Question about the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry (Union) and Spencer Carbines

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
A couple years ago when I was researching my Spencer Rifle serial number 7388, @ucvrelics was kind enough to provide the following information from the SRS database:
7296 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7306 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7333 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7343 C 012265CO B 1ST KY VOL CAV
7350 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7385 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7409 C 012265CO B 1ST KY VOL CAV
7426 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7432 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7442 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
7487 60R CO B 8TH IND VOL CAV
As you can see, all the rifles listed in the given range were issued to Company B of the 8th Indiana Cavalry (actually known as the 39th Indiana Mounted Infantry at the time of issue on June 1863. Their designation to the 8th Indiana Cavalry happened in the fall of that year.) But notice the list includes 2 carbines in that 7000 range that were issued to Company B of the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry. The 1st Kentucky, as a regiment, served from October 1861 to December 1864. The 1/22/65 date in the SRS listing likely is the date off some document indicating the carbines were turned in when the regiment mustered out. But it is generally accepted that the standard Spencer carbines we are familiar with did not start delivery until around October 1863 and serial numbers begin somewhere around 11000. We do know that as early as January 1863 Spencer was making prototype carbines, which apparently were just rifles with shorter barrels and forestocks (lacking the side bar and carrying ring) and providing examples to specific individuals in an attempt to drum up interest in the shorter firearms. (Shorter barrels were easier and less costly to bore.) But surely he didn't make enough to arm an entire company at that early date, did he? But if only a couple examples were provided to the regiment, what are odds that both would be recorded as being turned in? Does anyone know what weapons the 1st Kentucky was actually issued? Any mention of them having early Spencer carbines?
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
https://archive.org/details/wildridersoffirs00tarr/page/n7/mode/2up

Above is a free link to a history of the First Kentucky Calvary, as written by a Headquarters clerk. A quick scan turned up the following mentions of carbines issued to the men.

Page -137-

Gen. Negley, on July 5th, had reported the First Kentucky Cavalry to be in a deplorable condition. He had them furnished with clothing, and issued carbines, revolvers and sabers to all except the three Sharpe's rifle companies. They had been on the heaviest Cavalry service for nearly a year, armed with the clumsy musket.

FIRST KENTUCKY CAVALRY. Page 299

In addition to other disadvantages the regiment labored under early in the war, they were badly equipped in the be- ginning, and for some time afterward, both in clothing and arms. In their first active service they were only armed with home guard sabers and old flink-lock horse-pistols. Some Companies, A, B and C, were armed with the army Sharpe's rifle, which was a very efficient weapon for the old-time dragoon service, that is, marching as Cavalry, but fighting as Infantry, but very inconvenient for mere Cavalry service. The rest of the regiment was for a long time armed with the old army musket, which was very disheartening and degrad- ing to men of the buoyant spirits of the First Kentucky. The rest of the companies were afterward armed at different times with carbines of different kinds and caliber.
 
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