The Merrill Carbine was one of the many carbine size, breechloading firearms wielded during the American Civil War. Like its counterparts, the Maynard Carbine and Starr Carbine, the Merrill was named for its designer, James H. Merrill, and would not be produced in large numbers.
The Merrill Carbine used a very unique falling block mechanism, not at all similar in operation to that of the Sharps rifle (the most popular breechloading firearm of that era). The main feature of this mechanism was the long lever arm which, when pulled, would open the breech via a spring loaded latch system. This method was more complicated than the Sharps' action but had the advantage of being more reliable to use. As was common practice at the time, the Merrill would fire the paper cartridge using a percussion lock mechanism.
The Merrill was fitted largely with brass fittings to highlight its features. Parts that were made of brass included the patchbox (which contained extra percussion caps or other materials), butt plate (at the rear of the stock), trigger guard and the single barrel band. The barrel was fitted with a single post front sight and an adjustable rear sight (mounted just infront of the receiver), with a basic three groove rifling pattern.
The Merrill Carbine followed the trend of the more popular firearms of the era by using the Minie ball (which had effectively replaced the musket ball as the most popular ammunition in the world). This minie ball was of .54in calibre and was fired from a paper cartridge.
The Merrill Carbine, as with most carbines used during the American Civil War, would be wielded by cavalry units during the conflict. It, however, would not be produced in large numbers (estimated 14,500 in total) unlike the infantry issued Springfield Model 1861 and Pattern 1853 Enfield. This was not unusual as the Confederate States in particular used a great number of different firearms (such as the Fayetteville and Richmond rifles or Tarpley carbine) to fill its needs.A second version of the Merrill was designed in the 1860s, which was capable of using metallic cartridges (as was happening across all of the Civil War era firearms as the conflict came to an end). The percussion lock design was modified so that the hammer would strike a shaped pin that extended into the breech. This breech pin would then fire the cartridge.
As with most of the various other American Civil War era firearms, however, the Merrill Carbine would end up lost to history. Current surviving numbers are unknown, but all that are known to exist are clearly marked and identified.
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