U.S. Model 1841 Mississippi Harpers Ferry Rifle

Mississippi Rifle
A CSA Mississippi Rifle

Mississippi Rifle

Date: 1849

The U.S. adopted the percussion system in 1841 and produced an infantry rifle that same year. This was a .54 caliber, 33-inch barrel percussion rifle. The new arm was very popular, since it was accurate and easy to handle, and its browned barrel finish contrasting with the bright brass furniture gave it a pleasing appearance. It won fame in the Mexican War with Jefferson Davisí regiment of Mississippi riflemen at the battle of Buena Vista, and its continuing popularity was such that most Confederate rifle manufacturers later copied its overall style. Some were later converted to .58 caliber and fitted with long range rear sights, but those used at Mill Springs seem to have been the original .54 caliber variety, which had simple notch rear sights.


Eli Whitney, Jr. (Manufacturer)

When young Eli Whitney, Jr. took over management of the Armory in 1842, he set about tooling up under his new contract from the U.S. government for making the model 1841 percussion rifle. Machinery and fixtures for making the 1822 contract flintlock musket had to be retooled or replaced in order to produce the lock and barrel of the new model. Whitney, Jr. had the good sense to hire Thomas Warner as foreman, who, as master armorer at Springfield Armory, had just been making the same kind of major changes there. Thomas Warner had spearheaded the drive to equip the Springfield Armory with a set of new, more precise machines and a system of gauging that made it possible for the first time to achieve, in the late 1840's, the long-desired goal of interchangeability of parts in military small arms. Under his tutelage, Eli Whitney, Jr. equipped the Whitney Armory to do likewise.

Dimensions / Weight

Dimensions: 7" H x 50" W x 2.75" D

Physical Description

M1841 Mississippi rifle, .54 caliber.

General History

This gun derives it's nickname of the Mississippi rifle from the Mississippi Riflemen led by Jefferson Davis. The Mexican-American War began in 1846. Davis looked favorably upon the war as the United States stood to acquire a considerable land south of the Missouri Compromise line. It was an area which Southern institutions could expand. He resigned his House seat in June, and rejoined the Army. On 18 July 1846 he was elected colonel of the first regiment of Mississippi riflemen. In September of the same year, he participated in the successful siege of Monterrey, Mexico. In June, the Army offered him an appointment as a Brigadier General of a militia unit but he declined. In traditional Southern style he believed the appointment was unconstitutional. The United States Constitution, he argued, gives the power of appointing militia officers to the states, not to the federal government.

Rifle shown shows alterion to percussion by COLT