by Joe Bilby
After the Enfield, the Austrian Lorenz, in its original .54, and rebored or
manufactured to various approximations of .58 caliber for the American
market, was the second most common imported firearm used by both Union
and Confederate forces. The Lorenz, designed by Lieutenant Joseph Lorenz
of the Austrian army and introduced into Hapsburg service in 1854, was
a sound weapon well regarded in Europe. Yankee and Rebel buyers eagerly
snapped up Lorenz-style rifle-muskets; the Union recorded purchases of
226, 924 and the Confederacy bought as many as 100,000.
guns were acquired from several sources; the Hapsburg armories in Vienna
and private arms makers in Vienna and Ferlach. The Lorenz rifle-musket had
a 37 ½ inch barrel secured to the gun's stock with three barrel bands.
The gun was made with two styles of rear sights; a non-adjustable "block," calibrated
to hit a man somewhere on the body up to 300 schritt (paces), issued to line
infantry (Type I), and a leaf sight adjustable up to 900 schritt issued to
noncommissioned officers and skirmishers (Type II). Both types were imported.
Captain Silas Crispin, reported a batch of newly imported .54 caliber as "12,384
of them having the simple block rear sight, and the remainder - 3,144 - being
furnished with elevating screws, ranging up to about 800 yards." It
seems reasonable to assume that most bulk purchases of surplus Lorenzes,
Union and Confederate, probably reflected the same ratio of sight types,
as they seem to correlate with Austrian army issue patterns.
marked on their lock plates with the last three digits of the year of production.
For example "860" designates a rifle made in 1860. The Austrians
adopted a new version of the Lorenz in 1862, with a steel rather than iron
barrel. These were not imported, and guns with "863" and "864" with
provenance to the Civil War are contractor guns made specifically for export.
These contract pieces are usually threaded for standard US nipples.
stocked examples exist, most Lorenzes were stocked in beech, stained dark
brown. The Lorenz quadrangular socket bayonet featured a diagonal mounting
slot. Both of these characteristics make it immediately identifiable on a
dealer's table at an antique gun or Civil War relic show.
also issued a Jaeger (a.k.a. Jaegerstutzen) rifle designed for rifle battalions
(sighted to 1,000 schritt) and sharpshooters, (1,200 schritt). The Jaegerfeatured
a 28 inch, octagon to round, wedge secured barrel, a leaf rear sight sliding
in a track not unlike those used on the US M-1 Garand of World War II fame
and was fitted for a saber bayonet. Sharpshooter Jaegers differed from rifle
battalion Jaegers in that they were fitted with a tige breech, which featured
a spike extending from the face of the breechplug into the chamber. Originally
designed in France to ram an undersized ball against for expansion, the Jaeger's
tige was used to assure that the powder charge would not be crushed, providing
more consistent shooting. Jaegers were not originally issued with ramrod
channels under the barrels, as Austrian riflemen carried their ramrods separately.
Those imported were provided with ramrod channels by the importers.
A fourth Lorenz
variant was the Extra Korps, with 26-inch barrel, designed for use by military
police, transportation and other rear echelon duties. Extra Korps guns were
also issued in limited numbers to artillery batteries where they were carried
in limber chests for use in guard duty. A fair number of Jaegers and perhaps
a few Extra Korps rifles were imported during the Civil War, but the majority
of imports were rifle-muskets.
Crispin, who inspected Lorenz rifle-muskets imported for the Union by the
Boker company, described them as "fair in workmanship and finish, and
in weight and caliber according more nearly with our established model than
any other arms of Continental manufacture," Lorenz quality apparently
varied. Crispin was impressed by one lot of Austrian rifle-muskets, "finished
in some respects, in imitation of the Enfield rifle..." as "somewhat
superior, in every respect" to other lots of Lorenzes.
Rebel Lorenz shipments
apparently varied as well. Confederate arms buyer Caleb Huse, who claimed
he purchased excellent rifle muskets straight from the Vienna arsenal, apparently
stretched the truth in this as well as other matters. The arms Huse purchased
were, in fact, surplus Austrian army guns, as the Austrians were rearming
with a newer model of the Lorenz. In 1863, Major Smith Standbury, a Confederate
inspector based in Bermuda, classified a shipment of Lorenzes as "a
lot of trash, in horrible condition." After a thorough inspection and
cleaning, however, most of these apparently well-used guns were found to
be satisfactory. The bulk of them seem to have ended up serving in the Army
of Tennessee and forces farther west.
gun dealers no doubt took advantage of the warring Americans' need for firearms
and deep pockets to fob off guns of inferior quality. Among these may have
been weapons rejected by the Austrian government or culled from some Balkan
battlefield or the recent war in northern Italy, as well as hastily made
copies of the Lorenz using parts scavenged from older muskets.
on the Lorenz rifle-muskets varied, with some guns blued, others browned
and still others, perhaps the majority, polished bright. The bore diameters
on Lorenz guns rebored in Europe or America, or manufactured specifically
for the American market, varied, with samples noted in .577, .57, .58 and
.59 calibers. Lorenz rifle-muskets were widely issued, and there is archeological
evidence of their use as far to the west as Glorietta Pass, New Mexico, site
of an 1862 battle between Union and Confederate forces.
