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Re: 1873 Springfield trapdoor (restoration)

Posted by Fred on Monday, 28 March 2011, at 12:01 p.m., in response to Re: 1873 Springfield trapdoor, posted by John on Monday, 28 March 2011, at 10:34 a.m.

I'd think that if a firearm has wounds received in battle, they It'd be a good idea to leave them there. However, if the firearm has been suffering from neglect and has been rusting away in a barn, shed or some other location and has been roughly handled by kids playing Cowboys and Indians with it for decades, then that's another thing. 27 years ago, I was given the remains of an old Pennsylvania flintlock Longrifle by a guy I worked with who'd only told me that he'd found it in an out house. I assumed that he meant in Missouri, but a few years after he died twenty years later, his wife told me that the outhouse had actually been an outbuilding or shed. The shed was used to store onyx in a town in Mexico where the rifle had been used to hold the door of the shed open. The owners of the shed and the property around it were craftsmen who made things out of the onyx for sale. The rifle had been kicked around for many, many decades outside where the kids of various generations had monkeyed with it and virtually destroyed it. The end of the stock from the middle barrel band was missing along with the end cap and ramrod. The front sight had been torn from the dovetailed base, but I could see from a little scrap left that it'd been made of silver. The barrel pins were gone and the stock was held onto the barrel by an old dried out length of surgical tubing wrapped around and around. The breech plug tang was bent and torn open from one side of the tang screw hole out,indicating that some kid had tried to pull the barrel up without removing the breech screw. The wrist was completely broken through and had a copper band wrapped around it. The octagon barrel had two deep cuts in it on the top flat within a foot of the muzzle and two lighter ones also. I figured some kid with a corn knife messed with it. I'd had the missing forarm wood replaced and a new end cap mounted, replaced some missing slivers of wood along the top further back, replaced the front sight blade with another of silver, and epoxied the wrist back and then put back the copper band. I also carefully closed the upset metal with a drift and small hammer on the four cuts in the barrel. That's when I found out the rest of the story about the rifle. the widow of the old man who'd given me the gun brought out a box of receipts from long ago and among them was the one for the onyx wind chimes that they'd bought from the Mexican family that had also sold them the remains of the rifle for $10.00 or so back in 1962. I wrote to the family and received a response by email. I have never revealed to the widow what I found out. Long story short, the family claimed their ancestor had brought the rifle back with his unit which had been Col. Almonte's San Lois Petosi battalion which had attacked the south wall of a fort in the town of Bexar, Mexico. Almonte was later reassigned to another staff position (with Santa Anna) and was defeated at San Jacinto, but his battalion, under a new commander, was one of the few units that weren't engaged and made it back to Matamoros, Mexico going around the Sea Of Mud, relatively intact with their baggage and plunder. The fort in Bexar, the family said, had been occupied by a group of men who were opposed to Mexican authority. A few details of how the rifle had been retrieved along with a little of it's previous owner's last few moments were also shared. The cuts in the barrel were said to have been inflicted by a sword. The broken stock and wrist had always been there as far as living memory served, but it'd been considered as being of no value and had been outside for at least two generations, used as a toy, pry bar and door stop. I'm sure the broken wrist is old but the damage to the forarm was much later. The closed cuts on the barrel are still evident and their angle and depth can been seen. Wish I'd left them alone. But that's the way it goes. The rifle is restored but not rusting away in some junk pile in Mexico or in some dark shed. Yes, upon request, I finally took it to San Antonio with the letter and showed it to several people along with the Alamo's curator. That's another story. The rifle is certainly better off now than it had been since the death of the original Mexican ancestor who'd brought it back with him. It'd evidently been ignored after that and soon afterwards suffered abuse. I should've left the barrel cuts open, but they are still there and can be studied. It ain't a Custer carbine or SAA, but it's still pretty cool. Some think it belongs to Texas. One guy thinks I should've never cleaned it or restored it. The Alamo would like to have it in their collection of artifacts, but I know it'd be put away in storage along with tons of other stuff. I turned down an offer from a British gentleman for 5,000 pounds for it. Everyone liked to hold it though. I'm glad it's in my house and not being abused anymore, but I haven't much passion for Texas history and so I still shoot it now and again with light loads. OK, sorry for this not being about a trapdoor Springfield, but on the subject of restoration, I wanted to share this. We can't please everyone. think about what you're doing long and hard and get lots of opinions before you go ahead with any restoration project.


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