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 Stevens indicated that in addition to the visible serial number on the breech end of the barrel, this rifle has matching serial numbers on the left side of the lower tang, in upper tang mortise of the buttstock, and on the inside the buttplate and matching assembly numbers on the barrel under the magazine loading sleeve and on the rear of the magazine loading sleeve itself. The “6” in the latter location is visible without disassembly. The screws are not numbered (noted as correct for later Henry rifles).
The engraving consists mainly of floral and scroll patterns and wavy line borders on the frame and buttplate along with a figure-8 and banner design on the right side plate, a cross on the front left, and a patriotic shield, flags, and arrows and spears on the left side plate.
The rifle is accompanied by a Springfield Research Service letter identifying the rifle as issued to “Private George Bemfer” as well as copies of records from the National Archives regarding his service in the 3rd Third Veteran Volunteers. Despite these documents listing “George Bemfer,” the man’s name actually appears to have been George W. Benfer (1835-1924). There was also another George W. Benfer from the same area, but he was too
young to have served at the beginning of the war. Benfer is identified in records as born in Prussia and as employed as a weaver when he enlisted as a private in Company B of the 3rd Regiment, U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry on March 31, 1865, and as previously having served as a private
in Company C of the 98th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry. Company C was raised in Union County. With the latter, he would have fought at many of the major battles in the East. At Gettysburg, they led the VI Corps on their 30 mile march from Manchester, Maryland, to the battlefield where they arrived during the peak of General Longstreet’s attack on July 2 around 5 p.m. They formed up on Little Round Top and attacked toward the Wheatfield and then held the John Weiker farm. The plaque dedicated to the 98th at the Pennsylvania State Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park lists him as “George Benfer.” Benfer was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. In that battle, they fought for two hours until they expended their ammunition and were relieved. They suffered nine dead, and 56 wounded. Benfer was discharged on September 3, 1864, at the end of his enlistment in the 98th. His muster-out roll for the Veteran Volunteers notes “This soldier is entitled to retain his arms, appendages,
and acc.” Census records later identified him as a farm laborer and then a farmer. He is buried in New Berlin Cemetery in Union County. Local papers noted him as “a highly respected citizen” and indicate he had been ill with the flu. He was survived by his daughter Clara Benfer (1862-1944). CONDITION: Exceptionally fine, with 50% bright original blue finish remaining and concentrated along the grooves on the side of the barrel/ magazine tube as well as on the rear sling swivel base, and mottled brown patina and light oxidation on the balance of the iron. The “gunmetal” frame and buttplate exhibit crisp period engraving and attractive aged patina as well as minor dings and scratches. The buttstock is very fine and has a crisp U.S. inspection acceptance stamp, and mild scratches and storage dings. Mechanically excellent. This is a very rare chance to get your hands on an identified, soldier engraved, 3rd U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry Henry lever action rifle!
Provenance: The Steven D. Stevens Collection.
Estimate: 55,000 - 85,000

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