33rd Massachusetts musket

Some dude

Cadet
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Hey all, I’ve got a P53 rifle I.D’d to the 33rd Massachusetts infantry. It featured the name ‘J Kelly’ scratched into the left side of the buttstock, and a ‘K’ scratched into the right. The buttplate has a K over Mass over 33. I initially was certain that the ‘K’s on the rifle meant K company. However, I’ve done research into both J Kelly’s who served in the regiment, finding a James Kelly who served through the whole war from ‘62 onward in B company (his muster rolls indicate he never left that company), and a James who served from mid 1864 to 1865 in E company. Could the ‘K’ be referring to the man’s last initial rather than a company? What do you guys think?
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bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
It was my understanding that the buttplates were marked with regiment number and company letter, often along with a "rack" number. Are there any other numbers on the bottom of the buttplate?
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I suppose it is possible that J Kelly might have received the musket some time after its initial issue to K Company. i.e. I doubt that after a year or two into the war, and after numerous casualties, it would matter which company this K Company musket ended up in .... but I have no idea what the actual practices of a Regimental Quartermaster might be in that regard. In other words, the fact that J Kelly was never in K Company might not really matter...the fact that he is actually in the Regiment might be all you need to solidly establish provenance....but again, I am speculating, and have written this so that others can weigh in more definitively on that possibility.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
As Corporal Bob says, the marking in the buttplate is the regiment (33rd Mass) and company (K).
The name marking would have likely been added after the War by whoever was the post-war owner. It may be the fellow who served in the 33rd Massachusetts, or it may be the fellow who bought it as surplus for $4 in 1866 or 1870 or 1875.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
One other thought, are we sure the musket was issued to the 33rd Massachusetts, and that the "K" and "33" are not simply the company letter and rack number? The following is from the College Hill Arsenal website, he does not include the 33rd Massachusetts in his list of regiments armed with Enfields. He does say that some of the Massachuetts Enfields are marked solely with company letter and rack number on the buttplate, with the regiment number marked somewhere on the wood.
"The Enfields that were acquired were issued to the 2nd​, 7th​, 10th​, 12th​, 13th​, 16th​, 19th​, 20th​, 21st​, 22nd​, 23rd​, 25th​, 27th​ & 28th​ Massachusetts Infantry Regiments. The state directed that the arms were to be marked by the regiment with the regimental number, company letter and soldier number. Most examples appear with the markings on the buttplate, although some of the regimental markings appear in the buttstock, typically on the reverse. In the case of the guns marked in the wood, it is typically the regimental mark that is in the wood, with the company letter and rack number on the buttplate."
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
The following two photos of Massachusetts marked weapons are from George D. Moller's "Massachusetts Military Shoulder Arms 1784-1877". Notice in these cases they are regimentally marked on the buttplate, and the regiment number lines up with the MASS.

