Confederate Colt revolver?

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by m-g willy, Jun 17, 2019.

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  1. Jun 17, 2019 #1

    m-g willy

    m-g willy

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    Been looking and can't find the info..Does anyone know what handgun was the most commonly used by the South?
    I Know the numbers of Grisworlds and other Southern revolvers made..But anyone know what numbers the Colt 1851 were used by the south?
     
  2. Jun 17, 2019 #2

    hawkeye2

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    First we can dismiss the Confederate made revolvers since the total production of all was almost insignificant compared to the numbers of revolvers captured and picked up on the field. I would expect the ratio of Navys to Armys, Remingtons and others to approximate the ratios as issued to the Union Army and it's very doubtful any records were kept by the South. Adding to the confusion would have been all the private purchases of Northern made arms before and during the war. I'm sure the big 3 would have been Colt's 51 & 60 and the Remington.
     
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  3. Jun 17, 2019 #3

    Artificer

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    Colt had made 99,000 M1851 revolvers by year's end in 1860, let alone the contracts they furnished during the War. Therefore even at the very beginning of the War and well beyond, the most likely revolver in a Confederate Officer's or Confederate Cavalryman's holsters were this model. Confederate authorities chose this M1851 to copy from different Southron Contractors more than any other model as well, even after the M1860 began to show up on the battlefields.

    As to where the small number of Confederate Revolvers were actually issued, that is rather difficult to nail down. Some of these pistols may not even have been seen in different parts of the Confederacy.

    I would suggest for an early war persona, stick with a Steel Frame Colt 1851 and that is probably the most likely revolver carried by Southron Forces. For a mid to later war persona, then depending on where your persona fought, might open up other possible models. You can't go wrong with a Steel Frame Colt 1851 copy, though, for the entire war.

    Gus
     
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  4. Jun 18, 2019 #4

    Zonie

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    Based on serial numbers of existing pistols, "CONFEDERATE HANDGUNS", by William A Algaugh III, Huth Benet Jr., Edward N Simmons estimates the number of revolvers made during the war were as follows.

    GRISWOLD AND GUNNISON 3606

    SPILLER & BURR 1234

    LEECH & RIGDON 125

    DANCE BROTHERS a few 100

    There were a few other companies like Schneider and Glassick, George Todd, that were contracted to make revolvers and each made a couple, apparently to get the contract rather than to actually make the guns.

    The Confederate contract specified that the pistols were to be based on the 1851 Colt which explains why Griswold & Gunnison and Leech & Ridgon pistols look like Colt 1851's.
    Spiller & Burr are (IMO) an odd exception. The company was set up to make copies of the Whitney .36 caliber pistol and although it didn't match the requirements of the contract they managed to get the go ahead.

     
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  5. Jun 18, 2019 #5

    Stantheman86

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    It depends on your use of the revolver, for "Living History" you want to be as Confederate as possible for "color" and educational purposes so something like a Spiller & Burr by Pietta or even a brass frame .36 Navy would be the way to go.

    Don't forget the LeMat or Starr double actions . If you really want to be different , there's also privately purchased Belgian or French pinfire revolvers. It's often overlooked that many enlisted men and Officers on both sides carried privately purchased pistols. Everything from S&W .22 shorts, to single shot boot or muff pistols, cheap European derringer type pistols plus a myriad of Colt knockoff percussion revolvers made in cottage workshops , varying in quality from junk to decent.

    For authentic reenacting , like was said above , you would be far, far more likely to have a 51 Navy or something picked up off the field, or something weird you would have purchased yourself.
     
  6. Jun 19, 2019 #6

    Artificer

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    I owned an original British Kerr Revolver for a while that even had the Anchor and J and S stamps on it. However, what was unusual was it also had an extremely good condition holster, so the ensemble was pretty pricey - at least for me and at that stage in my life. I thought about making an exact reproduction holster for it and only carrying it at a few living histories, but someone offered me way too much money first.

    While I definitely agree with the fact one should try their very best to be authentic for living histories, I do have to caution about using repro's of Confederate Made Revolvers. You don't want to carry one if your persona is from too early of a time period for the revolvers to have been made and issued to the troops. Also, where your persona fought/was stationed at has a lot to do with it as well. For example, Confederate Made Enfields were manufactured in Tyler Texas during the war. However, if one's persona is from the Army of Northern Virginia, they would never have seen those Enfields and probably would not have known they even existed. So depending on where the persona was stationed during the war, that person may never even have known of some of the Confederate Made Revolvers, depending on where they were made.

