This a Confederate Rigdon and Ansley Revolver Manufactured in Augusta, Georgia in 1864. As one of my friends likes to say about weapons made in the South during the Civil War, "Now, here is a gun that was wrought in anger!" Serial number is in the high 1900 range....which is correct for an R&A and right about mid-production. While it's ALWAYS a good idea to be cautious whenever purchasing anything Confederate, buying a Revolver purported as Confederate can prove to be a very risky proposition; probably akin to swimming in shark-infested waters! That said, we are going to provide perhaps a bit more information than the casual browser of this website will probably want to read or view. However, this is a significant investment for someone to make and we're going to try our best to cover all the bases.
For starters, this Rigdon & Ansley has a pretty respectable pedigree dating back almost 70 years. It was purchased in 1943 from the Kimball Arms Company by Charles Dupont where it remained in his collection for over 60 years. Dupont was a US Army Officer during World War II and was also a direct descendant of the founders of the Dupont Chemical Company. From the way it was explained to us, the War years were quite a boom for chemical companies, especially ones supplying material for munitions like Dupont. While there were many Dupont descendants, the extra income that trickled his way afforded the young Mr. Dupont the opportunity to expand his collection. This is essentially how he obtained this particular Rigdon and Ansley revolver during the War. We have the page for this gun from Dupont's notebook in which he recorded the details of various items in his collection. Furthermore, allthough we have not located a copy to date, this gun may also be listed in the 1943 Kimball Arms Catalog. These will turn up on ebay from time to time.
While its always nice to have written documentation of an old gun in any form, it NEVER hurts to discover one of your guns published in a book. That's exactly what happened to us a few weeks ago with this Rigdon and Ansley. While skimming through some books in my Library (which always seem to end up in a great heap upon the floor), I began thumbing through an older book on Colt Revolvers and stumbled onto something quite exciting. There it was..this EXACT revolver photographed in a book and listed by serial number. Not only was it pictured, it owned the entire page (P. 125 to be exact) in the book "A History Of The Colt Revolver from 1836-1940" by Charles Haven and Frank Belden Copyright 1940. Underneath the photo, there is a detailed description along with the serial number. Now, back in 1940, collectors didn't have all the information we do today about Confederate manufacturers...and hopefully we will have even more in the future as there are still unidentified weapons out there in need of research. Since late Rigdon and Ansley Revolvers, like this one, are only marked with a "CSA" on the barrel, the authors didn't know exactly what to call it so they titled it as a "Confederate Navy Pistol". They do note the "CSA" marking on the barrel as well as the serial number. As you will note, the gun still looks identical to the way it was back in 1939 or 1940 when it was photographed for the book. While it was hard to photograph the gun resting on the book, the individual nicks and dings on the grips, scratches, nicks, profiles, etc. are identical...including the wedge...which appears to be a hand-forged battlefield replacement.
Overall, it grades to NRA Antique Fair++ to Good Condition. The serial numbers are all matching except for the aforementioned wedge, which is crude and hand-made and probably a battlefield replacment. The serial number is found on the frame, barrel, trigger guard, backstrap, cylinder, loading lever, loading lever catch, and in pencil on the back of the wooden grips. The metal was cleaned a long time ago and is turning to a silvery grey. As you will note from the photos, it hasn't changed much since it was pictured in "A History of the Colt Revolver" in 1939-40. While not the original patina, the clean surfaces allow this gun to display and photograph very well as allows your eyes to focus on the architecture rather than being drowned out by the texture. This would look right at home on display in a museum. The serial numbers are quite good overall. A letter "J" is located beneath the serial number on the trigger guard. Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms notes this marking is found on some Leech and Rigdon's as well. The barrel is marked "CSA" which is still discernable but quite light and only about half-there. In addition, the bottom of the grip has a visible Confederate Inspector's cartouche inside a parallelogram-shaped border. From the book "Confederate Arms" by Albaugh and Simmons, it mentions these were inspected by Officer Wescom Hudgins, Captain CSA. He also inspected arms made by Cook & Bros. in nearby Athens, GA. His initials "WH" inside the border don't show much wear but are partially obscured by dings and tap marks from when someone tried to use this weapon as a hammer. This is a very common occurrence we find on old percussion Colts and it apparently wasn't any different for the Confederacy. The internal mechanics, the brass grip straps, and the wooden grips are completely untouched. Brass has a nice mellow painta. The grips show some natural shrinkage off the straps but have never been sanded or touched in any way. In fact, they still show 20% original varnish which it particularly strong nearest the frame, lower edges, and across the base. The mechanics appear to be all original Confederate components and while a bit tired which is to be expected, the action does index fairly well and the hammer works on both full and half cocked positions. Internally, we noted the cut for the capping channel which is correct for a Rigdon & Ansley as well as the roller bearing on the hammer. The bore has some scattered pitting but still retains all of its original 7 groove rifling. Screws are all in good condition. Hammer knurling shows some wear but mostly intact. Nipples appear to be all original as well.
