Spencer Repeating Rifle

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History of the Spencer Repeating Rifle

The Spencer Repeating Rifle is an early American lever-action firearm invented by Christopher Spencer from Connecticut and patented March 6, 1860. The Spencer was the world's first military metallic-cartridge repeating rifle, and over 200,000 were manufactured in the United States by the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company and Burnside Rifle Company between 1860 and 1869. 

The Spencer ever-action rifle was issued to the U.S. Army between 1863 and 1865. This model is 47 inches (1,200 mm)  long, with a 30-inch (760 mm) barrel, takes a 56-56 cartridge, .52 inch (13mm) caliber. The rifle has a manually cocked hammer with a 7-round tube magazine and an effective firing range of 500 yards.

The Charles B. Hartley Rifle

Originally issued to a Union infantryman, this rifle was later recovered by Pvt. Franklin L. Johnson, Co. A, 10th Battalion, N.C. Heavy Artillery, Confederate States Army. Private Franklin L. Johnson, resided in Randolph County, where he enlisted on March 23, 1863 for the war. Johnson was listed as present or accounted for through December 1864. 

Co. A, 10th Battalion, Heavy Artillery was organized April 23, 1862 from Davidson County, and mustered in at Wilmington on May 19, 1862 as “Captain William B. Lewis" Company of North Carolina State Troops. Company A was first referred to as “Lewis” Battery and later as “Harris” Battery after Lewis was replaced by 1st Lieutenant Hammet J. Harris who was promoted in 1863. The North Carolina 10th Artillery Battalion (also called 2nd Battalion Heavy Artillery) served on the coast of North Carolina at Fort Caswell and Wilmington, and was active in the defense of Savannah against Sherman’s March to the Sea in November and December, 1864. The unit later saw action in the North Carolina Campaign as infantry fighting in the Battle of Averasboro, March 16, 1865, and the Battle of Bentonville, March 19, 1865. The 10th surrendered with the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston, on April 26, 1865, in Durham, North Carolina.

Pvt. Franklin Linton Johnson was born on December 29, 1839 in Randolph County, North Carolina to Clemmons ‘Clement’ Johnson, (1801-1857) and Dianna Swaim (1818-1857). Clement was the son of Capt. John Johnson, who was born in Lancaster County, Chester, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 1745 and died in Randolph County, North Carolina on May 14, 1802. Capt. Johnson served in the North Carolina Militia during the Revolutionary War and was married to Rosannah ‘Rosie’ Lytle, also born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and who died in Randolph County, on August 9, 1853.

Pvt. Franklin L. Johnson and his wife Martha Matilda Rush (1833-1917) passed the Spencer Repeating Rifle down to his son, William Alton Johnson (1874-1940) and his wife, Flora E. Spencer (1880-1908). The rifle was then passed down to William and Flora’s daughter Eleanor May Johnson who married Francis Garrett ‘Jack’ Hartley (1900-1959) and from there to Charles Bryce Hartley who lived in Statesville for over fifty years and who donated the Spencer Rifle to the Iredell County Public Library Local History & Genealogy Department for permanent display in 2022.

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