April 24-25, 2019 Extraordinary, Sporting, & Collector Firearms
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/24/2019
This carbine has been forensically matched by the Custer Battlefield Firearms Identification Project, headed by Douglas Scott and Dick Harmon, in a letter dated March 3rd, 2002, in which they examined a cartridge fired through carbine number 19573 from a collection assembled in 1984 and 1985 that were found on the field. The matching field specimen was number 707 and was found below the area where the 7th Cavalry Memorial Monument stands at the last hill. At the time, it was one of only ten cases found in the area where Custer and approximately 40 soldiers met their demise at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 25th, 1876. There is also a map and marker where cartridge 707 was discovered and they state "The match to the Martin carbine is unmistakable." This matching process is done by firing a live round and primed case and matching the firing pin indentation on the primer. This weapon is featured on the cover of the book "The Trapdoor Springfield" by John Langellier. There is an article about this gun in the book and it is photographed on page 41. This carbine has been attributed to trumpeter John Martin who was dispatched before the firefight to deliver a message to Benteen, thus surviving the original firefight. John Martin left the battle site prior to the engagement, which raises questions as to why the cartridge hull was found on the battlefield. Some surmise that he gave his carbine to a fellow trooper before leaving, a theory that holds some water when examining his diary. Martin writes that during his ride back to Benteen he come under Indian fire but chose to try and outrun the Indian marksmen instead of returning fire. Had Martin had his carbine, he might have chosen to return fire if for no reason that to try and force the Indians to avoid his shots and buy time. He most assuredly would have been wearing his Government issue Colt Single Action Army Cavalry revolver, which was essential for any rider delivering messages as it was quicker and easier to shoot while riding. Alternatively, Martin may not have been confident in his abilities to return fire while keeping his horse under control. In either case, there is no debate that the cartridge case found at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, No. 707, was fired June 25th 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn. This rifle is a standard 1873 carbine with 22” barrel, barleycorn front sight & carbine ladder rear sight. Breech block has standard markings with the date “1873”. Lock plate is likewise marked “1873” with the US Eagle in the center. Mounted in a one piece, uncheckered walnut stock secured with a single band that has a stacking swivel. Trigger guard is in two pieces, without sling swivel. Buttplate is standard carbine style without trap and neither is there a recess under the buttplate, signifying that this carbine did not receive the later updates. An additional early feature is the so-called "long wrist" which was another feature that changed due to its frequent breakage. Left side of wrist has the outline of the “ESA” (Erskine S. Allin) cartouche. Left side of the stock has the sling bar, missing its ring, which was common practice among Indians with captured arms. Left side of forestock is crudely carved “J. MArTiN” and left side of buttstock is carved with an “H”, ostensibly representing Company H of the 7th Cavalry to which Trooper Martin was assigned. The Martin carving shows moderate to heavy wear on the edges with heavy patina down in the cuts. The hammer screw has crystallized and broken. CONDITION: As to be expected, this carbine is no closet queen. The original barrel finish is gone and it is basically a combination of gunmetal grey and dark patina. Same can be said for block. Factory stamps and legends on side plate, tang, and block are strong. Wood: small chip at upper left tang, numerous bumps and bruises, stress crack on left side of stock, numerous dings. It is in working condition and has a very good rifled bore which is extremely clean given its usage. This carbine is accompanied by the dated and signed forensic report, True West magazine from June 2018 which discusses Custer's surviving orderly trumpeter, and copy of the book entitled "Custer's Bugler: The Life of John Martin." In this book there are details from Martin's diary where he discusses the days leading up to the battle. Scouts had located the Indian trail to Little Bighorn Valley on June 22nd, cavalry mounted June 23rd, 7th Cavalry rode 33 hard miles on 23rd and 28 miles on the 24th. It should be assumed that every trooper carried a Springfield 1873 carbine. In Martin's diary, he writes that Benteen ordered him to report to Custer with the battle eminent and the need for constant communication between units, and as such Martin was one of several orderlies attached to headquarters staff that day. On the morning of the 25th, Martin sat a few feet away from Custer and Indian scout Bloody Knife. Neglecting general orders and waiting for other columns, Custer decided to attack immediately and it was Martin who sounded the officer's call after which Custer divided 700 troopers of the 7th cavalry into three attack battalions. Martin trailed directly behind Lieutenant William W. Cooke. Around 3:35pm, moments before Custer launched his attack, Custer called Martin over saying "Orderly, I want you to take a message to Benteen. Ride as fast as you can and tell him to hurry." Martin did not reply verbally, only nodding, and checked his horse. Lieutenant Cooke also gave him a message in writing. Martin was ordered to return to Custer after delivering the dispatch, but if he encountered Indians, to stay with Benteen and return with him. The copy of this message carried by Martin currently resides at the West Point museum. There is an article from Military Classics Illustrated entitled "Last Fired At The Little Bighorn" which features an article on this rifle and trumpeter Martin. There are also several photos of trumpeter Martin, an article on this carbine from "Guns of the West", copies of a 1922 interview with Martin, a copy of "Custer Lives" by Private John Martin, known as the last white man to see George Armstrong Custer alive. Additionally, a copy of the magazine "Guns of the Old West" from Fall 2018 featuring an article about guns from Custer's last stand in which this carbine is featured. Finally, a copy of "Archaeological Insights into the Custer Battle" by Douglas Scott and Richard Fox, one of the men responsible for the collection of artifacts from the battlefield used to identify this carbine, describing their field methods of discovery. This is one of the only forensically identified trapdoor carbines fired at the Battle of Little Bighorn that can be positively identified to a trooper.
Name
Value
Accessories
Barrel Length
22"
Caliber/Bore
.45-55 (.45-70)
Drop at Comb
Drop at Heel
FFL Status
Antique
Length of Pull
Manufacturer
Springfield
Model
1783
Paperwork
Yes
Serial Number
19573
Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $45,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $96,000.00
Estimate: $90,000 - $140,000
Number Bids: 7
Auction closed on Thursday, April 25, 2019.
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