4th MICHIGAN CAVALRY Issued CIVIL WAR Antique SPENCER Rifle Co. SR CARBINE
COMPANY “C” Who Captured PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS
Here we present an antique Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. Army Model Saddle Ring Carbine, made circa 1864-1865 in Boston, Massachusetts, during the Civil War. These lever-operated, breech-loading rifles were marvels of the time and had a lasting impact on how war was to be fought in the future. Though their service life in the U.S. military was relatively short, the Spencer story includes Christopher Spencer, the inventor of the rifle, demonstrating and shooting with President Abraham Lincoln, who gave his full endorsement of the piece. Supposedly, during the battle at Gettysburg, a captured Rebel that day said one could “load in the morning and fire all day!” This was due to the Spencer’s most endearing quality: a 7-round magazine tube in the butt of the gun. This gave the shooter phenomenal firepower in a day when most soldiers were muzzle-loading single shots or even singly loading their breech-loading carbines. This is one of the iconic carbines of the Civil War and Western Frontier.
U.S. Military Carbines from the Civil War and the Indian Campaigns to the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection by John D. McAulay (pages 105-106) documents this exact carbine as issued to Private Egbert O. Dickinson of Company “C” of the 4th Michigan Cavalry in May of 1865. This is the unit, led by Union General James H. Wilson, that captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis with his wife and entourage near Irwinville, Georgia.
On April 2, 1865, with the Confederate defeat at Petersburg, Virginia imminent, General Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that he could no longer protect Richmond and advised the Confederate government to evacuate its capital. Davis and his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia. With Lee’s surrender of his massive army on April 9, 1865, the Civil War effectively ended. During the next few weeks, the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one by one. Davis was devastated by the fall of the Confederacy. Refusing to admit defeat, he hoped to flee to a sympathetic foreign nation such as Britain or France and was weighing the merits of forming a government in exile when he was intercepted and arrested on May 10th by the 4th Michigan Cavalry. Jefferson Davis was imprisoned for two years after he was indicted for treason but was never tried. The Federal Government feared that Davis would be able to prove to a jury that the Southern Secession was legal. In May of 1867 Jefferson Davis was released on bail, with several wealthy Northerners helping him pay for his freedom. Below is an account of what took place and who was captured in Davis’s party that early morning.
Report of Capt. John C. Hathaway, Fourth Michigan
HDQRS. FOURTH MICHIGAN CAVALRY,
Near Macon, Ga., May 15, 1865.
MAJ.: I have the honor to report that on the 7th day of May, at 4 p.
m., Lieut.-Col. Pritchard, with the effective force of the
regiment, 435 men and 21 officers, moved from camp on the Fort
Valley road in a coutheast direction, following it for four miles, and
from thence on the Hawkinsville road. At might halted and hour for
rest, then pushed forward as rapidly as possible till 10 a. m. on the 8th,
when the command halted to feed and rest, which occupied until 2 p.
m., when the march was resumed. Arrived at Hawkinsville, Ga., at 5
o’clock, where it was expected supplies would be found sufficient for
the command, but there were none. A detachment of the Seventy-second
Indiana (mounted) Infantry occupied the place, and were also picketing
the Ocmulgee River. Taking the road southward toward Abbeville, Ga.,
the command marched rapidly about four miles and encamped. The
roads were good up to that point and the country much better than that
subsequently seen. During the night it stormed very hard, and during the
morning the roads were found in good condition for marching, except
here and there wherewith swollen streams ran across the road. The
command moved out at 5 a. m., marched as rapidly as possible, arriving
at Abbeville at 2 p. m. Here Col. Harnden, commanding a
detachment of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, was met, who informed
Col. Pritchard that he had been in pursuit of a train of several
wagons and ambulances belonging to Mr. Jefferson Davis and family for
several days. It had crossed the Ocmulgee River
at Brown’s Ferry, near Abbeville, the previous night, and going into
camp remained till 4 a. m., then took the road to Irwinville, Ga., in the
direction of which place Col. Harnden moved with his detachment.
