Weapons in the FEDERAL arsenals were typically converted to percussion, but this is not true for the weapons deposited in the STATE arsenals under the provision of the 1812 Militia Act. Most of these remained unconverted until the sudden need arose in the spring of 1861.
With the adoption of the percussion system in 1842, the Ordnance Department thought about the possibility of converting large stocks of flintlocks in inventory to percussion. They classified muskets into four groups:
* 1st Class. Weapons made between 1831 and 1844, which included about 30,000 of the new M1840 suitable for converting;
* 2nd Class. Weapons made between 1821 and 1831, suitable for converting;
* 3rd Class. Weapons made between 1812 and 1821, to be held in reserve;
4th Class. Weapons made before 1812 and any others not economically repairable, to be auctioned off.
The percussion upgrade was postponed by the Mexican War where the Model 1822 (what collectors incorrectly call the "M1816") was the backbone of the Infantry.
The Ordnance Department took arsenal inventory in 1848 to restart the project, and listed:
1st Class. 293,734 Model 1822 Type II`s and Model 1840`s
2nd Class. 76,185 Model 1822 Type I`s
These 369,919 were deemed suitable for conversion. leaving several hundred thousand 3rd Class flintlocks to be held in reserve.
Springfield and Harper`s Ferry started their conversion work in 1842, and by 1852 some 281,509 muskets had been converted from a total production of some 500,000.
In the first half of the 19th Century, the U.S. Army seemed to have adopted the "British model" of issuing the newest and best weapons to the regulars, the next best to state troops, and the next to worst to militia. The very worst was auctioned off at public auction.
In the Federal arsenals in January, 1861, the Ordnance Dept. had 22,821 M1855 rifle-muskets, 12,508 .58 caliber M1855 and M1841 short rifles, 42,011 .54 cal. M1841 short rifles, and 499,554 .69 caliber muskets. (The M1861 Springfield was first approved to gear up to start manufacture on Feb. 20, 1861, and didnít begin to reach the field in appreciable numbers until the spring of 1862.)
In the Confederate states, here`s what they had available:
Alabama`s militia stocks consisted completely of M1822 flintlocks, and was augmented by another 19,000 .69 smoothbores, some percussion-converted, when they seized the Mt. Vernon federal arsenal early in 1861.
Arkansas: 9,600 weapons of all sorts, only 1300 of which were percussion ignition. 5600 of the remainder were flintlock M1822s, and about 2700 flintlock .54 cal Hall`s rifles. In August, 1863, some 30% of ammunition production at the Little Rock Arsenal was still for .69 caliber flintlocks, indicating these weapons were still in the field in appreciable quantities.
Georgia owned 1225 M1855 rifle muskets, and 25,780 M1822s, mostly flintlocks, as of April 1861.
Tennessee: 8,761 .69 caliber muskets, all but 280 of which were flintlocks. 700 M1855 rifle muskets. Tennessee regiments were still packing .69 smoothbores in the trenches in front of Atlanta in 1864.
Louisiana: 35,194 .69 cal percussion muskets, 8,283 flintlock M1822s.
Mississippi started the war with 5,500 flintlock M1822s. Period. According to Peter Cozzens` campaign history of Murfreesboro, half the 44th Mississippi charged at Stones River with nothing more than sticks. The other half carried muskets so decrepit that the soldiers carried the hammers in their pockets when not actually in combat, to keep from losing them.
South Carolina had 6,000 of its own "Palmetto" muskets, contracted copies of the M1842, and continued manufacture of these through the War. In addition to the Palmetto guns, there were approximately 11,000 other .69 caliber smoothbores in arsenals around the state.
Virginia owned 57,069 3-banded muskets in 1861, of which 53,988 were flintlocks. After an exhaustive search, an additional 35,000 muskets - all flintlocks - were scrounged from around the State. In October 1861, 44,172 flintlocks were still in the hands of troops in the field.
Texas and Florida had no state arsenals, and were in even worse straits than their sister states in equipping the troops.
Total production on the M1842, the first percussion musket in standard issue, was slightly more than 240,000. Approximately 90,000 of the M1855 rifles and rifle-muskets had been produced before the Springfield National Armory shut down to re-tool for production of the M1861, and Harpers Ferry was lost with the secession of Virginia in late April, 1861. The first M1861s started coming off the production lines at Springfield and Colt Firearms in the fall of 1861; Enfields make their first appearance with the first shipload brought through the blockade in late September, 1861.