How many used single-shot pistols during the war?

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Private Watkins

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Fellow passenger "Mr. George Bemis," carried an Allen "pepperbox" revolver and while demonstrating the effectiveness he accidentally shot a mule 30 yds left of his target (p. 23), while Mark Twain "...was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith and Wesson seven-shooter that shot a ball the size of a homeopathic pill", and he noted "it took all seven to make a dose for an adult."
Great story...! :happy:
 
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kevikens

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Contrary to popular belief, the advent of the first revolvers did not spell the complete and sudden demise of single-shot pistols and other handguns. Colt (and other) revolvers were expensive purchases that probably seemed like a good way to waste bullets to people primarily concerned with close range self defense up until the outbreak of the Civil War. Most gentlemen had at least a pocket pistol which they kept handy. And militarily speaking, as late as 1855 the U.S. Army adopted a single shot .58 caliber "horse pistol," the same year it began official purchases of the 1851 Colt .36 six shot revolver. Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War and later Confederate president, had quite a bit to do with that.

Unfortunately there isn't any real way of answering the question factually. For example, "pepperboxes" were extremely common among civilians and soldiers (in semi-permanent camp) but how would we gauge the relative popularity compared to other revolvers without sales records or something similar...Period accounts of their use abound, though. This much is known, gun makers producing these sort of arms far outnumbered the revolver makers during the mid-19th century.

Mark Twain notes in his book Roughing It that the guns carried on the stagecoach during his trip out West (in 1861) were mostly of the multi-shot variety. His brother, Henry, carried the 1851 Colt Navy model which he kept uncapped for safety. Fellow passenger "Mr. George Bemis," carried an Allen "pepperbox" revolver and while demonstrating the effectiveness he accidentally shot a mule 30 yds left of his target (p. 23), while Mark Twain "...was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith and Wesson seven-shooter that shot a ball the size of a homeopathic pill", and he noted "it took all seven to make a dose for an adult."
Even more curious was the fact that the USN, AFTER the Civil War, purchased single shot pistols using the Remington rolling block action.
 

TFSmith121

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Even more curious was the fact that the USN, AFTER the Civil War, purchased single shot pistols using the Remington rolling block action.
Not that it's a great reason, but given the environment these weapons were intended for, and the time period, simple designs had some advantages in terms of not jamming, rusting, and basically being soldier or sailor proof.

Best,
 

tbuckley

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I seem to recall a relic M1842 pistol from the Rosensteel collection in the old visitor's center at Gettysburg. Apparently a few single-shots were still around in 1863.
(I actually miss the old visitor's center and wonder where the relics from there went.)
 
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zburkett

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No it did not. I framed your answer, on a single shot pistol's utility during that war; good for standing behind an unsuspecting victim and blowing his head off at point blank range.

In any sort of close-quarters fight where an enemy might have a multi-shot revolver, or the bearer facing multiple targets? Not so much.

@30,000 M1842 horse pistols made before the war. Just counting Colt's revolvers, there were 250,ooo Colt M1849 pocket, 175,000 Colt M1851 Navy & 150,000 Colt M1860 Army pistols made by the end of 1864. That also frames the original question.

As for 'many' local museums having something *identified*, unless there's an accompanying letter/diary stating "I carried a pair of horse pistols when I valiantly did whatever it is I did" it's just apocryphal. See also

Where I live, the National Park Service museums for Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, and the Museum of the Confederacy count as "local."
 

Story

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Where I live, the National Park Service museums for Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, and the Museum of the Confederacy count as "local."
Ok, so... in your mind, does the NPS logo (or MoC) eliminate any museum's problems with proper authentication?
 
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Jobe Holiday

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tbuckley asks: (I actually miss the old visitor's center and wonder where the relics from there went.) Very simply they went into government warehouse storage never to be seen again. A foul disservice to the public in my opinion.
J.
 
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SharonS

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tbuckley asks: (I actually miss the old visitor's center and wonder where the relics from there went.) Very simply they went into government warehouse storage never to be seen again. A foul disservice to the public in my opinion.
J.
I am a great lover of museums but not so much of many modern ones,where multimedia, digital, photographic etc. displays replace the real things that I want to see. I like to think that George Washington's own eyes looked through the field glasses that I'm looking at or that the cap that I'm seeing really perched on Stonewall Jackson's own head. I know the artifacts have to be protected, but for what if people can't see them.
 
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Glen_C

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Wouldn't a pair be normal from the pre ACW years?

From
http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-33285.html

pommelholster.jpg


Grimsley pattern dragoon saddle with M1841 holsters:
CWM1841pommelholsterRinggoldsaddle-1.jpg


"M1850" holsters with variant blue wool and yellow trip covers:
CW1851pommelhol.jpg


Possibly a n 1850's Grimsley made set for Colt Dragoons (with an M1960 Army posed):
CW1851pomholColt-1.jpg


~~~~~~~~~

In one of the accounts of a Missouri battle, no swords but multiple pistols for most of the Confederate cavalry. Two holster pistols (unknown how many single shot) often two more in their belts plus one. IIRC, it was during the mounted charge following the Centralia incident and the afternoon battle recanted by a Union survivor.

Cheers

GC
 

UncleBourbon

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When reading about the Siege of Lexington/Battle of Hemp Bales, I remember one Union cavalry Officer mentioned he and his men were only issued with "single shot horse pistols"
I assume they were something like this.

00223_r.jpeg
 
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