CAPTURED INSCRIBED COLT POCKET REVOLVER IN A CONFEDERATE HOLSTER

$5,500.00

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Item Code: 846-192

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This 5-inch Colt pocket revolver is inscribed on the backstrap, “T. R. MATHEWS CHADWICK LT INF.” Mathews received the revolver shortly before setting out on the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, where he was wounded and captured at Glendale on June 30, at which point he went to Libby and his revolver went into a Confederate holster for further service.

The Chadwick Light Infantry were part of the First Massachusetts and saw action and took losses at First Bull Run. The pistol has all matching serial numbers, 203335, giving it an early 1862 date of manufacture. The inscription on the backstrap indicates Mathews or a loved one thought he might need extra protection heading into another active campaign. The grips are good with tight fit to the metal, though there are handling dings on the left and right in the midsection, and wear through the varnish at the lower edge: all indications it was carried for longer than Mathews’ own service. The barrel stamps are the two-line Hartford address and very good. There some color to the hammer and rear portions of loading assembly. There rear of the frame shows some bright spots. The frame is largely mottled gray with some faded case and thin brown spots. The metal is generally smooth. The barrel shows a little rubbing to brighter gray along the edges and around muzzle from holstering. The brass shows some thin tarnished silver: about 30 percent or better on the triggerguard, and about 15 percent or so on the backstrap. The cylinder scene is faint, but the stamps and numbers are good. The inscription is very good and fully legible. The rear of the cylinder has some minor wear causing it occasionally to fail to index properly.

All of this indicates the pistol saw more active use than the few months Mathews owned it and the new owner’s identity is pretty clear from the typically Confederate holster it ended up in. Constructed of brown leather, the holster has a single wide belt loop on the reverse that would hold it butt-to-the-rear on the wearer’s right. It has a full, military-style flap with a narrow tooled edge and a hole that engages not a stud, but a short piece of knotted leather. The holster is solid and the stitching good, though there is a small hole at the toe on the right and another a bit above the toe on the left. The leather is smooth on the body and shows some crazing from flexing on the flap. The hole is slightly elongated from fastening and unfastening, once again indicating the second owner had more occasion for its use than Mathews.

Organized in Roxbury, Mass., the Chadwick Light Infantry, was accepted for state service April 19, 1861, and became Co. K of the old First Massachusetts Volunteer Militia on May 24. Thomas R. Mathews (1844-1927) was a 19-year old silk manfucturer when he mustered in with the rest of the company.  The regiment was the first three-year regiment of volunteers to muster in and the first to reach Washington. As part of Richardson’s brigade, they led the way across Blackburn’s Ford to probe Confederate positions on July 18, 1861, and were hit hard by Confederates lying in wait, losing 13 killed, 11 wounded and 11 missing before being ordered to withdraw. In the wake of the main battle, they formed a rearguard, losing another two men killed and wounded while pulling back, but not leaving the field until ordered to withdraw near midnight.

During the Peninsular Campaign in mid-1862 they fought at Yorktown, launching a bayonet charge, losing 4 killed and 14 wounded, and at Williamsburg on May 5 were heavily engaged, losing 7 killed and 34 wounded. At the start of the Seven Days Battles they lost 11 killed and 54 wounded at Oak Grove on June 25, and on June 30, as part of Grover’s brigade in Hooker’s division at Glendale restored the Union lines after McCall’s division was battered. Col. Cowdin, 1st Mass., reported he was ordered, “to charge on the enemy in front at a considerable distance, which I did, passing over a fence across a field and through the woods, the rebels falling back before us; we still advanced through an open field. Here we advanced in line of battle when a brigade of troops, dressed in our uniform and supposed by us to be our own, opened a terrible fire on our front and left flank, from which fire I lost many of my bravest and best men.” The regiment’s casualties in the fight included 15 killed, 33 wounded, 3 captured and 13 missing. Mathews was left on the field wounded and was captured. According to an 1897 Boston Globe biography, “having been shot and left on the field for dead, he was taken to Libby Prison, was exchanged at the end of two months, and sent to the Vine St. Hospital, in Philadelphia. He remained there for a year and was discharged for disability in 1863.” The Massachusetts records show him confined at Libby on July 2 and do not indicate his date of exchange, but date his discharge for wounds as 25 February 1863.

Mathews’ pistol obviously went on to further wartime service, perhaps on the hip of an officer in Longstreet’s division, which fought in the area, while Mathews himself resumed his military career later in the postwar Massachusetts militia. He joined his old regiment in 1878 as a lieutenant, and made captain 1880; major, 1881; lt. colonel, 1885; and colonel, 1888. Appointed brigadier general in 1897, he commanded the first brigade, and retired with the rank of major general in 1904. He was also active in veterans’ affairs as a member of G.A.R. Kinsley Post 113 in Boston, serving as Post Quatermaster Sergeant, Adjutant, Senior Vice-Commander, and Commander. He died in Auburndale, Massachusetts, in 1927.

This early-war pistol shows nice signs of use and not abuse, with a great inscription to the Union soldier who carried and lost it, and the holster likely of the Confederate who was lucky enough to retrieve it.  [sr]

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