Rare M1861 Colt Navy Dug / Excavated in Franklin, Tennessee
Rare M1861 Colt Navy Dug / Excavated in Franklin, Tennessee – The Colt M1861 Navy differed from the famed M1851 Colt Navy – the 1861 version had a 7.5” round barrel, as opposed to the 1851’s octagonal barrel; in addition, some of the 1861 Navies had fluted cylinders, as well as flat, round cylinders, some of the latter lacking the engraved naval engagement scene seen on all of the 1851 revolvers. Some of the design elements, in style and configuration, of the 1861 Navy are comparable to the M1860 Colt Army. The Army was chambered for a .44 cal. cartridge, while both the 1851 and 1861 Colt Navy revolvers were chambered for a .36 cal. cartridge. The ’61 Navy had an advantage for a mounted soldier, as it was considerably lighter than the Army. Unlike many of the Army pistols, the ’61 Navy did not have notched recoil shields or butt strap, to accept a shoulder stock. Also, the ’61 Navies had un-rebated cylinders. Model ’61 Navies were manufactured in the serial number range from 1 to 38,843, from 1861 to 1873; their production numbers were considerably lower than the total number of Armies made (over 200,000), manufactured during the same time period. Most of the ’61 Navies were manufactured by, and are labeled as such, “Colt Patent Firearms Company – Hartford, Connecticut”; a rare few have London addresses stamped on their barrels. These revolvers saw significant service during the Civil War and were purchased by both the U.S. Army and Navy. Today, it has been suggested that only 3% of original 1861 Navies are extant today.
This rarely excavated 1861 Navy was dug in the Franklin, Tennessee area. Its serial number, 26775, which matches with the number visible on the butt strap, indicates that this revolver was manufactured in early 1865. It is quite likely that it was dropped or left behind by a Union soldier or officer, shortly after the Battle of Franklin. The pistol, which is indeed the only dug example of this revolver we have encountered, is in overall excellent dug condition, with no flaking; it remains completely stable and highly displayable. All integral parts of the gun remain; the hammer appears to have been bent during the period of use, and the brass grip strap is broken, at the point of attachment near the recoil shields, but in place and complete. This is a rare gun on its own accord, yet even more rarely seen as an excavated example.