The Lorenz was
well regarded by some troops to whom it was issued, including those of the
5th New Jersey and 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Private
Alfred Bellard of the 5th praised his .54 caliber Lorenz for being "short,
light and very easily cleaned, "while Quartermaster James D. Hendrie
of the 104th believed his outfit's Austrian guns to be "very superior
weapons, although not so well finished as the American arms." His colonel
remembered the regiment's guns as "rough but good and reliable." The
men of the 23rd Pennsylvania were delighted to trade in their .69 caliber
rifled muskets for Austrian arms, which they found to be "most efficient
firearms." An Illinois officer regarded the Lorenz as "although
a little heavy, a fine piece for service." Leander Stillwell of the
61st Illinois considered his .54 Lorenz "a wicked shooter." Stillwell
and his comrades "were glad to get the Austrians, and were quite proud
of them." The Suckers of the 61st carried their Lorenzes until June
of 1863, when they exchanged them for Enfields.
Other Yanks were
not as enthusiastic. In 1863, a Union inspecting officer condemned the Austrian
weapons of the 47th Massachusetts Infantry. Lorenz rifle-muskets issued to
western troops in the second year of the war seem to have been decidedly
inferior to those issued the previous year. William E. McMillan of the 94th
Illinois' Company E wrote that his unit's Lorenzes were "not worth much," while
the 100th Illinois reported that its .58 caliber Lorenz guns "are roughly
and improperly made and cannot be called an effective weapon. The men of
the 106th Illinois complained that the Lorenz was "miserably poor," and
the 120th Illinois classified its .54 Lorenz guns as "worthless."
The 125th Illinois
was issued Austrian rifle-muskets in .58 caliber of "which not over
one-half were perfect...many will not explode a cap." The 125th's regimental
historian complained that some of the Austrian guns' nipples "were not
entirely drilled out," and some could not mount a bayonet without hammering
it on. The 130th Illinois reported that "one-third or three-eights of
these arms [Austrian] are defective."
Like Colonel Penrose
of the 15th New Jersey Infantry, who exchanged his men's Enfields for Springfields
on the battlefield, Major Robert L. Bodine of the 26th Pennsylvania rearmed
his regiment on the field at Gettysburg. Bodine's men came to Gettysburg
armed "with the Austrian rifle of an inferior quality, and I desired
toe exchange them for Springfield rifles; which was done without the red
tape processes. Quite a number of them were taken from the Rebels. Like the
Jerseymen of the 15th, the Pennsylvanians picked up several Confederate-made
rifle-muskets along with the Springfields. Apparently unaware of the production
facilities at Richmond, Bodine reported that these guns "had gone through
the renovating process, and bore the Richmond C.S. stamp."
Lorenz guns may
well have gained a bad reputation from their association with older .71 caliber
Austrian "Consol" or tube-lock muskets, which were conversions
from flintlock. These guns, some of which were rifled, others not, were converted
by a method devised by Giuseppe Consol of Milan. The Consol/Augustin system
replaced the flintlock pan and frizzen with a two-piece priming chamber and
installed a new hammer.
After muzzle loading
the main charge in the usual manner, the Consol/Augustin was primed by bringing
the hammer to half cock, lifting the top section of the priming chamber,
which replaced the frizzen, inserting a small priming tube filled with percussion
powder into a groove in the bottom section, which replaced the pan, then
closing the chamber. The gun could then be brought to full cock and fired.
The hammer hit a firing pin device in the chamber which, in turn, exploded
the percussion tube and ignited the main charge. A number of these guns were
converted to the standard percussion system before or after importation,
but others, especially in the earliest days of the war, were placed directly
in the hands of troops with their peculiar priming system intact.
arms were more commonly issued and remained in service longer in the Western
armies. Major General John C. Fremont purchased 25,000 tube-lock muskets
in his desperate search for weapons in 1861 and at least 3,000 Delvigne chambered
Austrian "Garibaldi" rifles were issued to Minnesota troops. The
men of the 26th Illinois embarked on their military careers in September,
1861 armed with "hickory clubs," and were then issued "old
English Tower" muskets, which they later exchanged for "old Austrian
fuse primer [guns] altered and rifled. By the end of the year an inspector
classified the tubelock Consol/Augustin weapons as "nearly all...unfit
The 33rd Illinois
began its career with smoothbore Austrian tubelocks, and company C of the
33rd reported 3,155 "Austrian primers" on hand. One soldier accurately
described the "Austrian primers" as "a little copper-covered
stick of percussion, with a small twisted wire at the end of it." The
men of the 33rd carried their tubelocks until early 1862.
