

Thank you for the clarification. Yes, the "marked" examples must be akin to hen's teeth! However, providence would help to identify the unmarked examples. The CJAC article also discussed ranges of serial numbers. If my memory serves me right, not very many Model 1865 rifles were made and most of them were sold to Canada.

Edit: According to Flayderman, only 1,000 Model 1865 rifles were made. If correct, then most Model 1865's should have a Canadian history. Wish I could remember how many the Canadian government purchased.

All the best,

Gary
Gary Campbell
Nil Sine Labore
OMRS 4556, MCCofC 782
User avatar
Waggoner
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 725
Joined: 08 Feb 2009 04:35
Location: New Brunswick, Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 19 Feb 2012 00:54

According to Flayderman, only 1,000 Model 1865 rifles were made.

Hmmmmm ..... something must be amiss with the numbers here, because Edgecombe is quite clear that his research revealed that it was the British War Department which purchased 2,000 Spencer rifles .... albeit, all of them were provided for use by Canadian Militia and were ultimately transferred outright to Canada in 1870.) As I understand it from Edgecombe, Canada itself purchased no Spencer rifles; rather, it acquired 1,300 carbines and the War Department purchased another 1,000 carbines for Canadian use.

I have scanned through the complete contents listing of the CJAC (of which I was the very grateful recipient of a compete set, a year or so ago). Other than an article about three Spencer rifles dug up on a lakeside Toronto construction site (apparently a crate of rifles had been dropped - or pushed - into the water from a wharf) the only article I can find which seems to coincide with the one you refer to is "American Breech-Loading Firearms in the Canadian Service, 1866-1872" by Rene Chartrand, in Volume 24, No. 4 (November 1986). As the title implies, this article also deals with the Peabody rifles and Starr carbines, but I assume it is what you have in mind, since it does make a brief reference to serial number ranges, for example.

On initial reading, Chartrand appeared to me to be giving different numbers for the Spencers acquired. However, on further consideration, he seems to have come up with the same total (4,300 Spencer rifles and carbines in all) but has not necessarily reached the same conclusion as to the specific number of each type as was arrived at by Edgecombe .... nor to the same conclusion regarding which type was purchased by the Canadian Government and which by the War Department.

In summary:
1. Chartrand notes an initial purchase by Canada of 300 "Spencer rifles" in early 1866.
2. Later on the same page, he reports purchase by Canada of an additional 1,000 "Spencer rifles", and concludes that same paragraph with: "More were bought, since by the spring of 1867 over 4,000 are reported to be available."
3. The very next paragraph begins: "Details of these transactions have not been found but about 3,000 additional Spencer rifles, including up to 2,000 cavalry carbines were obtained."

Italic emphasis in the above summary was added by me.

If one adds up the figures after each use of the word "additional" by Chartrand, a total of 4,300 is obtained .... the same cumulative number as reported by Edgecombe ..... but it will be noted that he appears to state that the first 300 + 1,000 Spencers purchased by Canada were rifles. His comments about having come across mention of an additional 3,000 Spencers presumably relate to the arms purchased by Britain, and those circumstances could explain why he found no records pertaining to their acquisition. Among the references relied upon by Edgecombe is a telegram sent by the Governor General to the British Colonial Office on 26 September 1866, in which he summarizes the breechoaders on hand, pending arrival of Snider-Enfields, as follows:
The Property of the Provincial Government:
- Spencer Carbines - 1,300
- Peabody Rifle Muskets - 5,000
The Property of the Imperial Govt:
- Wesley Richards Muskets and Carbines - 10,000
- Starr Carbines (Capt Warlow) - 2,000
- Spencer Rifle Muskets - 2,000

(Note the rather particular use of "Carbines" and "Rifle Muskets" in this summary, which does not include the further 1,000 Spencer carbines subsequently acquired by the Imperial Government.)

This discrepancy over the exact numbers of Spencer rifles and carbines is likely explained by the very confusing use of the words "rifle" and "carbine", interchangeably, in many of the original records and correspondence .... a problem which Edgecombe specifically notes. I gather that he managed to locate more records than relied upon by Chartrand (including the telegram mentioned above) and I would accordingly be inclined to accept his conclusions, which are also more recent.

Perhaps we could ask both Rene and David to review this thread and provide their comments .....
Last edited by GrantRCanada on 19 Feb 2012 03:47, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 19 Feb 2012 02:02

Something else I noted in Rene Chartrand's article:
It is estimated that approximately 3,000 Spencer carbines and 23,000 Spencer rifles in the Model 1865 were manufactured.

However, he has apparently transposed the numbers for rifles and carbines, because he immediately goes on to state:
This is consistant with the serial numbers found on arms of Canadian usage. Rifle numbers observed include No. 147, 830, 1482, 1648, 1994, 2598 while carbine numbers range from 3440 to 21,337.

It appears we need to clarify the exact production numbers. However, assuming Edgecombe is correct about the total number of Spencer Rifles acquired for Canada, then presumably the number reported in Flayderman cannot be right. On the other hand, if Chartrand is correct in indicating the total production of rifles was about 3,000 then presumably it would be the majority of Model 1865 rifles which saw service in Canada.

