Probably the most used and well known pistols were the Colt Army, Colt Navy and the Remington. They had the monopoly on distribution for some time. Thousands of revolvers were sold monthly. If a new recruit did not have his own pistol or have one given to him as a gift on enlistment, it was deemed most unusual. He would also need a powder flask and bullet mould. Not realising that with the weight of all the other equipment issued, the actual load he would be carrying would be arduous.

Veteran troops didn't unduly burden themselves by adding revolvers to their load.

The troops of 1861/62 took thousands of revolvers into conflict only to lose them, give them away or throw them away if not working!

Since many Regimental CO's forbid the carrying of pistols by enlisted men, large numbers were returned Northward. However in some cases whole companies were given pistols as gifts such as the lucky Company D, 2nd Conn. Inf. in 1861.

During the battle the result of stoppages, damage, rust, blocked barrels and a lack of ready ammunition, and the time it took to reload the cylinder would prove costly. Pistols would be discarded only to be picked up by someone else, hoping it would be fireable. I wonder how many times it may have been picked up and thrown away again and again!

An infantry-man would have more faith in his musket, being able to use it with the bayonet or use it as a club if it was unable to be fired in close quarters.

There was probably a different attitude towards pistols by those that had them as their only form of protection, as mentioned in a previous article, Provosts carried three or four pistols. There are many photographs of soldiers overflowing with all kinds of pistols tucked into their belts, from both Armies. After battles, the victors would amass weapons and ammunition, as equipment was premium, or simply needed to replace their own broken or damaged weapons.

As far as we are concerned, I do see the impracticality of trying to skirmish with a pistol shoved down the trousers, and I have no doubt we would be picking up more than paper after sweeping our battlefield.

What next?

The speed of invention of weapons during this period was rapidly changing the tides of warfare. Carbines, Gatling Guns, Submarines - monster machines of death and destruction were being pumped out with much urgency. By the conclusion of the war, the pistol had progressed to the stage of excellent reliability and a much desired and trusted retainable item.

Revolvers. US Government. Ordnance Manifesto
MakeCalibreNo's Purchased
Colt Army.44129,730
Colt Navy.3617,010
Colt Pocket.3117,010
Le Faucheux Army.4312,374
Le Faucheux Navy.3512,374
Remington Army.44125,314
Remington Navy.364,901
Rogers & Spencer.445,000
Approximate total482,211

The Government also purchased 100 horse pistols and 100 foreign pistols.

The above does not include imports or private purchases.

Importers Deane, French pin fire, Kerr, Le Mat, Tranter collectively estimated 50 - 75000 of which none were registered.

Bob George, Provost Marshals Dept.

The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, June 2001.