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shepherddogs
November 13, 2007, 04:18 PM
My Great Grandfather passed down a revolver that we believe was his during the Civil War. It has been kept with a cigar box full of letters written to his parents about the events he witnessed during the war while a soldier for the Confederacy. Most letters are from the Northern Virginia area and Richmond where he described visiting the Libby Prison. There is also an antique silver flask I believe he used as a canteen. Also a very old picture depicting a battle scene and the Confederate flag. Anyway the question is this. The revolver was made by Colt Hartford, Connecticut. Colts Patent. Serial # is 178991. There appears to be a scene with some sort of paddlewheel boat etched onto the cylinder. The barrel measures 5 7/8 inches. Gun is very rusty from poor care over the years and I cannot disassemble it. Also the frame appears to be silver plated brass. I don't have a digital camera or I would post a pic. Caliber is around .31. It looks like pictures I have seen on the web of 1851 Colt Navy's. The barrel length doesn't match up though. Also wouldn't this be a pretty light pistol to carry as a horse soldier? What can you tell me about Great Grandads pistol?

AJD21
November 13, 2007, 04:23 PM
http://www.antiquearmsinc.com/1849-colt-pocket.htm

Does it look like that?

shepherddogs
November 13, 2007, 04:31 PM
Almost a perfect match. Mine isn't quite as nice. A small piece of the stock is broken off on on one side and the butt looks like it was used as a hammer or somthing. Is this period correct and what would be a guess as to the value? I would never sell it but just curious.

AJD21
November 13, 2007, 04:42 PM
I really have no clue as to the value. The revolver was made from 1849 to around 1873 and was a very popular Colt model. I recall on a Tales of the Gun episode on the History Channel that it was a popular back up gun among Civil War troops or something along those lines. Using the butt of a revolver as a hammer is also something that I've heard about with the Colt Single Action Army which has a similar grip to the Colt 1849 Pocket model. So it would be entirely possible that the gun was used as a hammer from time to time.

shepherddogs
November 13, 2007, 05:19 PM
The scene on the cylinder does appear to be a stagecoach. For some reason I thought it was a paddle wheel instead of a wagon wheel. Also the gun in these pictures says 31 cal right behind the trigger on the frame. Mine just has a G. Hopefully someone here knows about these things. The gun is very rusty and I would like to maintain it as well as possible. I have just been oiling it regularly but it drinks the oil.

Hawg
November 13, 2007, 05:19 PM
It was made in 1860.

shepherddogs
November 13, 2007, 05:27 PM
Thanks for the dating info. Where do you find this documentation?:)

Hawg
November 13, 2007, 06:17 PM
http://proofhouse.com/

James K
November 13, 2007, 07:49 PM
The Model 1849 was the most popular Colt percussion revolver by far. It was .31 caliber (ancestor of the modern .32 caliber), and was neat and handy. Its size made it a favorite for concealed carry both by civilians and by officers and soldiers on both sides in the Civil War, although it was never formally adopted by any army or navy. Some 336,000 were made and the same frame was used for other models as well.

The grip frames are indeed silver plated brass, though the plating is about as thin as Colt could make it; it usually lasted at least until the customer left the store. All else being equal, a higher percentage of remaining silver means a higher value.

Because of the large number made, Model 1849's do not bring high prices unless in top condition. One in near new condition can bring $5000 or so, and a few can double that. One in average decent condition, will bring $800-1200. But such evaluation is only general; no one can evaluate your gun without seeing it or at least seeing good pictures.

The cylinder scene is usually called the "Stagecoach Holdup" scene; it shows an attempted stage coach robbery in which the driver and passengers are fighting off the robbers, presumably with Colt revolvers. The scene is roll stamped on the cylinder. The original engraving of the plate was done by a man named Waterman Lilly (not surprisingly, he used "W.L.") Ormsby, a well known engraver of the time.

Jim

4V50 Gary
November 13, 2007, 08:23 PM
Can you get the letters transcribed and published? My research into the black powder era was heavily reliant upon first hand accounts. Letters are especially valuable as they provide a contemporary view by an eyewitness or gives a historian the perspective of a person of the period. You might want to get his service record and pension record (if any) from the National Archives.

Might I ask what unit he served in?

Tom2
November 13, 2007, 08:31 PM
It should have .31 cal. engraved on the left side of the trigger guard. That gun was made in many barrel lengths. The military Colts did not have the silver plate on the brass, but they were also all of larger caliber. But a soldier in the Confederacy would be happy to get ahold of any Colt, especially after the arms embargo. I had one once, it was pretty worn, but the grips were decent and the stagecoach scene was pretty visible. And it was mechanically functional but not fireable. What you have is a documented Confederate used gun, regardless of condition, and that adds a great deal of value, I would think, as long as the documentation that shows that stays with the gun(not in physical contact where the rust etc. can get on the papers!). If it was just a really rusty gun with no provenance, it might be worth less than 500$ at least, but with proof of ownership and use, it really adds alot to it. Don't be tempted to clean off the rust, or at least let an expert clean it up without doing anything much besides removing any loose rust and preserving it, or doing nothing to the thing except preservation. They used to take those old CW guns and clean them down to bare steel, looked shiny but pitted and worn. That is not desireable nowadays. Detracts from value alot in almost any case. At the very least store it in a dustproof container in a dry warm place.

shepherddogs
November 13, 2007, 08:42 PM
4V50 Gary. 7th GA Cavalry Co. A
One of his letters states "We went to the Libby today, you never seen so many bluebirds." I showed this letter to the curator @ The Greensboro Historical Museum in Greensboro, NC. He took me into an upstairs room and pulled out a picture of the Libby Prison in Richmond, VA. He said it was one of only 2 pictures known to exist. If not for him I never would have had a clue what this meant.

Mike Irwin
November 14, 2007, 10:36 AM
That reference to "bluebirds" very likely means Union prisoners who were incarcerated at Libby prison during the war and not the actual bird.

There are a bunch of known photographs of the Libby buildings, but apparenly most were taken either before or after the Civil War.

James K
November 14, 2007, 12:48 PM
"Bluebirds" and "bluebellies" were common terms in the CS army for Union soldiers. Libby, IIRC, was used for officers. It was not a four star hotel, but enlisted POWs were usually sent to much worse places.

Jim

4V50 Gary
November 14, 2007, 11:41 PM
Libby Prison was an old tobacco warehouse that was along the waterfront of the James River. They use to house the officers there and the enlisted men went to luxurious Belle Isle (stuck in the middle of the James-near present day Tredegar Iron Works) which was worse. Libby Prison is long gone but there's a plaque you can read. Belle Isle is accessible by crossing a footbridge near Tredegar. Park at Tredegar if you want to visit it.

Any other questions go ahead and post it. I've read hundreds of Civil War books and am starting to become conversant on it (just don't ask me why there was a war and how it affected society - I studied the battles, not the social history).

Tom2
November 17, 2007, 10:51 AM
My aunt has a piece of 4X4 post that was supposedly taken from inside there. Nothing impressive, a two foot long piece with the number 1 stenciled on it. I will have to ask where she got it.

Mike Irwin
November 18, 2007, 01:46 AM
Libby Prison was disassembled after the war and carted of to, I believe, Chicago, where it was reassembled as a museum.

Near the turn of the century it was disassembled once again and sold off, bricks and chunks of wood, as souveniers.

Pretty common items.

4V50 Gary
November 18, 2007, 01:05 PM
Mike - I didn't know that. I know the McLean house (site of Lee's surrender) from Appomattox was disassembled and taken on the road and what we see today at Appomattox is a recreation.