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Henry rifle

The Henry rifle was the immediate forerunner of the famous Winchester rifles. About 14,000 Henry’s were made between 1860 and 1866 by the New Haven Arms Company. The Henry rifle was developed from the Volcanic firearms system and was built around the .44 rimfire cartridge. Both the new rifle and the cartridge were designed by B. Tyler Henry. A basic feature of the .44 rimfire cartridge was the use of a metallic casing, rather than the undependable, self-contained powder, ball, and primer of the Volcanic bullet. Loading continued to be from the muzzle end of the magazine. Although a revolutionary weapon in Civil War service, it was made in relative limited quantities. Quite a few company-size Union organizations, especially those from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri, carried Henry rifles, purchased at their own expense.

This gold mounted, engraved Henry rifle was presented to President Abraham Lincoln. This presentation was probably made in an effort to convince the President of the rifle’s worthiness and obtain his influence in the purchase of these weapons for the war effort. Nevertheless, only about 1,731 Henry rifles were purchased by the Ordnance Department between 1862 and 1865. Two organizations, the 1st Maine and 1st District of Columbia cavalry regiments, were known to have been issued Henry rifles.

Division of the History of Technology, Armed Forces History
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Behring Center
Gift of Robert Beckwith


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