So why was the metal cleaned? Well obviously, this is something we modern collectors frown upon today but it was quite common for collectors to do this back in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's. The minute I saw this one, I had a pretty good idea that this came it from an older American collection. Over the past several decades, we've since established that its better to leave the original surfaces of a gun alone, but you will still see this with European collectors to some degree as well. Now, before you condemn these old-timers as irreverent buffoons, remember this: Back in the day, these early collectors weren't blessed with things we take for granted like air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Back then, temperatures and humidity inside your household cycled up and down right along with what the weather outside. These constantly changing condition wreaked havoc on everything you owned...shellac on your furniture would craze and bubble, textiles and leather would fade, but it was especially bad on steel and iron which are always in search of oxygen atoms to stabilize their positive charges. With high temps and humidity, this was especially bad down here in the South. When the owner of an old gun cleaned it, he was usually doing his best to protect and preserve his collection. Just like a polished suit of Medieval Armor, smooth metal was far more resistant than rough textures to picking up oxygen and corroding. This is the same reason the US Military used to polish their guns bright for over 100 years. That said, while we're not condoning it, there was some reasoning that went behind this practice. Here is a link to an old Confederate Richmond Sharps Carbine with a similar appearance to this Rigdon and Ansley. We sold this a few years ago and it too, came from an older American collection that dated back to the 1920's:
Or a Colt 3rd Model Dragoon:
HISTORY OF RIGDON ANSLEY:The forerunner to this model was known as the Leech and Rigdon Revolver. In appearance they are identical except for the 12 cylinder stops on the Rigdon and Ansley compared to just 6 on the Leech and Rigdon. The R&A also has a capping channel milled into the recoil shield and a Colt type loading lever latch. The Company was initially formed during the early part of the Civil War by Thomas Leech and Charles. H. Rigdon in Memphis, TN. In 1862, the Company was moved to Columbus, MS to escape Union Forces after producing approx. 350 pistols, was once again forced to move to avoid capture that Fall. The firm subsequently to Greensboro, GA and resumed manufacture in 1863. In Dec., 1863 Thomas Leech left the firm. Trying to produce revolvers while staying one step ahead of the Union Army was proving to be a chore for Rigdon. In Jan. 1864, Rigdon once again packed up his tooling and moved his factory further East to its final location in Augusta, GA. That same year where he re-formed the Company with three new partners, Jesse Ansley, J.A. Smith, and Charles Keen. Now under the name "Rigdon and Ansley" the firm worked initially to finish up the remaining Leech and Rigdon to fulfill the contract the old firm had with the Confederate Government. Once completed, the Rigdon and Ansley Revolvers were serial numbered consecutively from the Leech and Ridgon guns from approximately 1500-2300s?. While some of the early ones have barrel markings "Augusta, Ga., many of the last guns were simply marked "CSA". Perhaps leaving the name and location off the product may have been perceived as a little cheap, but Rigdon probably had some good reasons for doing so. As many of you probably know, the year 1864 was not very kind to Georgia. With half the Union Army bearing down on the state, the last thing a company producing weapons for the Confederacy wanted to do was leave their calling card for General Sherman. After Atlanta was taken and destroyed by the Union Army, nobody knew where Sherman would strike next and the citizens residing in Macon, Augusta, and Savannah were greatly concerned. However, with Confederates trying their best to cut his supply lines, Sherman had other ideas and his main goal was to get his Army safely to the Atlantic Coast. As a result, Macon and Augusta were spared by the North.
If you're looking for a solid original example of a Rigdon and Ansley Revolver for your collection, here is one you will never have to question. It's been in a prominent American collection for nearly 70 years, pictured in a book, looks and displays great, and won't cost you $30K.