Q. Enclosed are photos of a firearm that I inherited from my late father-in-law. It is a muzzleloader that is 4½ ft. long, weighs 10 lbs., and just above the trigger on the sideplate is stamped a crown and “TOWER 1860.” Perhaps you can tell me the make and background of this rifle.
A. Judging from this material, your rifle is a British Enfield 1853 pattern rifle-musket that was made or assembled at the Tower of London, England, in 1860. The crown denotes British government ownership. This pattern firearm had the distinction of being the second most widely used infantry arm of the American Civil War. Enfields were imported in large quantities by both the North and the South and saw service in every major battle from Shiloh in April 1862 to the final engagements in 1865. It was well made and deadly accurate.
An important consideration from an American standpoint was its .577 caliber that allowed the use of the same ammunition made for the .58-cal. arms that were standard in both the United States and Confederate States armies. It is estimated that 900,000 P’ 53 Enfields were brought to this continent between 1861 and 1865. Most were expressly made for the American market, though few, if any, of those imported were actually made at Enfield.
For further information on your firearm, I suggest you refer to the publications An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms by Earl J. Coates and Dean S. Thomas, and Civil War Guns by William B. Edwards. These publications should be available through your local interlibrary loan system.
(Originally published in February, 2006)