Original U.S. Civil War Colt 1851 Navy Revolver 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry Manufactured in 1863 - Matching Serial No 147247

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This Colt Navy Model 1851 Percussion Revolver in .36 caliber was used by 1st Lieutenant (and later Captain) Henry E. Whittelsey of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry - Later the 65th Volunteers. Whittelsey was commissioned March 20, 1862 to Company B, Promoted from 2d Lt. March 20,1863, commissioned Captain October 10, 1864 and discharged December 6, 1864.

This Colt revolver has the quintessential wear and rubbing of other carried revolvers. It has early 1863 production numbers so it likely was carried by Whittelsey for over a year of service. His initials H.E.W. are period engraved into the bottom grip. All visible serial numbers match.

Also included is a bill of sale with provenance information included when it was sold in 1972 (then for $150). Whittelsey's granddaughter provides information on her grandfather as well as clearly identifying this revolver (by serial number and by his initials engraved in it), making it a perfect match to this provenance.

Ancestry records, muster records and all other sources we've found match to this soldier and this provenance perfectly (other than Whittelsey's last name sometimes appearing as Whitelsey). A superb revolver with a superb history that was carried by a brave cavalry officer on horseback through the 5th PA Cavalry's service in 1863 and 1864.

The Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber (i.e., .36 cal), later known as the Colt 1851 Navy or Navy Revolver, is a cap and ball revolver that was designed by Samuel Colt between 1847 and 1850. Colt first called this Revolver Ranger model; but the designation Navy quickly took over. It remained in production until 1873, when revolvers using fixed metallic cartridges came into widespread use.

This very nice example features a 7½ barrel and all matching serial numbers (including the cylinder!) of 147247 indicating manufacture in 1863 and bears the bears on the top of the barrel:


The revolver is very presentable and in tight fully functional condition.

Dating from the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 this Navy Revolver is still in tight excellent working condition, shows use and retains it's matching numbers but what actual part it played in the war we shall never know. If only it could speak!

History of the 1851 Navy Colt Pistol:

The .36 caliber Navy revolver was much lighter than the contemporary Colt Dragoon Revolvers developed from the .44 Walker Colt revolvers of 1847, which, given their size and weight, were generally carried in saddle holsters. It is an enlarged version of the .31 caliber Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers, that evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon, and, like them, is a mechanically improved and simplified descendant of the 1836 Paterson revolver. As the factory designation implied, the Navy revolver was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster. It became very popular in North America at the time of Western expansion. Colt's aggressive promotions distributed the Navy and his other revolvers across Europe, Asia, and Africa. As with many other Colt revolvers, it has a six-round cylinder.

The cylinder of this revolver is engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The Texas Navy had purchased the earlier Colt Paterson Revolver, but this was Colt's first major success in the gun trade; the naval theme of the engraved cylinder of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver was Colt's gesture of appreciation. The engraving was provided by Waterman Ormsby. Despite the "Navy" designation, the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces.

The .36 caliber (.375–.380 inch) round lead ball weighs 80 grains and, at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second, is comparable to the modern .380 pistol cartridge in power. Loads consist of loose powder and ball or bullet, metallic foil cartridges (early), and combustible paper cartridges (Civil War era), all combinations being ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber.

Famous "Navy" users included Wild Bill Hickok, John Henry "Doc" Holliday, Richard Francis Burton, Ned Kelly, Bully Hayes, Richard H. Barter, Robert E. Lee, Nathan B. Forrest, John O'Neill, Frank Gardiner, Quantrill's Raiders, John Coffee "Jack" Hays, "Bigfoot" Wallace, Ben McCulloch, Addison Gillespie, John "Rip" Ford, "Sul" Ross and most Texas Rangers prior to the Civil War and (fictionally) Rooster Cogburn. Use continued long after more modern cartridge revolvers were introduced.

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