This is a nice .44 Caliber Percussion Starr 2nd Model Army Revolver from the Civil War. It is martially marked with gov't inspector cartouches on the grips and sub-inspector initial stamps on the various components. Serial numbers is in the 38,000 range with matching numbers. The previous design to this version, the 1st Model Starr was a double action which was built along the lines of the British Adams revolvers. Unfortunately, as great an advancement as this truly was, the added complexity of this design did not always hold up well in the combat conditions of the Civil War. The 2nd Model Starr is a bit of an anomaly in that unlike most successive designs, its mechanics were actually simplified to a single action. Not only did this improve reliability, but production costs were reduced as well.. In addition, the barrel on the 2nd Model was lengthened from 6" to 8", the same as the the Colt 1860 Army and Remington New Model Army Revolvers. For a comparison example, please see the following link to a 1st Model Starr we sold a few years ago:
There were 25,000 units of the 2nd Model were manufactured from 1863-1865, where they saw action in the latter half of the war. The serial numbers ran successive to the 1st Model and start around 23,000 to the end of production. The National Archives has a few records of guns (only 26 recorded out of 25,000) above the 23,000 range, which could only be 2nd Model Starrs. These include the 1st Colorado Cavalry, the 6th and 7th Michigan Cavalries, and the 11th New York Cavalry. Interesting to note that these bigger .44's were all being issued to cavalry units and as far west as Colorado during the last two years of the Civil War. The recorded dates for these Starrs span from February 1864 to April 1865. From past experience, these dates can represent anything ranging from the date of issue, loss in the field, theft by a deserter, defective due to a mechanical failure, replacement, etc. In terms of serial number proximity, the closest one with a record to ours is also in the 38,000 range. This revolver belonged to the 6th Michigan Cavalry (only one recorded from this unit) and has some type of record from February of 1865. Since there are no other numbers in this range, it's probably not the day the entire regiment or company received them which was either lost or never recorded by the company quartermasters...but deals with an incident pertaining to a specific soldier. This information can be found in Volume Four of Serial Numbers of US Martial Arms by Springfield Research. Going a bit further and giving the history of the 6th Michigan Cavalry a quick study, we learn that the 6th was commanded at one time by George Armstrong Custer. In October 1864, Custer's younger brother Thomas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Custer joined the 6th who won two Medal of Honors in the last week of the Civil War. The 6th was heavily engaged in the destruction of Lee's Army following the breakout of Richmond and Petersburg right through Appomattox Courthouse. It saw action at the Battles of Five Forks on April 1st, Namozine Church on April 3, Saylor's Creek April 6, and Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Following the Civil War, the 6th Michigan was sent west to build Fort Connor for the Powder River Expedition against the Arapaho, Sioux, and Cheyenne Indian Tribes of the Montana and Dakota Territories during the summer of 1865. See link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6th_Michigan_Volunteer_Cavalry_Regiment
With this information, we can get a pretty good snapshot or glimpse of when, where, and with whom a 2nd Model Starr might have seen use. Chances are that most were never issued but the ones that were saw action in the last year of the war and postwar West. Given the wear on this revolver but still showing much of its original finish, it's clear this Starr was issued and saw a few months of service with a cavalry regiment. In terms of wear, it fits very much along the lines of cavalry units such as the 6th Michigan Cavalry. You can clearly see the holster wear along the sides and upper section of the barrel with chafing along the right side of the muzzle from jostling while being carried on horseback. There is also some very old but fine corrosion around the nipples and forcing cone from where it was fired in service. The beauty of this gun is that it wasn't in service for long. It's in overall NRA Antique Fine Condition retaining 60% original blue overall with 20% fading case colors on the hammer and loading lever. The original walnut grips are untouched and have a great appearance, not darkened, with light wear in terms of dings and scratches, with good military cartouches, and no cracks or repairs. Screws are in Fine to Excellent Condition overall, with several still showing portions of their original finish. Excellent markings, Very Good mechanics. Bore is semi-bright with strong lands and grooves...Fine+ overall. This Starr has a great combination of condition and wear. It's tough to find Civil War guns that saw action but still retain original finish, especially Cavalry revolvers. Being such a late War issue, it was used for such a short time that it survived in fairly high condition.