Reference Items
Firearms
Colt M1851 Navy Revolver

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The Colt Navy was the first medium caliber revolver introduced by Colt after opening his Hartford, CT factory in 1847. From 1850 through 1873 he manufactured 215,348 Navys at this location, plus over 40,000 at the London factory. Next to the Model 1849, the 1851 Navy was the most popular of the percussion Colt revolvers and one of the most widely used hand guns of the Civil War.

It is a six-shot revolver in .36 caliber, with a 7½ inch octagon barrel with a hinged type loading lever. The gun weighs 2 lbs. 10 oz. The Navy gets its name from the roll-engraved motif on its cylinder, a naval battle scene of the Republic of Texas victory over Mexico’s Navy on 16 May 1843. The Texans were commanded by Commodore Edward Ward Moore, a friend of Samuel Colt. Moore was relieved of his command by Sam Houston for "disobedience, contumacy and mutiny” for fighting this battle, charges on which Moore was vindicated by the Texas House and Senate, but subsequently found guilty on four of twenty-two charges at court martial. By choosing this cylinder scene, Colt was defending the actions of his friend.

Approximately 35,000 Navy revolvers were purchased by the U.S. government for military use beginning with a 1,000 gun contract July 27, 1855 with Army purchases approximating 20,000 guns including some on the open market.

This fine M1851 Colt Navy is serial numbered #50323; it shows 100% cylinder scene and was manufactured early in 1856. It is one of the pistols acquired on the open market by the U.S. government as evidenced by the vestiges of silver plating on the trigger guard and back strap. The serial number is found on cylinder, cylinder pin, barrel, frame, trigger guard, back strap, loading lever, wedge and grips. It is stamped "U.S.” under "Colts Patent” on the frame and includes the sub-inspector mark "H” on the cylinder, backstrap, trigger guard and grips as well as an "L” on the trigger guard. No cartouches are visible on the grips. The front sight is a German Silver blade set on a steel base dovetailed onto the barrel. This type of sight is a scarce factory variant. The rear sight on the trigger is more deeply defined than is normally seen. The muzzle shows holster wear on the left side and nine small notches are filed on the inside of the grip strap. If only this gun could talk, what stories it might tell.

Further information on these guns can be found in "51 Colt Navies” by Nathan L. Swayze and in "The Book of Colt Firearms” by R. L. Wilson.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-242

Identified Confederate Enfield Rifle-musket

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This Enfield rifle-musket was made by Barnett of London, a contractor known to have supplied arms to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Nicely carved on the cheek side of the buttstock in 3” letters are the letters "EMR” with smaller letters "Co C. 11 Ala” which identifies to gun to Erlander M. Richardson, a sergeant in the 11th Alabama Infantry.

The 11th Alabama, part of Cadmus Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade, had a stellar fighting record in the Civil War, and Sergeant Richardson was deeply involved from beginning to end of the conflict. Company C was organized in Clinton, Greene County, Alabama, located in the extreme western part of the state.

Richardson enlisted as a private on 11 June 1861 and from there his fortunes follow those of the 11th Alabama until their surrender nearly four years later at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Richardson fought at Seven Pines, was wounded at Gaines Mill during fighting on June 27, 1862 as the Alabama Brigade fought so gallantly on the right wing. As a result of his wounds, Richardson was sent to the Virginia Confederate Hospital at Dansville and a month later was furloughed to return home and recuperate. He returned to Richmond in October and was again went into service with his regiment on October 13, 1862. By this time he had been promoted to Sergeant, presumably for his conduct at Gaines Mill.

Sergeant Richardson continues to show up on various rolls and receipts indicating that he fought in nearly all the battles at which the 11th Alabama participated; most notably Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and the Crater at Petersburg.

When Lee fled Petersburg and the fighting reached Appomattox Court House, Sergeant Richardson was one of 176 men in his regiment, out of a total of 1, 192 who had enlisted at the onset of the war, to surrender on April 9, 1865. This rifle-musket most likely survived as a Union war trophy; one of the few guns not used to macadamize the road between Appomattox Court House and Appomattox Station following the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

This Enfield rifle-musket is completely original, down to the swivels and ramrod and it remains in very good condition considering the hard use it saw during the War. The Confederate linen sling, though correct for the period, is not original to the gun.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-237

5th Michigan Spencer Rifles

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Charles Spencer had trouble convincing the Army of the merits of his revolutionary seven shot repeating rifle. Brigadier General James Ripley, the army’s Chief of Ordinance wanted to standardize the myriad array of guns and calibers being used in the Civil War and thought that the rapid firing .52 caliber rifle with its copper rimfire cartridges would lead to a waste of ammunition. Only the mid-war endorsement of President Lincoln brought the Spencers to widespread use by Union armies on the battlefields.

The Spencer rifle has a 30 inch barrel of 6 grooves, with an overall length of 47 inches and a weight of 10 pounds. It has a spring cartridge injection system located in the buttstock and utilizes a blade type extractor to remove spent cartridges from the magazine. An estimated 11,471 were sold to the Army and another 2,000 to the Navy. Contract costs ranged from $35-$40 for each arm. The rifles were being replaced by carbines during the latter part of 1863.