    Southron States were purchasing Colt Revolvers right up to and even after hostilities began, though the Federal Government tried to stop delivery of the latter when they could and of course it would have been treason for Colt to arm Southron States after the war was really going. Yet there were already Colt 1851's in State Armories that were purchased before the war, at least in States that were not poor and for issue to Cavalry. So if it is unclear whether a certain type of Confederate Made Revolver was available to one's persona, one is actually more authentic to get a copy of the Colt Navy Revolver for any time period on the War.

    Gus
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  7. Jun 19, 2019 #7

    Artificer

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    Zonie, I don't believe I have that book in my library. I was wondering if we could impose upon you for the places those revolvers were made and when they began production and issue, if at all possible?

    Thank you.

    Gus
     
  8. Jun 19, 2019 #8

    Eutycus

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    Its amazing how many books a library Dont have on hand. If your local library is a member of the ILL( Inter-Library- Loan system , I think it stands for) It cant hurt to ask and in my case they will even order the book in large print , if available. The one setback is they dont give you a whole lot of time to read the book. But reasonable !
     
  9. Jun 19, 2019 #9

    Artificer

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    I do have other books on Confederate made Long Arms and Revolvers, but thought if Zonie has his copy available, he would be able to access the information quicker than I can.

    Gus
     
  10. Jun 19, 2019 #10

    Eutycus

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    True. It does take a bit of patience at the library. A couple of weeks of waiting. And sometimes by the time your book does come in you've lost intetest. Or got another topic you're more interested in researching.
     
  11. Jun 19, 2019 #11

    Zonie

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    I'll try to give a few of them. The quotes are from the book "CONFEDERATE HANDGUNS"


    GRISWOLD AND GUNNISON : A quote from page 24 in the Macon, Georgia Telegraph on Aug 5, 1862.

    MANUFACTURE OF COLT'S REVOLVERS
    We were equally surprised and gratified on Saturday last, at the sight of a Colt's Navy Repeater, made at the machine shops of Messrs. Griswold, at Griswoldville, about 12 miles from Macon.
    The weapon had just passed the inspection of Confederate Superintendent of Armories at this place, and a contract had been made for as many as the manufacturers could produce...
    This is a strong illustration of the power of the South to supply her own wants. We certinly had no idea that a manufactory of Colt's pistols would spring up near Macon in 1862."

    SPILLER & BURR: Richmond, Virginia. Fall of 1861
    Speaking of the contract with the Confederate States, page 64:

    "This remarkable contract is dated November 30, 1861, and shows many things, chiefly the high hopes that could lad Burton, an experienced armorer, and two others totally unacquainted with weapons making, to the signing of a contract for 15,000 revolvers to be delivered within a 27-month period..."

    LEECH & RIGDON and ANSLEY: (pp 39-60) Possibly Columbus, Mississippi, later, Greensboro, Georgia. Contract date, March 6, 1863. This company is an outgrowth of the Memphis Novelty Works/Thomas Leech & Co, Memphis, Tennessee. Very complicated beginning.

    DANCE BROTHERS: (pp 156-161) West Columbia, in Brazoria County, Texas. 1862-1863.

    I consider this book to be the very best of my Confederate pistol books. If you can find it, buy it. You won't regret it.



     
  12. Jun 20, 2019 #12

    Zonie

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    For those interested in the book "CONFEDERATE HANDGUNS", mine is a Bonanza Books, New York publication. It is copyrighted by George Shumway, MCMLXIII (1963).
     
  13. Jun 20, 2019 #13

    Artificer

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    Zonie,

    Thank you very much for the added information you provided! I believe it will be very useful to those interested in doing living histories and “authentic” reenactors. I hope you don’t mind I combined information you provided together in this post.

    I want to make it very clear that much of the following information is only informed speculation on my part, due to the lack of information on where (and when) the manufacturers were ordered to deliver their finished/accepted revolvers.

    First of all, we can’t just look at what State One’s Persona came from to determine which of these revolvers may have been issued to the Persona. For example, the Army of Northern Virginia included State Regiments from as far west as Texas, but I personally highly doubt any of their troops would ever have been armed with Dance Brother’s Revolvers, due to the need of troops operating more closely to Texas.

