Illinois State Military Museum has more than medals, battle flags
It was Aug. 18, 1863, the height of the Civil War. Connecticut machinist Christopher Spencer arrived at the White House for a scheduled meeting with Abraham Lincoln.
Spencer wanted to show the president the seven-shot Spencer Repeating Rifle he had patented. Union soldiers at the time were fighting with muzzle-loading rifled muskets that discharged one round at a time.
Lincoln inspected the rifle and asked the inventor to take it apart to show him the “inwardness of the thing,” according to documents in the Manchester (Conn.) Historical Society. The president then asked Spencer to return the next day to test-fire the weapon.
The test took place near where the Washington Monument stands today. With Lincoln and Spencer were Lincoln’s son, Robert, and a Navy Department officer who carried the rifle, ammunition and a target.
The pine target board was 6 inches wide and 3 feet long with a bulls-eye near each end. At a distance of 40 yards, Lincoln shot first, hitting the bulls-eye once and coming close with the other six shots. When it was Spencer’s turn, he bested the president.
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