The first batch of twelve hundred Spencer rifles were privately ordered by Lt. Colonel Joseph T. Copeland who spared no expense while organizing his 5th Michigan Cavalry. The first five hundred were received about January 5, 1863, followed by an additional five hundred in mid to late January. The remaining two hundred arrived around February 10, 1863. The first thousand Spencers bore serial numbers ranging from #1000 to #2050; the final two hundred were numbered between #2051-#3250. Nine hundred of these new rifles went to the 5th Michigan Cav, with the final three hundred being delivered to the 6th Michigan Cav.

Identified 5th Michigan Cavalry Spencer rifles are extremely rare. Shown here are two such rifles bearing serial numbers #1253 and #1853. Both would have seen use on the East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 when newly minted Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer’s dismounted 5th Michigan Cavalry clashed with a brigade of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry commanded by Colonel John R. Chambliss.

The Spencers turned out to be the most effective small arm of the Civil War. Their fire power transformed the Michigan Brigade under the leadership of their intrepid Boy General into the most effective cavalry brigade in the Union army.

Also shown are two tintypes (likely made by William Frank Browne) of 5th or 6th Michigan Cavalry troopers proudly displaying their "seven-shooters”.

For further information on Spencer rifles, see Wiley Sword’s excellent article, Those Damned Michigan Spencers – Colonel Copeland’s 5th Michigan Cavalry and their Spencer Rifles, Men at Arms Magazine, October, 1997.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-226

M1855 Colt Revolving Rifle

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Made from 1856 - 1864 in a quantity of 9310, this is the renowned Colt revolving rifled-musket. This specimen is the .56 caliber five-shot version, although these arms were also made in a six-shot .44 caliber variety. Its barrel is 36¼” in length and is round with semi-octagonal breech, fitted with a front sight machined for a socket bayonet and sling swivels in both the stock and rear barrel band.

It has the characteristic one-line address "COL. COLT HARTFORD CT. U.S.A.” with a fluted unmarked cylinder. All matching serial numbers #5306 with exception of the brass trigger guard #7575. Full-length oil finished stock in fine condition with minor usage marks, no cartouche. Metal is clean with minor pitting on cylinder and topstrap, fixed rear sight.

This unique rifle was originally produced as an enlarged version of the well liked Colt revolvers, but was soon considered too complicated for military use. Its tendency to flash fire multiple cylinders was disconcerting to the user, to say the least. The best known use of the Colt Rifle was with the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters, but its most noteworthy action was likely at the fearful defense of Snodgrass Hill, at the Battle of Chickamauga, where the 21st Ohio along with a few other regiments took part in holding off an entire Confederate Corps, expending 43,000 rounds of ammunition in an afternoon before retiring.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-176

Model 1861 Rifle-Musket

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This arm is termed the Model 1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket, and was made in a quantity of 265,129 between 1861 and 1863 at Springfield armory. Thousands of near-duplicates were manufactured by private contractors across the North during the war years.

Identifying features of the Model 1861 are its arch shaped hammer, a 40” round barrel which was loaded through the muzzle with a .58 caliber minie-ball, three barrel bands, a clean-out screw in the bolster, and iron mountings, with all parts showing a bright arsenal finish. The rear sight and nipple are a quenched blue. The M1861 was the standard infantry longarm of the Civil War.

On this example, the lock markings are an eagle motif with "U.S./SPRINGFIELD” and "1863” marked vertically at the rear of the lock and also at the breech tang. The breech shows clear markings "V/P” with eaglehead proof and "US” on the tang of the buttplate. There are New Jersey markings on the barrel breech and the stock opposite the lock, indicating it was a state or militia purchase.

This piece is in excellent original condition, the stock is crisp with only tiny bruises and handling marks. It has an excellent ramrod and bore. The Model 1861 saw hard use throughout the Civil War and is a difficult piece to find in better than good condition.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-175

H & P Conversion Musket

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In the years prior to, and during early portions of the Civil War, U.S. armories were gradually converting flintlock arms in their inventories to the more efficient and dependable percussion ignition. Federal stockpiles of flintlock muskets were inspected and graded, with the better condition arms then set apart for conversion.

Various methods were employed to accomplish the change-over, with some of the work being performed by private contractors. One of the more common methods was the bolster alteration seen here, on what is known as an H & P Conversion.

The flintlock flashpan was removed and a bolster installed near the breech of the barrel, along with a percussion nipple and new hammer. "H & P” for Hewes & Phillips is seen on the face of the bolster. Two thousand such alterations were completed to Model 1816 and Model 1835 flintlocks.

This .69 caliber musket is in fine plus condition showing much arsenal bright finish and original raised grain on the stock, with only tiny storage dents and minor losses opposite lock. It bears its original blued two leaf rear sight. The 1862 date on the smoothbore barrel indicates its conversion during the war. The lock is dated 1832. There is a very sharp eagle over "US” with "Springfield 1832” marked vertically on the lock. Two faint cartouches remain on the stock. Its bayonet and scabbard remain with the musket.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-174

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