    It gets REALLY confusing when talking about Armies of the Southron Confederacy. There were large Armies formed in both the East and the West, though there were smaller Armies in each theater as well. I fully admit I’m going out on a limb here, but generally I divide the major Armies by The Army of Northern Virginia in the East and in the West, The Army of the West, later known as the Army of Mississippi and also the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. (As examples: My Paternal Confederate Ancestor from Kentucky, fought in the Army of the Trans Mississippi while my Maternal Confederate Ancestor and family fought in the Army of Northern Virginia.)

    OH, one thing many historians don’t consider is that SPARE PARTS for the normal wear and tear and combat “breakage” would have had to come FROM each manufacturer for their revolvers. This because though each manufacturer may or may not have made their revolvers on the Interchangeable Parts System of Manufacture, their parts would not necessarily fit another maker’s revolvers. Unfortunately, I personally don’t know exactly how spare parts were delivered to the Armies, but it would also make sense that this may have had something to do with how the revolvers were distributed.

    Lacking specific delivery information, I would suggest the following as general guide lines to Southron Living Historians and Authentic Reenactors.


    1. SPILLER & BURR, Quantity delivered- 1234, made in Richmond, Virginia. Fall of 1861, over the following 27 months

    I most strongly suspect most, if not all of these revolvers went to Soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia.

    2. GRISWOLD AND GUNNISON, Quantity delivered- 3606, made in Macon, Georgia beginning on around Aug 5, 1862.

    These revolvers could have gone to either theatre of war, depending on which had the greater need at the time a shipment of revolvers was ready to be delivered.

    3. LEECH & RIGDON, Quantity delivered- 125, Possibly made in Columbus, Mississippi, later, Greensboro, Georgia, Contract date, March 6, 1863

    If any of these were shipped during the time they were in Mississippi, then it is probable they went to the Army of the West/Army of Mississippi. However, after their move to Georgia, these revolvers could have been shipped to either theater.

    4. DANCE BROTHERS, Quantity delivered- a few 100, made in West Columbia, in Brazoria County, Texas. 1862-1863.

    I think it is a very safe bet these were only delivered to the Army of the West/Army of Mississippi.


    Gus
     
  14. Jun 20, 2019 #14

    Eterry

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    I would venture they would get whatever they could afford/trade for/or picked up after a battle. That was the common method of "trading up".
    As the 1860 Colt was fairly new I would guess they were scarce, but '51 Navies were more plentiful. Also family members would give anything that went bang to soldiers and the '49 pocket model could have been seen.

    I have a friend who's 90ish; he told me in his youth he talked to veterans who SWORE by the Smith & Wesson tip up models 1 and 1 1/2. They told him how deadly they were...This was before we got caught up in magnum mania.
     
  15. Jun 20, 2019 #15

    Zonie

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    I think the comment about "how deadly they were" is an excellent example of how people like to improve on the facts when they are telling stories. Maybe a little brain fade over the years came into play here too?

    We aren't supposed to talk about these but I cannot resist mentioning the Smith & Wesson No. 1, First, Second and Third models were all chambered for a .22 Short rimfire. Deadly? Perhaps, if the shooter was lucky but a Colt 1849 in .31 caliber would have been deadlier.

    I also note, Flayderman's Guide, the leading book of American Antique Arms doesn't mention a Smith & Wesson No. 1 1/2 pistol.
     
  16. Jun 21, 2019 #16

    Eterry

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    It wouldn't be MUCH deadlier...a 50gr RB @ 700fps isn't gonna lead the barrel much.

    My friend always told me he figured they meant they get shot today and die of infection next week... THAT kind of deadly.
     
  17. Jun 21, 2019 #17

    Stantheman86

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    The .31 Colt is roughly equivalent to .32 S&W Long, which is marginal at best for defensive use.

    But little "pop guns" were popular and I believe the .31 Colt was the best selling Colt for years. A good many of them were taken to the war as private purchase pieces. Also the .22 Short S&W's. Not exactly a man stopper but it was probably more useful as protection against sketchy "camp followers" or local people.

    A Union soldier was shot and killed only a few miles from me in rural PA, Lord knows what mess he was involved in , there was no fighting up here, just an encampment of 1000 troops who were rounding up deserters and draft Dodgers. A .22 short little pocket popper would be handy protection about town or in the camp.
     
  18. Oct 5, 2019 #18

    treebeard

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    I have allways thought the imported Kerr revolver was one of the most interesting of Confederate issues. Armoredshoe posted an excellent picture on page 5 of the current War Between The States discussion thread along with the information that a 1,000 were issued to the 9th Texas Cav. In June, 1863. I wish this would be reproduced—shooting an original would be cost prohibitive.
     

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