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Old July 15, 2011, 11:10 PM   #1
Scimmia
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FR J Bitterlich? 1861?

My grandpa passed away last year, and my grandmother told my brother and I to get all of the guns out of the house. We finally got around to splitting them up, and I ended up with this. My grandpa didn't know much about it, so I'm hoping someone here does. I don't even know if it's authentic or a reproduction. What little information I've found about Bitterlich talks about derringers, nothing about a pistol this size. I've got larger, more detailed images if they'd be helpful.




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Old July 15, 2011, 11:59 PM   #2
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Doesn't look like a replica to me.
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Old July 16, 2011, 12:45 AM   #3
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It is a smooth bore or rifled?

Looks real to me to. I don't have a clue as to value. Condition looks a bit rough. So it's not a top dollar gun unless it's very rare.
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Old July 16, 2011, 01:02 AM   #4
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The bore is rifled.
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Old July 16, 2011, 06:09 AM   #5
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I can't quite make out the inscription on the silver plate in the bottom of the butt, but it looks like a name along with a military unit and a date. The date looks like "1861," and, if that's the case, you may very well have a piece carried by a Confederate soldier or officer.

Apparently, Bitterlich entered into a partnership with a gent by the name of Legler in 1862 and made guns until 1867.

Another pistol made by "Bitterlich & Co." just sold on Rock Island Auction site for $7475.00. Yours apparently predates his association with Legler and is probably worth a considerable sum.

Maybe you could provide a better picture of the plaque?

Last edited by gyvel; July 16, 2011 at 06:21 AM.
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Old July 16, 2011, 10:05 AM   #6
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We were having lighting issues trying to get a better pic of the plaque, but I'll see what I can do. In the mean time, it says:

J.M. Thompson.
Co. K.
10th. Regt. Tenn. Vol.
1861.
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Old July 16, 2011, 10:18 AM   #7
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OK, playing around with exposure, contrast, and brightness I think I got a good image.

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Old July 16, 2011, 10:50 AM   #8
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The problem with the plate is so many Confederate items are faked. If you could show provenance it would be worth a lot more.
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Old July 16, 2011, 11:04 AM   #9
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It would have to be a pretty good fake if you ask me. The plaque looks every bit as old as the rest of the gun. If it came from his grandmother, then the odds of a fake go way down, unless grannie was a crackerjack counterfeiter. Apparently Mr. Bitterlich was fairly well known in and around Tennessee as other arms of his have shown up at auction.

Of course, if you're implying that this gent is having us all on...
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Old July 16, 2011, 11:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Of course, if you're implying that this gent is having us all on...
I'm not implying anything, that's just the way the collecting community will see it. I've seen some really nicely done fakes, even bought a few much to my chagrin.
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Old July 16, 2011, 02:33 PM   #11
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Believe me, I wish I had more provenance. Much more important than the value is knowing just what I've got. I'm not planning on selling at this point. A couple of other guns we got had great family history, but none were near this old.

gyvel, you mention Rock Island Auction, I don't know why I didn't think of that. I live right over the river from them and am over that way all the time as I'm a member of the rifle club just down the road from them. Maybe they would have some more info as well.

I really appreciate the info you guys have given me to far, gives me a lot better idea just what this thing is.
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Old July 16, 2011, 03:20 PM   #12
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Wasn't the 10th regiment of the Tennessee Volunteers a Union unit that occupied Nashville?
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Old July 16, 2011, 08:58 PM   #13
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There were two units with that designation, US and CS. At that date, I have little doubt that the unit was Confederate. There is a lot of info on the web, but I couldn't find specific info on Co. K, though I did find the roster for Co. A.

I have no doubt that the pistol is genuine and was a presentation piece given to S. M. Thompson when the unit was formed. I doubt it was actually carried in battle, though. It is and was far too nice for that, plus it would have been quite outdated and would certainly not have been carried if a revolver was available.

I strongly recommend Scimmia work on researching the person (ancestor?)whose name is on the gun. Tennessee seems to have the rosters of those units and their web site is available on Google. A letter or phone call should get more information on how to follow up on an individual name.

If there is provenance to the original owner, the trail from then to now is less important.

I won't get into a dollar value, because to be honest I don't know what it would be. But if the man is an ancestor, the value to the family should be priceless.