Col. Pritchard did not them intend taking up the pursuit, but
obtaining information of a road about twelve miles below which led
direct to Irwinville, he determined to follow up, and if possible intercept
the train and party, and if they should attempt to take the other road, to
arrive at Irwinville in advance of them. Taking the best mounted portion
of the regiment, 145 men and eight officers (leaving the balance under
command of Capt. Hathaway, with instructions to picket all the ferries
on the river that could be found as far as the strength of his command
would permit), moved rapidly, and about dark reached Wilcox’s Mills,
from whence after feeding he took the direct road to irwinville, and over
rapidly over a road which had been little traveled, and in some places
could hardly be discovered.
For fifteen miles not a house was seen nor a cultivated field; it was a
vast pine forest. Arrived at Irwinville about 2 a. m. on the 10th instant.
Not a sound was heard, and nothing indicated that a train or any troops
had passed that way. By inquiring at once or two places it was learned
that there was a camp about a mile from town on the Abbeville road.
Men who had belonged to it had called at different places and
represented themselves to be Texas and Mississippi troops. Nothing
further could be learned as to whether there were wagons or not at the
camp. Finding a negro who knew where the camp was, Col.
Pritchard moved forward toward it very cautiously, not knowing but
what the camp might be that of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, under
Col. Harnden. Arriving in the vicinity of the camp, a detachment of
twenty-five men, dismounted, under command of Lieut. Purinton,
was sent around by the left flank to a position in its rear, when the
command would advance and surround the camp. At daylight everything
was complete and the command advanced rapidly and found the camp
to be that of those whom it was in pursuit of. They were completely
surprised and captured. The detachment under Lieut. Purinton in the
meantime had taken a position on the road leading into camp from
Abbeville, and immediately after the capture of it a force was espied
approaching, which, when it arrived in proper distance, he halted and
challenged. One of the advance party answered “friends,” but instead of
halting turned back, and, in consequence, a sharp engagement took place
with what was afterward ascertained to be the First Wisconsin Cavalry.
We had 2 men killed and 1 officer wounded; 3 of the First Wisconsin
were wounded. The following are the names of the killed and wounded
in this regiment and a list of prisoners captured: First Lieut. H. S.
Boutell, Company C, wounded; Corp. John Hines, Company E, killed;
Private John Rupert, Company C, killed. List of prisoners captured:
Jefferson Davis, President Confederate States of America; John H.
Reagan, Postmaster-Gen. Confederate States of America; Col.
Johnston, aide-de-camp, President’s staff; Col. Lubbock,
aide-de-camp, President’s staff; Col. B. N. Harrison, private
secretary, President’s staff; Maj. Victor Maurin, Richardson’s
battalion light artillery; Capt. George V. Moody, Madison Light
Artillery; Lieut. Hathaway, Fourteenth Kentucky Cavalry;
Midshipman Howell, C. S. Navy; Private W. W. Monroe, Fourteenth
Kentucky Cavalry; Private J. Messick, Fourteenth Kentucky Cavalry;
Private Sanders, Second Kentucky Cavalry; Private Walbert, Second
Kentucky Cavalry; Private Baker, Second Kentucky Cavalry; Private
Smith, Second Kentucky Cavalry; Private Heath, Second Kentucky
Cavalry; Private Elston, Second Kentucky Cavalry; Private J. W.
Farley, Second Kentucky Cavalry; Private J. G. Tyler, Fifteenth
Mississippi Infantry, Company E; Private J. W. Brady, Fifteenth
Mississippi Infantry, Company E. The family of Mr. Davis, captured
with him, consisted of Mrs. Davis with four little children, Miss
Howell, sister of Mrs. Davis, and two waiting maids. The regiment
returned through Abbeville and Hawkinsville, arriving here at 3 p. m.
on the 13th instant, having marched 200 miles, averaging 33 1/3 miles
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNO. C. HATHAWAY,
Capt., Cmdg. Fourth Michigan Cavalry.
Maj. ROBERT BURNS,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brig., Second Div., Cav.
Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi.
The overall condition is good+. Strong action. Good bore for age with strong rifling. Solid stock with signs of use. There is some chipping on both sides of the fore end at the frame and the butt stock is a bit shy to the butt plate’s toe.
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 22 inches.
Caliber: .52 Spencer
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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