The Arms & Equipment in the Civil War Message Board

Merrill Rifles in the 21st Indiana

Jim's earlier post regarding the 22nd Indiana and their Dresden rifles has been sticking in the back of my brain. I was reviewing some research notes last night, and stumbled onto a 21st Indiana reference (sorry! Close but not quite the 22nd!). My entry is as follows:

Merrill Breechloading Rifle, .54 caliber
Overall length: 48-1/2. Weight: 9 lbs. 2 oz.
Made by James H. Merrill, Baltimore, Maryland, ca. 1861-1865. Total production: estimated at 800.

Breech lever marked J.H. MERRILL BALTO. / PAT. JULY 1858. Lockplate marked forward of the hammer, J.H. MERRILL BALTO. / PAT. JULY 1858 / APL. 9 MAY 21-28-61. Later production rifles were marked 1863 on the lockplate rear of the hammer.

Union soldiers used two types of the breechloading Merrill rifle: the earlier type with a knurled-lever latch and a later design that incorporated a button-lever latch. In all, the U.S. Government purchased a total of 770 rifles of both types.

Though some Union regiments purchased their own Merrill rifles in 1861, it was not until March 1862 that the Ordnance Department placed its first order for 566 rifles at a cost of $45 each. This order was destined for the 21st Indiana Infantry, three companies of which had already purchased their own Merrill rifles.

Other units known to have used the Merrill rifle include the 6th Michigan Infantry (who borrowed the rifles from the 21st Indiana after it was converted into a heavy artillery regiment) and the 1st Company Massachusetts (Andrews) Sharpshooters. In addition, soldiers assigned as sharpshooters from the 7th Michigan Infantry, 10th Michigan Infantry, 4th Arkansas Infantry, and the 8th Ohio Infantry were given Merrill rifles. Merrill rifles are reported to have been issued to some Wisconsin and Maryland troops as well. Interestingly, an 1863 ordnance report for Virginia Military Institute records 2 Merrill rifles.

John A-G
Iola, Wisconsin
(sorry for all the posts today...Bet you can all tell I am between publishing deadlines and using some of the time for "playing!")

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