This is a very solid example of a 4th Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolver in .36 caliber with a Hartford barrel address and possible ID to a Confederate private who served in a GA cavalry unit during the battle of Atlanta in 1864. Serial number is in the 98,000 range which is PRIME territory for purchases that shipped to Southern states just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. According to Colt's Dates of Manufacture by R.L. Wilson, the was the 5th Colt Navy produced in January, 1861 which is chronologically at the height of Southern states seceding from the Union.
At this moment in time, the South was buying up all the weapons it could just prior to the beginning of the Civil War with Colt revolvers high on the list...particularly the .36 caliber Model 1851 Navy and the brand new .44 caliber Model 1860 Army. Following the presidential election of 1860, South Carolina was the first state in the South to secede on Dec. 20, 1861. In the month this gun was made...January of 1861, five more Southern states seceded from the Union with Texas following on Feb. 1, 1861. Colt shipped thousands of Colt 1851 Navies, 1860 Army, and 1849 Pocket revolvers to the South from 1860 all the way up to mid-April of 1861 when the war started.
One unique aspect of Colt revolvers being manufactured at this point in time is the Hartford barrel addresses which we'll go into further detail below, but even more interesting is the crude inscription on the bottomstrap. It is not the best or the most legible inscription that I've had on a Colt, but fortunately, enough of it could be made out to make what we'd call an "educated guess". There is a set of initials followed by what appears to be the soldier's unit. Most of the time when we see initials, there is nothing to go along with them...to direct them to anything but this one has what appears to be a unit marking along with it. Using those two bits of information, we were able to narrow our search down to a single Confederate cavalryman who served in the 11th Georgia Cavalry during the battle of Atlanta in 1864. Lastly, it never hurts to find Colts with 1860-61 dates with Hartford addresses in the South instead of the North. This particular revolver was found at a show in North Carolina about a year ago. No family history, just that the owner was from the eastern part of the state and it had been in his collection for a number of years.
I'm going to do my best here and devote a paragraph of information to each one of these subjects...the political climate when this revolver was made, the significance of the serial range, the Hartford address, the ID to a Confederate soldier, and lastly the gun itself.
The Secession Window, Nov. 1860-April 12, 1861: Following Abraham Lincoln's election in November, 1860, Southern states began to secede from the Union. Without going into too much detail here, these states were not too happy about the victory of the northern political party winning the presidential election.
In fact, Lincoln was not even on the presidential ballot in many Southern states. Here is a link if you'd like to get a better understanding of the election of 1860:
I can recall several years ago reading through some of the Georgia State Assembly notes from its meeting in Dec. 1860...there were some fiery speeches made as well as a great deal of discussion of manufacturing weapons and securing additional arms from manufacturers in the North. There is even mention of an order of guns they had purchased from Eli Whitney, Jr. which they found to be unsatisfactory. For the next several months until the war began, the South purchased numerous arms from the North. As noted, this Colt revolver was the fifth 1851 Navy Revolver produced in 1861. Here is a timeline listing the order of southern states seceding from the Union. Note what takes place in the month of January, 1861.
||Date of Secession
||December 20, 1860
||January 9, 1861
||January 10, 1861
||January 11, 1861
||January 19, 1861
||January 26, 1861
||February 1, 1861
||April 17, 1861
||May 6, 1861
||May 20, 1861
||June 8, 1861
Colts that shipped South: Today, the profile of an 1851 Navy that might have shipped South prior to the war is going to be a 4th Model with a large trigger guard, in the 90,000 to 100,000 serial range, and a Hartford barrel address. That is not to say that guns in this range didn't stay in the North...as some certainly were bought and purchased in Northern states prior to the war. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to find a few of these guns. Thus far, I've found one in the 96,000 range that came from a family in South Carolina, another in the 97,000 that was found here in Georgia in the late 1960's, and another in the 97,000 range. Here are the links to those three:
The Hartford Barrel Address: as collectors have noted on many an 1860-61 era Colt, the barrel address is marked "Hartford" instead of "New York". In the months preceding the Civil War, Sam Colt, who was not only a great inventor but a shrewd businessman, changed the company address atop the barrels of his revolvers from New York (Colt's business headquarters was located in NYC) to Hartford (The site of Colt's factory) for political concerns. At that time, New York City was regarded as the center of the abolition movement. With many of Colt's orders now shipping to the pro-slavery South in anticipation of a conflict, the "New York" on the barrel of each revolver was not well-received by many of Colt's customers residing south of the Mason-Dixon line. Hence, the change to the factory address in Hartford. At least, that's the theory behind the change. Whatever the case, one cannot ignore the timing for by April 1861 when the war began and supply lines leading south now cut off, Colt once again changed the address back to New York as he began to supply Colts exclusively to his Northern customers. Colts made from 1860 to early 1861 with the Hartford barrel address occupy a small but fascinating window in United States history when even manufacturers had to tread lightly over how they labeled their products so as not to offend Southern and Northern customers over the slavery issues of the day.
Private Albert Jenkins, 11th Georgia Cavalry: As noted, there is a set of initials on the bottomstrap between the grips. As there are numerous nicks and scratches, it took some time to study this small strip of silver plated brass and decipher what the previous owner had tried to scratch into the metal so long ago. One of the good aspects of the original silver plating being present is that it serves as a good indicator that there could have been no other letters present that were worn off. That is always a big problem when studying a set of markings over a worn surface. Fortunately, this is a better than average Colt and the original and more fragile silver would have had to have worn away first before it gave any markings. This made things a little easier in spite of the crudeness of the inscription. However, before I knock this guy's penmanship, or lack thereof, one of the positive aspects of someone using such ordinary and unprofessional means to inscribe their weapon is that it fits the nature of front-line combat, particularly in the South where engravers were few and far between. Whereas professional engraving was often used as a means for presentation and identification...mostly in the North, combat inscriptions are a little more hardscrabble...there is a necessity to them. From a personal point of view, having seen so many, it strikes me as basically a soldier's way of saying, "Hey, this is my weapon...it belongs to me so don't touch it." This happened within the enlisted ranks of the Union Army to some degree but it was especially prevalent in the South where there was a greater degree of inequality when it came down to grades of weapons. For a Confederate to have a Colt was to own a great prize and an absolute necessity for a cavalryman! So here we are...what did these letters say...what was this man who carried this weapon trying to write on his gun? They are in three little clumps. The first letters appeared to me as "AJ" with the "J" done in cursive with a loop. Then there is a short space and the next marking appears to be the number "11" followed by the letter "GA". Then came the last bit of the inscription...it runs right to the edge of the serial number and appears to grow smaller and slightly downward as the inscriber is running out of room. It looks like "clvy" in cursive. He's out of room so it looks like he's abbreviating for "cavalry" only he probably thinks it's spelled "calvary" (not uncommon) as he places the letters "L" and "V" in the wrong order. So, if you look at the closeup of the photo, I've tried to point out these markings. To me, it reads, "AJ"...."11"..."GA"..."clvy" followed by the serial number and the screw for the frontstrap. From there, we looked up the muster roll of the 11th Georgia Cavalry and learned that the unit was composed of men from the 30th Georgia Cavalry with additional men from North Georgia in the latter half of 1864. To my surprise, there was only one soldier in the 11th Georgia with the initials "AJ"...a private named Albert Jenkins. Next, I paid a visit to the Georgia State Archives located just south of Atlanta in Jonesboro, GA. At first, the archivist thought there were no additional records for Jenkins as the book she was consulting claimed there was no information for Companies H and beyond. Fortunately, another archivist suggested pulling the microfilm anyway and lo and behold, there was a record on Jenkins...not much but a record nonetheless. It showed that Albert Jenkins enlisted as a private and was assigned to Company H of the 11th Georgia Cavalry (Young's Regiment) on July 19, 1864 in Clarkesville, Georgia. No other records were available for Jenkins nor did I find any pension records with the state of Georgia. As many Confederate records are far from complete...especially in the Western theater of the Civil War, this was not a surprise as there was a great deal of chaos in these last few months of the War. That said, what we know about the 11th Georgia was that it was formed to serve the northeastern part of Georgia following the invasion of the Union Army, led by General Sherman, in May, 1864. Looking at the muster records of other soldiers in the 11th GA...some were blank but many showed records from having belonged to the 30th GA Cavalry which was merged into the 11th. Some were wounded, some dropped out of sight, but I do remember seeing one who managed to survive and surrendered in 1865 with Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina. Interesting to me because that is where this revolver turned up.
Condition: Overall Condition grades NRA Antique Very Good Plus. The serial numbers are all matching except for the wedge. Trigger guard and backstrap retain a remarkable 90% original silver plating. The balance of the metal has turned to a smooth silver-gray patina with sharp edges and no pitting. The cylinder has about 75% good visible roll-engraved scene remaining. Original walnut grips are Very Good with 75% original varnish remaining. One small chip of wood at the front of the right side of the grip has been re-attached...barely noticeable. I almost missed it. Very Good Action. Bore has all of its original seven-groove rifling intact with some scattered pits...I would grade it Fair+ to Good overall. Good screws throughout. A very solid example of a Colt 1851 Navy made in 1861 with a Hartford address and what I feel is a good possible ID to a Confederate cavalryman who fought in the Georgia campaign in 1864.