This is a very interesting Colt 1849 pocket percussion revolver with 6" barrel and 5 shot cylinder in .31 caliber. Serial number is in the 187,000 range and was made in 1861. Colt 1849 Pocket revolvers were very popular with both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. The near countless numbers of studio photos taken during the war of soldiers proudly wielding their Colt 49's is ample proof of this weapon's popularity. This revolver came from a family about 40 miles East of us near Athens, GA. It was inherited from a father to a son...but we don't have any provenance. However, there is no question this revolver was used in the Civil War. The bottomstrap is nicely inscribed "APRIL 1861". The backstrap also bears an inscription that partially removed a very long time ago. We wondered for quite some time why someone would remove the inscription but keep the presentation date! Was this gun captured from a Union Officer by a Confederate, lifted in camp? Whatever the reason, the new owner did not like the presentation but chose to leave the date perfectly intact. All serial numbers are perfect and intact. Fortunately, Colt backstraps have a slight curvature to them which allowed some of the high and low sections of the engraving to survive. If you study it long enough, you can get a fairly good idea of what almost each word says. The inscription is a presentation to an officer, definitely a Captain, from his friends but I can't quite make out the name. It looks like "Captain ?.?. ??ri?? (Lyris? Pyris?..I can't figure it out) f??? (from) ???(his) G????fu?(Greatful) Friends.. The words Captain and Friends are pretty clear...and the name is about half visible..the rest of the words are in fragments but enough is there to allow for a little deductive reasoning. I think someone who knows engraving bettern than our un-trained eyes might be able to identify who this officer was. If so, you'll have a gun worth considerably more than the selling price.
This is one of those guns we run into on occasion that will really get the wheels turning in trying to fill in the blanks of what must have been a great story during the biggest crisis in US History. We contacted the Colt Archives in hope that the inscription was done by the factory. Unfortunately, most inscriptions were done by the dealers who sold the guns directly to their customers. Colt seems to have rarely engraved presentations that weren't from the Inventor himself, Mr. Sam Colt. This gun was no exception and must have been engraved at the store. Still, the letter was still quite interesting and did confirm the time-frame of the April 1861 presentation. The Archives Letter revealed this gun was shipped on March, 5 1861 in an order of 70 guns to Colt's New York Office on 240 Broadway St., NY, NY. This gun shipped from Colt the day after Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States. Samuel Colt was a shrewd businessman and a keen sense for calculating opportunity. He knew a war was coming and did his best to sell his arms to both sides of the forthcoming conflict. As you know, the Southern states had threatened to secede from the Union if Lincoln was elected President. The following is a brief time-line we borrowed from another website showing the events that this gun seems to have been a part of during those first tumultuous months of 1861:
January 1861 -- The South Secedes.
When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, was elected president, the South Carolina legislature perceived a threat. Calling a state convention, the delegates voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the union known as the United States of America. The Secession of South Carolina was followed by the secession of six more states.
January 9 - Mississippi seceded from the Union.
January 10 - Florida seceded from the Union.
January 11 Alabama seceded from the Union.
January 19 Georgia seceded from the Union.
January 26 Louisiana seceded from the Union.
January 29 Kansas admitted to the Union.
February 1 Texas seceded from the Union.
February 1861 -- The South Creates a Government.
At a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, the seven seceding states created the Confederate Constitution , a document similar to the United States Constitution, but with greater stress on the autonomy of each state.
February 1861 -- The South Seizes Federal Forts.
When President Buchanan -- Lincoln's predecessor -- refused to surrender southern federal forts to the seceding states, southern state troops seized them. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina troops repulsed a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in the fort. The ship was forced to return to New York, its supplies undelivered.
March 4 1861 -- Lincoln's Inauguration .
At Lincoln's inauguration the new president said he had no plans to end slavery in those states where it already existed, but he also said he would not accept secession . He hoped to resolve the national crisis without warfare.
March 5, This Colt shipped to Colt's New York Office
March 11 1861-- Confederate Constitution .
April 1861 -- Attack on Fort Sumter .
When President Lincoln planned to send supplies to Fort Sumter, he alerted the state in advance, in an attempt to avoid hostilities. South Carolina, however, feared a trick. On April 10, 1861, Brig. Gen. Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, demanded the surrender of the Union garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
The Garrison commander Anderson refused. On April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, which was unable to reply effectively. At 2:30 p.m., April 13, Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating the garrison on the following day.
April 17 Virginia seceded from the Union.
April 1861-- Four More States Join the Confederacy.
The attack on Fort Sumter prompted four more states to join the Confederacy. With Virginia's secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capitol.
May 6 Arkansas seceded from the Union.
May 18-19, 1861 Sewell's Point
May 20 North Carolina seceded from the Union.
May 29-June 1, 1861 Aquia Creek
June 1861-- West Virginia Is Born.
Residents of the western counties of Virginia did not wish to secede along with the rest of the state. This section of Virginia was admitted into the Union as the state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Very Good Plus and untouched. All numbers are 100% matching including wedge.The metal has mostly subsided to a nice brown patina with strong traces of original blue on the barrel and 15-20% original case colors mixed through the patina on the frame. Brass triggerguard retains 40% original silver plate while the backstrap shows about 10%. Cylinder has 80% good scene of the stage coach robber. Walnut grips still show 75-80% original varnish. One small chip on the lower front corner of the left side. Good traces of original fire blue is evident on a couple of the screws. Very good screws overall showing little turn wear. Only exception is the screw that holds the trigger in the frame is chipped internally...still holds the trigger just but missing the end. Action works nicely. Barrel to frame lockup is tight with no wiggle or play. Good+ to VG bore that's semi-bright with strong rifling but showing typical scattered pitting you often find on black powder weapons. Barrel address reads clearly "ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW-YORK US AMERICA". Both the cylinder and left side of frame marked "COLT'S PATENT". Comes with Factory Letter confirming Configuration, Destination, and an exciting early 1861 shipping date. The timing of this gun's manufacture cannot get any better for a Colt 1849 Pocket.