The Harpers Ferry US Armory (often written as Harper's Ferry Armory) was a US Government backed gunsmithing Armory commissioned after a 1794 Act for "erecting and repairing of Arsenals and Magazines". Harpers Ferry produced several firearms of note, having been chosen by George Washington to be built in the town of Harpers Ferry.
The Harpers Ferry Armory began production in 1800 following three years of construction, becoming the US government's second national armory (after the Springfield Armory opened in the late 1790's). At that time the whole armory (which aimed to mass produce and provide firearms on a national scale) consisted of a single room with twenty five workers. The factory floor was fitted with a few machines, powered by the canal which had been dug to supply water to the factory. Estimated production figures suggest that, at the time, Harpers Ferry was producing 10,000 firearms a year, including the Model 1795 Musket ,Model 1805 pistol and the Harpers Ferry Model 1803 Rifle.
Pre-American Civil WarEdit
In the mid 1800's the Harpers Ferry Armory was given an overhaul, with various expansions and machine fittings adding over twenty new buildings from 1845 to 1854. A total of 121 machines were installed during these nine years, with the workforce expanded to 400 workers, leading Harpers Ferry to be named the "U.S. Musket Factory". The factory entered the mass production of percussion rifles at this time, manufacturing the Model 1842 musket followed by the Model 1855 rifled musket.
Yet Harpers Ferry's dominance in the US Arsenal interests was sent a warning shot, when John Brown lead a failed slave revolt against the armory in 1859, an event that helped to spark the American Civil War three years later.
American Civil WarEdit
The Harpers Ferry Armory would come under attack during the American Civil War, changing hands no less than eight times during the conflict. Although Virginia (where the factory was located) remained in the Union, the factory was located on the Mason-Dixon line which virtually seperated the Confederates and Unionists.Union forces (whom were using the Armory as a supply post) were forced to retreat from Harpers Ferry in the wake of an advancing Confederate militia on the 18th of April 1862, leading them to attempt to burn the factory to the ground. Their attempt failed as the residents of Harpers Ferry (many of whom relied on the factory for their livelihood) put the fire out, saving much of the equipment. The equipment was subsequently shipped out by the Confederates to Richmond and Fayetteville (where the Richmond Rifle and Fayetteville Rifles, respectively, were manufactured) to produce arms for the Confederates.
Post Civil WarEdit
The only remaining building following the conclusion of the Civil War was the old fire engine and guard house, named John Brown's Fort following his infamous raid. This building would later be moved across America before being returned (albeit 150 yards away) to its original spot, after which it became a tourist attraction.
The Harpers Ferry US Armory was (and will forever be) associated with the production of muskets and rifles at Springfield Armory. Harpers Ferry, however, was not limited to producing rifles as several individual gun designers , John Hall of note, brought designs to the Armory.
Both Harpers Ferry and Springfield produced a range of muskets for the US Military which were near exact copies of French designs dating from the Revolutionary war. Although there were individual quirks and finishes to the armories products, which meant that parts made at one armory couldn't be swapped with parts from the other, the products were used by the US with no difference in performance or ability.
- Model 1795 - The Springfield Armory's first product and also became the Harpers Ferry US Armory's first product. Harpers Ferry countinued to produce the design until 1815 (while Springfield developed and produced minor modifications to the design).
- Model 1812 - The next major evolution of the Model 1795 produced at Springfield.
- Model 1816
- Model 1822
- Model 1842 - The first percussion lock musket produced by both National armories on an interchangable basis.
- Model 1855 Rifle long and short models- The last major product for the Harpers Ferry US Armory before the American Civil War which saw the Armory captured and dismantled.
- Harpers Ferry Horse Pistol - A percussion lock pistol produced in 1855 as a model for Springfield production.
Harpers Ferry were also prominant in building rifles for the U.S. army , Navy and Marine Corp, producing the Model 1803 and its later sub models. One of the most inportant achevements at Harpers ferry was the production of the Model 1819 Hall rifle . About 20,000 fully interchangable breechloading rifles were produced from 1823 till 1843 by John Hall and his workmen. Every part was standard and replaceable even the bayonet.
- Harpers Ferry Model 1803 - The first rifle produced by a US armory.
- M1819 Hall Rifle - One of the first breechloading rifles designed and built in the US. And first interchangable weapon made in large scale.
- M1841 Mississippi Rifle - A rifle produced almost exclusively by Harpers Ferry and by government subcontractors.