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Some dude

Cadet
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Company K of the 12th Regiment has a John Kelly. Company K of the 19 Regiment has a James Kelley. Company K of the 20th Regiment has a John Kelley.
Thanks to all of you! Is there any way to find out which soldier was issued my musket? Like seeing if one of those J Kellys was issued rifle #33?
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
Thanks to all of you! Is there any way to find out which soldier was issued my musket? Like seeing if one of those J Kellys was issued rifle #33?
I've seen different answers regarding those stamped "rack" numbers. Some have told me they refer to the specific rack location where the gun is stored in the barracks', etc., and not associated with a particular soldier. I had believed, and the College Hill Arsenal website also says, that Massachusetts required them to be marked with the "soldier's" number. If that is truly the case, it would be theoretically possible to identfy the soldier if you could find the list of soldiers that was used when the guns were issued and the numbers recorded. Don't think that will be an easy feat. In the absence of that, and maybe not conclusive, the only Kelly that has his name spelled the same way as it is stamped on the stock is from the 12th regiment.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
The question of what "soldier's number" means is a tough one. In a 90 day enlistment unit, it might be that about all the 100 infantrymen in a company would expect to still be present when the company had served its time and disbanded. So it might be a reasonable plan to list the men in a company in order, 1 through 100, and give each man a musket marked with his "solder number." But as the War progressed, these regiments would shrink from 1000 men to 800 men to 600 men and less, and for any particular battle, there might only be 500 effectives present for duty, the others being sick, injured, in the stockade, or dead and not yet replaced. The regiment sure didn't keep John Kelly's musket standing in the corner somewhere if he was in the hospital for a couple weeks, waiting to see if he could come back to duty. The regiment's quartermaster gave that musket to some other soldier in his company or maybe another company.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
The question of what "soldier's number" means is a tough one. In a 90 day enlistment unit, it might be that about all the 100 infantrymen in a company would expect to still be present when the company had served its time and disbanded. So it might be a reasonable plan to list the men in a company in order, 1 through 100, and give each man a musket marked with his "solder number." But as the War progressed, these regiments would shrink from 1000 men to 800 men to 600 men and less, and for any particular battle, there might only be 500 effectives present for duty, the others being sick, injured, in the stockade, or dead and not yet replaced. The regiment sure didn't keep John Kelly's musket standing in the corner somewhere if he was in the hospital for a couple weeks, waiting to see if he could come back to duty. The regiment's quartermaster gave that musket to some other soldier in his company or maybe another company.
That may be the reason that on some of these Massachusetts marked guns the rack numbers were changed? Maybe they were assigned to different soldiers in the absence of the original owner. In one of Moller's photos above, the number was changed fron 80 to 71, or vice versa. In the College Hill Arsenal listing from which I took the above about Massachusetts Enfields, that number had also been changed, per the listing because assigned to a different soldier.
 

Some dude

Cadet
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
That may be the reason that on some of these Massachusetts marked guns the rack numbers were changed? Maybe they were assigned to different soldiers in the absence of the original owner. In one of Moller's photos above, the number was changed fron 80 to 71, or vice versa. In the College Hill Arsenal listing from which I took the above about Massachusetts Enfields, that number had also been changed, per the listing because assigned to a different soldier.
Do you happen to know when the 12th Mass was issued enfields? That might help me on my quest.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
John Kelly, age 21, from Roxbury, was mustered in on June 26, 1861. At the battle of Antietam the regiment lost 67% of its men (224 of 334). Kelly transferred to the Veteran's Reserve Corps on January 6, 1864
 

Some dude

Cadet
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
John Kelly, age 21, from Roxbury, was mustered in on June 26, 1861. At the battle of Antietam the regiment lost 67% of its men (224 of 334). Kelly transferred to the Veteran's Reserve Corps on January 6, 1864
Thanks for all your info Bob, I did a bit more research, including asking around at the place I bought the gun from, and discovered that the rifle is undoubtedly used by the 33rd Massachusetts. There was a virtually identically stamped gun on display at the Shields museum at Gettysburg, having been picked up off the battlefield and traced to a specific soldier in the 33rd. Additionally, I found the actual rack number (68 I believe, it’s a bit hard to read, on the nose cap of the gun. The guys who sold me the gun (Horse soldier in Gettysburg) said the markings on the buttplate are consistent with Massachusetts regimental designations in the 30s and 40s range, but I haven’t seen anything to verify that claim as yet. I’d trust them though, considering they’ve seen a lot of muskets in the last 50 years.
Now if I can find the first muster roll from company K and identify who the 68th soldier was, I’ll have a possible idea of who carried the rifle. Just counting off the first August 1862 enlistees alphabetically on the post war unit roster, that soldier would be Neil Mcdoughal, who fought with the unit the entire war. No mention was made of any wounding, but given the J Kelly scratched into the stock, it is very unlikely that Mcdoughal remained in possession of that rifle throughout his whole service
 

Some dude

Cadet
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
That college hill site only lists the regiments who were mustered in and used enfields in 1861, 33rd mass was formed in ‘62 and was not considered for that list.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
With no J. Kelly in Co. K of the 33rd, your quest of finding the original user of this musket certainly is rather slim. You could try the Massachusetts Military Archives at [email protected] to see if they would have a copy of the company listing at the time the unit was issued it's equipment/Enfields. Long shot but I have been pleased on a couple of occasions when they have been able to provide information confirming the owners of a couple of my items. They have been pretty quick and thorough with my requests in the past. Good luck.
 
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