This old Colt Navy Revolver is a hard-used veteran of the Civil War and probably saw continuous use from the start in 1861 right up to the end in 1865. There are no less than three sets of initials scratched into the brass gripstraps used to identify the soldiers who carried her during the war...some over the top of others. The serial number is in the 106,000 range which dates it to 1861 production. That year, Colt produced 20,000 units that fall in between the 98,000 and 118,000 serial ranges. With the outbreak of the Civil War beginning in April 1861, this Navy would have hit the market in the first days of the conflict...probably in the spring and no later than the summer of 1861. Colts just prior to the 100,000 serial range were shipping south with the less inflammatory "Hartford" barrel addresses instead of "New York", a town some considered to be strongly associated with the abolitionist movement. However, whether it was simply coincidence or just a clever marketing ploy, once the war began and sales reverted back to those trying to save the Union, Sam Colt quickly changed the barrel address on his revolver back to more well-known "New York" style. This particular gun is a standard .36 caliber with 7-1/2" octagonal barrel, and six shot cylinder and has Sam Colt's post April 1861 reconstituted and more patriotic sounding "New York" barrel address. See photos. Still, in spite of its slightly post-April 1861 manufacture date, Colts in this serial range were still finding their way south...especially in border states with strong pro-southern sentiments like Maryland and Kentucky.
With their years of searching through gov't archives, records compiled by the Springfield Research Service provide a glimpse of who was being issued some of these early 1861 production Model 1851 Navies during the Civil War. It lists a number of 1851 Navies in the low 100K's going to mostly Union cavalry units but still includes several issued to the Confederate McClellan Troop Tennessee Cavalry. This one, 106,644 is bracketed by No. 106,625 which was issued to the 3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry in 1861 and 106,730 which issued to McClellan's CSA Tenn. Cavalry on August 25, 1861. Clearly, some Colts were still crossing the Mason-Dixon line after the war had begun. The Colt Archives should have a record of where and when this gun was shipped as their records for the 1851 Navy are fairly complete from the 98,000 to roughly the 135,000 range. For a fee, Colt can provide a factory certified letter stating the specifics.
Overall, condition is NRA Antique Good. The metal is a little frosty but has very good edges and markings and has turned to a light silver to gray patina. There is a bit of holster wear at the muzzle indicative of cavalry usage. The cylinder shows typical wear chafing in a leather holster. As a result of this, there is only approximately 15% of the roll engraved cylinder scene visible...mostly towards the rear just ahead of the cylinder stops. The serial numbers are all matching except for the barrel wedge which appears to have been with the gun forever but is not numbered. Bore has good lands and grooves with a fair bit of scattered pitting...typical of most black-powder era weapons from the Civil War. Fair+ overall. The back of the cylinder still shows several of the original safety pins...four are in fair condition while two are almost worn flat...which is pretty good considering what it went through during its period of use. The screws are Good+ to Very Good condition overall. The walnut grips show lots of wear but are solid with no cracks, chips, or repairs. The action is well-used but in good working order. Cylinder advances properly, hammer cocks on full with all four clicks. Barrel is tight to the frame with no wobble or play. A decent example of an important early Civil War era Colt Revolver that falls between documented examples that were issued to both the Union and Confederate cavalry units at the beginning of the war.