New Rifle Muskets, Websites and the 15th NJ

Ken Enger of Chattahoochee Black Powder Arms (4153 Drew Rd., Cumming GA 30040) has advised me that Chattahoochee, for some time a major dealer for Colt Blackpowder Firearms, is now offering, along with reproduction Colt guns, reproductions of Amoskeagtm and L G &Ytm Special Model 1861 contract rifle muskets. Like the originals, the Chattahoochee reproductions are identical to the Colt Special Model save for their lockplate markings. A total of around 152,000 Special Model rifle muskets were made between 1862 and 1865, with Amoskeag supplying 27,001 and Lamson Goodnow & Yale another 50,000.

These good looking reproductions feature a .580 bore, with 1:72 rifling, deeply case hardened "match grade" locks and walnut stocks, and are available in the standard infantry model with 40 inch barrel as well as the so-called "artillery model," with 33 inch barrel. While the artillery model is unsuitable for reenacting since there is no real provenance for its issue, it has been "grandfathered" in as an approved N-SSA gun and also makes a dandy hunting rifle. The price for either musket is $495 plus $15 shipping and handling.

Chattahoochee also retails Colt Blackpowder Firearms' full line of products, including accessory kits, presentation and glass display cases, Special Model musket parts and other gun related goodies, including the Merit Optical Attachment, which fits on a pair of glasses to assist those of us with older or poor eyesight to focus better on our sights. The company's civilian style 1860s "slim jim" style holsters for Colt guns, one of which I purchased at the Fall Nationals, are reasonably priced, well made and perfect for those who use a percussion revolver for Cowboy Action Shooting. Chattahoochee may be reached at an orders only toll free line, 888-889-3711, fax 770-889-3711, and the company's website at Chattahoochee


There are a number of other gun WWW sites out there worth a black powder shooter's and reenactor's bookmark as well, including Dixie Gun Works at HTTP://www.dixiegun.com/, Uberti at HTTP:www.uberti.com.and globalsite.net/~mshapiro/SSO/index.html. Nick Sekela of Historic Clothiers may be found at HTTP://members.aol.com/NJSekela/Index.html.

The Dixie site is a good place to browse the famous company's catalog, Uberti is one of the premier makers of reproductions of black powder muzzle loading and breech loading arms and Nick Sekela, as I have mentioned before in this column, produces top quality authentic Civil War leather goods and Federal uniforms.


Those of you who are aware of my writing past know that my first book (now out of print but soon to come out in a second edition) was Three Rousing Cheers: A History of the 15th New Jersey from Flemington to Appomattox (Longstreet House, 1993). Needless to say, I have a continuing interest in that fine regiment. In recent weeks I have received several requests, via mail and email, to comment on a recent book edited by Bruce Chadwick, Brother Against Brother: The Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey (Birch Lane Press, 1997), which relates to the 15th.

Edmund Halsey, offspring of a prominent Rockaway, NJ family, was, in succession, adjutant's clerk, sergeant major and adjutant of the 15th New Jersey. Far from being "lost," his diary has always been an invaluable source on the regiment, and was used by Chaplain Alanson Haines in the preparation of his 1883 history of the 15th. I, in my turn, used it as one of a number of sources for Three Rousing Cheers. On first reading Halsey's diary, I strongly believed that it deserved to be published in its own right, as it is one of the best soldier's journals I have ever encountered.

Brother Against Brother, however, is not the Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey (lost or otherwise) its subtitle promises. Large sections of the original manuscript, especially those dealing with military matters, have simply been mitted. Mr. Chadwick has not edited the diary at all, but merely selected portions of it to be amplified with his own supplementary comments, many of which improbably purport to reveal what was going in in various people's minds. There are no notes indicating the sources for any of his conclusions.

John Kuhl and Bill Dekker, of the N-SSA and reenactment companies of the 15th, are assiduous collectors of 15th NJ documents, photographs and memorabilia, and assisted me enormously in my own research on the regiment. Mr. Kuhl graciously gave his permission for the use of some his photographs in Brother Against Brother, but neither he, Mr. Dekker nor myself was given the opportunity to read and comment on the manuscript (a common practice in the scholarly community known as "peer review"), prior to its publication. Such a review would have saved Mr. Chadwick from a number of embarrassing errors.

Although Three Rousing Cheers and Chaplain Haines' history are mentioned in the introduction and bibliography, it seems unlikely Chadwick thoroughly read either of them, or used the extensive list of primary source material in my bibliography to supplement his story. Information skimmed directly from my own book was used incorrectly. To provide just one glaring example, Chadwick has Confederate deserter Joseph Moser joining the 15th at its muster-in at Flemington in 1862, rather than, as was the actual case, a replacement during the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864. He also states that New Jersey had the lowest percentage of black population in the north, when, in fact, it had the highest.

Such sloppiness is inexcusable, as is the fact that Mr. Chadwick, a former New York Daily News reporter and author of a dozen sports books, obviously knows little or nothing about the military in general and the Civil War military in particular. What else could one surmise when, among many other technical errors, he continually confuses company and regiment, apparently in the belief that they are interchangeable terms for the same unit! There is much more of this, but I have neither time nor space to elaborate.

A significant and valuable redeeming aspect of Brother Against Brother, however, is the story of Edmund's relationship with his cantankerous Confederate brother Joseph, who settled in Virginia before the war and married into the aristocracy. The book brings to print for the first time a series of vitriolic pre-war letters between the brothers on slavery and secession, as well as informative wartime correspondence between Joseph, a Confederate officer whose plantation was close to much of the worst fighting in Virginia, and his wife, who tried to keep the farm running in the middle of chaos.

Mr. Chadwick also recounts a great story of Joseph's daughters being smuggled through Confederate and Union lines and arriving at the Halsey home in Rockaway in 1864. Unfortunately, however, he provides no sources for it. The tale, along with much other interesting Halsey family information, appears to spring from family tradition.

All in all, Brother Against Brother is a book that, had it lived up to its premise, the publication of Edmund Halsey's Civil War diary, might have made a significant contribution to Civil War history. Unfortunately, it does not. It appears to be aimed at a general reader with a mild awareness of the war awakened by the Ken Burns PBS series, who will be attracted by a "human interest" story of the conflict. Can you imagine Ed and Joe on Ophrah in 1866? Yes, they will hug in the end!

1998 by Joe Bilby

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