Jim
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Old July 16, 2011, 09:21 PM   #14
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I have been going through all genelogical information I have from my family and haven't found anyone by the name of Thompson yet. I'll see what information I can dig up from records in Tennessee. Thank you very much, Jim.
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Old July 16, 2011, 10:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
I doubt it was actually carried in battle, though. It is and was far too nice for that, plus it would have been quite outdated and would certainly not have been carried if a revolver was available.
Early in the war Confederates carried whatever they could get their hands on. Brown Bess's from the revolution, flintlock squirrel rifles, shotguns, name it. Little by little when better arms became available from dead union troops those weapons were usually discarded.
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Old July 16, 2011, 11:04 PM   #16
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I don't know if this is any use:
link

Field Officers

Colonels-Adolphus Heiman, Randall W. MacGavock, William Grace, John G. O'Neill.
Lieutenant Colonels-Randall W. MacGavock, William Grace, Sam Thompson, John G. O'Neill.

Majors

Stephen O. W. Brandon, William Grace, Sam Thompson, John G. O'Neill.
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Old July 16, 2011, 11:24 PM   #17
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http://www.tngenweb.org/civilwar/csainf/csa10.html
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Old July 17, 2011, 12:01 AM   #18
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Nice find. Under Captains:

Sam Thompson, John W. Bryan, Co. "B". Originally "I", then "K". Men from Nashville.

With the company K being in there, I'm pretty sure this is the guy.

Looks like he was promoted to Major in Oct 1862 and Lt Col. in May 1863. Retired in Sept 1864.

Guess I've got a first name now. And I thought it was a "J".
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Old July 20, 2011, 02:53 PM   #19
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Nice pistol, just out of curiosity what caliber is it? I don't see a rear sight, but assume there is one(?).
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Old July 20, 2011, 10:09 PM   #20
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CS troops did carry other than standard weapons, but I don't believe that pistol was ever carried anywhere, and almost certainly not in battle. It is just too nice.

Still, the picture of barefoot Confederates dressed in rags and armed only with junk guns, old fowling pieces and captured Federal weapons is pretty much untrue. Except at the beginning, when the CS Army was trying to organize, and at the very end, regulars had reasonably good uniforms and were armed with Enfields or Springfields.

CS Army Ordnance, under the indefatigible Gorgas, kept arms and ammunition supplies at a high level of both quality and quantity all through the war. Obviously, there were local shortages, but it has been said that no Confederate unit ever lost a battle due to lack of arms or ammunition.

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Old July 21, 2011, 01:15 AM   #21
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To the topic at hand. This is a very fine firearm. it has been fired, there is corrosive patters from the percussion cap around the nipple. It does have evidence as to being exposed to the elements. It appears to be genuine, but you wont satisfy the critics until you track down the man this belonged to dig him up, make him put his left hand on a bible and attest that this was his. Have it authenticated and hang it on a wall,it even looks operational to me. I would have to look at its guts and down the barrel first. The weapon could have seen battle, seeing that its not to fancy engraved, and the man that it possibly belonged to was a captain and retired as a major. Now to the topic off hand, no confederate soldier went without adequate equipment for to long. the soldiers early in the war had to get what they could and make it last. Mid to late war the uniform was standardized, more shoes and supplies were available whether it was from import, production at home or captured enemy supply trains and stores.
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Old July 21, 2011, 11:06 AM   #22
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Arquebus, there is a rear sight, but it's very small. I'll post up a pic tonight if you'd like. The pic will also show one of the defects, one of the screws on the top is missing. One of the screws on the bottoms looks like it's been replaced as well. As for caliber, I don't know, I'll have to get the calipers out.

Talking to some family members, I did find out that my great grandfather was something of a gun guy and he bought this pistol. So unfortunately Thompson wasn't an ancestor of mine, but it's been in the family probably around 70-80 years.
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Old July 21, 2011, 02:51 PM   #23
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Whether the gun belonged to an ancestor or not, having the history of the gun and the man who owned it at the time it was made adds not only to your knowledge but also to the value of the gun should you ever want to sell it. A nicely compiled history of S. M. Thompson and his role in the Civil War takes the gun from something of mild interest to a historically important artefact and could add hundreds to its value.

As to the condition, I may be missing something but I don't see a lot of evidence of outdoor use or even very heavy use. The patina is about what we usually expect on a gun that has been handled and used some, but not abused. In most such cases, the handling came long after the first owner passed on as generations of children played cowboys and injuns with the gun.

It is always a good idea to check any old muzzleloader to be sure it is not loaded or that the barrel is not full of debris, like marbles.

Jim
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