Although the 90th
Illinois was armed with .54 caliber Lorenz rifles during the fourth quarter
of 1862 and the first quarter of 1863, the recollection of veteran George
P. Woodcraft that the 90th's initial armament, "the Austrian rifled
musket...a very inferior arm" subject to premature discharge with stocks
and bayonets "easily broken," does not seem to jibe of what we
know of the Lorenz. The 90th apparently got an extremely bad lot of Lorenz
The Lorenz was
issued in large numbers to Rebel soldiers as well. In contrast to the Federal
experience, the number of Lorenz rifle-muskets in Confederate service actually
increased in the final year of the war. In April of 1863, the Army of Tennessee
reported 663 Austrian small arms in service; by the following spring, 32%
of that army's men shouldered Austrian guns. The Lorenz was among the weapons
tested by the Army of Northern Virginia's sharpshooters in the spring of
1864, and was found to be fully equal in accuracy to the Springfield and
Enfield up to 500 yards. That summer, VMI Cadets used Lorenzes to good effect
at the battle of New Market.
The early years
of target shooting with Civil War weapons in the North-South Skirmish Association
in the 1950s saw a few .54 Lorenz rifle-muskets among the original Springfields
and Enfields on the firing line. They were never very popular, however, and
had a reputation for inaccuracy. The reputation was undeserved, and largely
due to the use of Minie balls designed for the US Model 1841 "Mississippi" rifle,
which used a .535 slug. The Lorenz bore is .556, which provides a lot of "windage" in
the bore for a .535 bullet to rattle around in.
The original Lorenz
round was not a Minie ball at all, but the British designed Wilkinson solid
base bullet. There were two variants of the Wilkinson, the later version
having a slightly convex base. Unlike the Minie design, which relied on gas
from the powder explosion to expand the bullet's hollow base out into the
rifling, the Wilkinson featured two deep grooves, which, on preliminary inspection,
appear to be lubrication grooves. They are not, as the Wilkinson was patched
with lubricated paper. The grooves allowed the bullet to expand by collapsing
in upon itself from the shock of firing. The .54 Austrian bullet was nominally
.537 in diameter weighed 450 grains and was loaded in front of a charge of
62 grains of musket powder. Wilkinson slugs in .537, .540 and .568 diameter,
for .54 and .58 caliber guns, have been found on Civil War battlefields.
Whether they were imported with Lorenz rifle-muskets or manufactured in this
country is, at present, unknown.
in good condition and properly loaded are good shooting arms. Some modern
shooters have had good success firing "maxi balls" or patched round
balls in original Lorenz rifle muskets. Others have had their Lorenzes relined
to fire the standard US style Minie ball.
Should you consider
buying an original Lorenz as a shooter, shop carefully. A large number of
these guns were converted to breechloaders in the late 1860s, then reconverted
once again to muzzleloaders. Other Lorenzes have been converted to flintlock,
then back again to percussion. Many of these guns, assembled in Belgium in
the late 19th century for the African trade, use a cast iron breech section
of uncertain strength and have had their barrels bored out to smoothbore.
They should not be fired.
By the time this
article sees print you may well be able to make your own Lorenz - or have
a muzzle-loading gunsmith whip one up for you. Greg Edington of Bridesburg
Armory (4244 Green Meadows Drive, Enon, OH 45323. (937) 525-0012 http://members.aol.com/Andrew4244/index.html)
is producing Lorenz "kits." When I last spoke to him, Greg had
virtually all the parts to make a Lorenz and was waiting for breeches from
the foundry. He will offer kits for both Type I and Type II Lorenzes, with
barrels replicating original bore diameter and twist or rifled to the customer's
preference by Bob Hoyt or Colerain Barrels. Greg also has reproduction parts,
tools and bayonets available for restoration of original Lorenzes, and S&S
Firearms (74-11 Myrtle Avenue, Glendale, NY 11385 (718) 497-1100 http://www.ssfirearms.com/
Catalog $3) has a small number of original Lorenz parts in stock. Since the
Lorenz was a "hand made" gun with limited parts interchangeability,
parts, even original ones, will probably need to be hand fitted to an original
gun. S&S also stocks a reprint (in German) of "Osterrichische Infanterie
- Feurgewehr, Wien, 1857," the original Austrian manual for the Lorenz.
There may also be an imported reproduction of the Jaegerin the works.
The Lorenz is
a very interesting firearm, which played a significant role in the American
Civil War and has been neglected for a number of years. A belated but well
deserved recognition seems on the horizon.
I would like to
thank Bill Adams and Greg Edington for their invaluable assistance in the
preparation of this article.
*This Copyrighted ©
article is used with permission of the author, Joe Bilby.
Visit Joe Bilby
at his web site: http://www.civilwarguns.com/.
For those interested in Civil War era firearms get Joe's book "Civil War
web page has passed the validation checks from the World
Wide Web Consortium (W3C).