Late Edit - I just checked my own very venerable Flayderman (2nd Edition!) and in it the total production of Model 1865 rifles is given as "approximately 3,000". Carbine serial numbers are stated to range "approximately from 1 to 23000." This would certainly appear to be the source for the numbers given by Chartrand .... although he has clearly transposed the numbers in the first statement quoted above.
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Waggoner » 19 Feb 2012 04:15

Interesting! I found my production figures in the 8th Edition.

Edit: However, the first edition shows 3,000.

All the best,

Gary
Last edited by Waggoner on 19 Feb 2012 20:45, edited 1 time in total.
Gary Campbell
Nil Sine Labore
OMRS 4556, MCCofC 782
User avatar
Waggoner
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 725
Joined: 08 Feb 2009 04:35
Location: New Brunswick, Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby acanthus » 19 Feb 2012 05:52

Gentlemen one and all,

My research files which were put together in a progressive fashion and had there beginnings in around 1969 and are structured in such a way as to include the following, each in there respective model range in terms of serial numbers:

1860 Model Navy & Army Rifles
1860 Model Carbines
Early Sporting Rifles
Springfield conversion of above
1865 Model Carbines, Spencer production
1865 Model Carbines, Burnside production
1865 Model Rifles
Post Civil War production Sporting Rifles
1867 Model Riles
At least one long butt 8 shot rifle.

Until I first read this post, I had no Idea that Spencers were used by Canada in such numbers, and as my research involved writing to Museums and collectors in America, it may well be the case that some of the serial numbers I have recorded, in fact fit into the number ranges of the Canadian purchases.

I don't believe I have ever seen a Spencer with the Canadian mark (in particular because I wasn't looking), and the same applies for the WD markings. Having said that, I believe that Spencers were also used in New Zealand and that being the case, they may well have had a WD marking as well.

Civil War Model Spencer carbines were also used by the Victorian and New South Wales Colonial Police (I know this for a fact) and very likely the 1865 Model as well.

We must assume that all remaining examples of the Canadian Spencers, have not neccessarily remained in Canada, in particular with the vast movement of antique firearms all over the world for the purpose of collecting, therefore I would like to refer back to my research records and compare the Models and serial numbers I have, to the suggested years of purchase, the models and serial numbers? of the Spencers that were used in Canada.

If Anyone has a Spencer rifle or carbine that they believe may be a Canadian issue or WD marked example, I would be most greatful to be able to add the Model type and serial numbers to my records. Who knows, it might reveal some interesting facts.
acanthus
Senior Member
 
Posts: 368
Joined: 09 Jan 2009 14:35

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 19 Feb 2012 07:17

A chap in Burlington, Ontario, who was posting for a while on British Militaria Forums, has a Model 1865 carbine which he indicated had some sort of Canada Militia provenance. I have checked, and see that he hasn't posted anything there for about 2 months, so he may no longer be monitoring that site. However, I have sent him a Private Message through the Yuku system (no email contact information was given in his profile) so hopefully he will get it and respond.

In the meantime, here is an "interesting" internet offering ... no specific indication of Canadian military use, but apparently Bubba's Great-Grandfather inset a number of Canadian coins (dating to 1856 and 1857) into the butt!. Serial number stated to be 10472. http://fulmersantiqueguns.com/listing.asp - scroll about halfway down the page.

The composite image from this listing -
Image
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby Wireless wpn » 19 Feb 2012 19:03

Well here I am from the former Burlington, Ontario and now residing in Waterdown, Ontario.

I acquired an 1865 Spencer Carbine from the estate of deceased collector here in Ontario.
The former owner was a collector of Canadian Military Historic Arms.

The carbine is excellent shape inside and out.
Although my first thoughts where that it was never issued or carried.
The saddle ring, bar and plate have definite marks that I have seen on other Spencer’s that where carried by horseback.

Provenance is what his collection consisted of.
He did not collect U.S. Civil or Indian war arms.
His collection consisted of everything from the Brown Bess on up that was used here in Canada.

The carbine to the best of family knowledge was acquired from a former family decendent of a member of a Milton, Ontario Militia.

My wallet took a welcome hit with this Spencer.

M1865 Spencer Carbine
Boston, Mass
Serial # 12544

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Other than the Spencer, I have aquired several Snider's and a Carbine stamped with "D" Division 1 and 9 stationed at Fort Macleod.
A local collector and retired RCMP concluded the Snider Carbine is as he has seen in their museum.

These where part of a very large collection that is being sold off here in Ontario.

As to the the Spencers stamped with WD, I have not seen one as of yet.
I live nearby the museums here where the local Fenian Raids took place Ridgeway and Ft. Erie Ontario.
The one and only Spencer rifle that I have seen used was part of a collection that was in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry museum a number of years back. (former 13th and 77th Militia Battalions)
If I recall it was a Queens Own Rifle Spencer that was carried by them to Ridgeway.
It did not have any WD stamps.

I will post some pics soon.
Last edited by Wireless wpn on 22 Feb 2012 22:01, edited 4 times in total.
User avatar
Wireless wpn
New Member
 
Posts: 5
Joined: 10 Oct 2011 14:07

Re: Canadian Spencer Rifles

Postby GrantRCanada » 19 Feb 2012 20:07

Thanks, Garth! I look forward to seeing your photos .... as I recall, all I have seen is your video of several rifles, with the Spencer carbine among them.
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 803
Images: 0
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Next

Return to Weapons & Tactics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests