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US Model 1836 Cavalry Pistol w/ CW Confederate Conversion to Percussion

This is a local find that turned up recently here in north Georgia.  It's a flintlock US Model 1836 Flintlock Cavalry Pistol converted by the Confederacy to percussion during the early days of the Civil War.  The 1836 was standard issue during the Mexican-American War with many seeing later service in the Civil War. They were work-horses and considered to be the finest of all US military flintlock pistols. The conversion was well done and was one of the approximately 450 flintlock cavalry pistols (mostly US Model 1836 and Virginia Manufactory pistols) altered by Thomas J. Adams of Richmond, VA.  Records show that Adams converted these for the state of Virginia during the first half of 1862.

At that time, there was an acute need for serviceable weapons in the South.  Many Confederate soldiers had joined state regiments that had been shipped off to be trained and armed in northern Virginia.  However, by 1862, many were still waiting to be issued weapons while others had to make do with old flintlocks, double barrel shotguns, and small caliber sporting/hunting rifles.  The South had purchased thousands of new Enfield rifles from Great Britain but only a handful of shipments had made it across the pond and through the Union blockade.  States like Virginia began going back through their arsenals and sending old flintlock muskets to mechanics for repairs and conversions to percussion.  Many flintlocks were issued directly to troops and converted to percussion as time permitted. Thomas Adams not only converted flintlock pistols to percussion, records show he used the same process to convert various muskets including Model 1817 rifles, Virginia Manufactory Rifles, Deringer Rifles, and even French Charleville muskets left over from the Revolutionary War.   There is an excellent chapter on these Adams conversions in John Murphy's book, Confederate Rifles and Muskets...pg. 21-34.  This pistol matches up perfectly to the typical Adams profile layed out by Murphy.

From Murphy's book quoting Lieutenant-Colonlel Wharton J. Green who commanded a composite unit for the Confederate National Gov't known as the 2nd Battalion North Carolina Volunteer Infantry:

Governor John W. Ellis (Governor of NC) gave me an order for some six hundred Enfield rifles, the only ones at the State's disposal.  Unfortunately however, before all my companies could reach the camp of formation and requisition be made for the guns, this glorious son of North Carolina had breathed his last, and his successor revoked the order and gave the guns to another. ...though cheated of our "Enfields", to the front we would go with squirrel substitutes and double barrel shot guns of divers (sic) calibere. Every man was afraid that he could not get a hand before the game would be ended.  And so these honest workmen took the best tools that they could get, and there was no grumbling.  We all expected better after our first fair field and an honest fight.  Fortunately our uncouth armament was supplemented by some 350 old flintlock muskets which Governor Letcher, of Virginia, generously turned over to us because his folks would not touch such tools.  After being percussioned by the Government, they made very respectable killing implements, especially when each double barrel man carried bside a two foot carving knife of the heft of a meat axe in lieu of a bayonet.

Murphy even shows a tabulation of voucher numbers and payments to Adams for his conversions of pistols and muskets from Dec. 1861 to June 1862.  For example, voucher "2492" was dated Jan. 1, 1862 in the amount of $456.00 for altering "cav pistols". It's believed that Adams charged $4.00 for each conversion. Adams converted these pistols and muskets for Virginia using a method that involved brazing a rather chunky looking bolster to the side of the barrel over the vent or touch hole. Most surviving specimens seem to have a prolific quantity of assembly number in the form of roman numerals applied by Adam's workmen during the conversion process.  These numerals can be found on the left side of the wood, inside the lock, hammer, ramrod, and underneath the barrel.  This gun has two sets, a II and and VI...see photos.  If you look carefully at the photo of the bottom of the barrel, you can see the braze marks where the bolster was attached to the barrel.  Also, not the plugged holes on both sides of the barrel where the Confederates ran a bolt to secure the bolster in place while being brazed together.  After the operation was completed, the bolt was removed and the holes were filled were filled with iron.  Note that there is a large punch mark placed the middle of each plug to prevent it from backing out.  Also not the crude percussion hammer fitted to the shaft of the tumbler with its tip peened over a brass shim.  What amazes me as a collector is how durable the conversions were as the bolster and hammer survived the war and remain intact 148 years later.

Overall condition is NRA Antique Good as Converted.  The metal has turned to an overall gray patina with some light corrosion and scattered light pitting.  The lock has only a trace of the original maker's name..but based on the few letters we can find, it appears to have been manufactured by Asa Waters of Milbury, Massachusetts between 1837-43.  In terms of Confederate-used weapons, this one is quite respectable.  The wood is solid with no major problems.  There is a sliver of wood chipped off the top of the lockplate...probably during or before the war as it's somewhat rounded over from use.  The left side of the stock still retains both original US inspector cartouches flanked by Confederate assembly roman numerals applied at the time of conversion.  The bottom of the wood in front of the trigger guard has a soldier's initials, "H K" cut into the grain.  Given the vast disparity of weaponry used by Southern units, it was not uncommon for soldiers to place their initials on their weapons as proof of ownership.  The action is in good working order.  Original captive ramrod is intact...the left arm of the cage may be an old replacement.  Otherwise, this example appears to be all original.  A nice solid example of a well-documented Confederate Cavalry pistol that's priced at a fraction of what most CS revolvers cost and an important acquisition for any Confederate Cavalry collection.

Item# 9228




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