|Description and Photograph||
In 1860 Samuel Colt introduced a new and revolutionary new revolver. Colt did well in the private market throughout the 1850s with his .36 caliber Navy and the Colt Pocket revolver. But the only thing he had to offer with real oomph was the Colt Dragoon, which weighed in at four pounds, two ounces. That was much too much weight for a man to carry around in a holster on a waist belt. He had tried to lighten the Dragoon without much success, but by 1860, new, stronger steels were available, known as “Silver Spring Steel”. Using the new steel and a Navy frame adapted to take a fluted .44 caliber cylinder and by streamlining the barrel and adding a loading lever with a gear reduction to pack those large 44s in, he created a two pound, eight and a half ounce revolver that was extremely attractive and packed all the punch anyone could want. He even created a quick release stock for it, so it could be used like a carbine. He called it his “Cavalry Model”. Today we refer to it as a “Fluted Colt” to differentiate it from Colt’s later Army Model.
As Colt worked with U.S. Ordnance Department for military contracts in 1860-61 he needed to keep his business profitable. To do so, he took advantage of the huge demand from the Southern States, who were just then expecting to be invaded at any time and desirous of obtaining any weapon better than a pitchfork and were clamoring for a chance to purchase such a fine weapon as Colt produced.
Some of his first shipments of the 1860 Cavalry Model went to known dealers in the Southern States. These sales were completely legal, because the South had yet to secede. Colt’s motives were unquestionable; he was driven by profit rather than a desire to help the South.
Known shipments of the Model 1860 Armies (approximately 2,230) were made to a number of Southern dealers between December 1860 and April 1861, as follows: December 27, 1860, 300 to Gov. Wm. Brown of Georgia; January 15, 1861, 50 to Wm. Sage, Charleston, South Carolina; 160 to Wm. Martin, Natchez, Mississippi; 240 to H.D. Norton & Bros, (prior to April 16th), San Antonio, Texas; and 1,100 to Kitteridge & Folsom (up to April 9th), New Orleans, Louisiana. Colt even continued after the firing on Sumter, shipping Peters, Williams & Company, in Richmond, Virginia 472 revolvers on April 15, 1861, of which 28 had silver plated iron backstraps. Serial number 2717 (shown here) was one of those “Cavalry Models” shipped to Richmond on April 15, 1861; three days after the firing started and long after the Southern States had seceded. These were shipped by the Adams Express Company and we know that they arrived because the Richmond Examiner notes on April 23, 1861 that “The State Authorities seized 500 Army Revolvers belonging to Williams, Peters, & Co. on Sunday at Adams Express office”. These revolvers were speedily issued to the 1st Virginia Cavalry where they saw good service throughout the War, who up till then were working with many antiquated single shot pistols.
This particular example has 100% matching serial numbers (yes, even the wedge). Two screws are replacements, the rest are original. It has the scratches and dings one would expect from an arm that went through a war. The cylinder shows the result of excessive banging on the side and the muzzle has an almost unbelievable amount of wear when one considers that it was worn by friction against the holster leather. It is mechanically sound and functions well. The rifling remains strong and clean. This is the most desirable of the Southern shipped Colt’s because it went to Richmond, Virginia in the halcyon days just after the firing on Fort Sumter and were taken by Virginia’s Military only four days after her secession from the voluntary union of states.
The revolver comes with a Colt Factory Letter detailing its inclusion in the above referenced shipment and the brass tag identifying it as from the Lewis Leigh Collection.