PRESENTATION COLT POCKET TO E.O. BLAKE, CO. G, 6th MASS. VOL. MILITIA, RICHARDSON LIGHT INFANTRY, HELPED HOLD FORT MONROE FOR THE UNION

$3,250.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 172-5579

This inscribed Colt 1849 rates excellent for condition with 80 percent or better original finish overall. The barrel and frame show lots of blue, the markings are crisp, the cylinder scene and stamps are very good, the serial numbers match, there is a lot of silver left on the brass triggerguard and backstrap, the grips have very nice varnish, a tight fit to the metal, just one tiny chip on the edge of the toe, and there are vibrant case colors on the frame. The barrel is six inches. The serial number is 188051, giving it an 1861 date of manufacture. The action needs work. We have not messed with it. The gun is very attractive.

The pistol also bears a great inscription, engraved in script down backstrap and onto the butt, reading: “Presented by High St. S.S. to E.O. Blake / Co. G 6th Reg. M.V.M.” Elias Otis Blake was a 37-year old mason when he enlisted in Lowell, Mass., on 3 May 1861. “High Street S.S.” is likely the High Street Congregational Church Sunday School. Blake served as a corporal and the gift could have been one of several to men in the company or, more likely, was considered an appropriate sidearm for a non-commissioned officer. (These are not uncommon in photos of early war volunteer militia.) Blake had been born in Brewer, Maine, married in  Massachusetts in 1850 and lived for a time in New York City. He was apparently in Lowell, Mass., by 1860 according to a family genealogy, although not picked up there by the 1860 census. He is described as 6’1” tall, with a dark complexion, gray eyes, and black hair.

Blake enrolled in the “Richardson Light Infantry,” mustering into service for three years on 21 May 1861. The company was raised starting in April 1861 by Capt. Phineas A. Davis in response to Lincoln’s first call for troops and the officers were commissioned April 20. A contemporary newspaper report says they were to join the Sixth Regiment, and both Blake’s pistol and his discharge show they had been designated Company G of that regiment. The Sixth had answered the first call for troops on April 15 and left Boston April 17, with several companies having to fight their way through Baltimore streets on April 19 to reach Washington. The regiment had been only eight companies strong, however, and three companies from other regiments had been assigned to it for the journey. The “Worcester Light Infantry,” technically Company B of the 3rd Battalion of infantry, had received the temporary designation of Co. G in the Sixth, which had designated the eleven companies setting out on April 17 as companies A through L for the purposes of the expedition. The Richardson Light Infantry was to join the Sixth as one of its regular companies, however, and hence received the designation “G” as well.

Two things prevented them from actually serving with the Sixth, though as Blake’s discharge shows they remained on the books as its Company G for some time. One was that Massachusetts had stopped enrolling men for three-months’ service and the company, enrolled after May 3, had to sign up for three years. This might have been worked out, but when the company sailed aboard the steamer Pembroke on May 22, instead of heading for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where some newspaper reports said it was going, and would have allowed it to join the Sixth, it went instead to reinforce Union troops at Fort Monroe, where it served as an independent company of infantry.

Holding Fort Monroe was vital. Confederate and state forces had been seizing federal installations throughout the south. The fort was strategically situated on the tip of the Virginia peninsula, guarding Chesapeake Bay. It was also the key to establishing and maintaining a blockade of southern ports, and a thorn in the side of the Confederacy and Virginia from its proximity to Richmond. Massachusetts troops had been the earliest reinforcements for the garrison, reaching it just five days after the Virginia convention voted for secession. On May 22, the day the company sailed, it became headquarters for the Department of Virginia, covering a sixty mile radius from the fort, and areas of North and South Carolina held by the U.S., with Massachusetts General Benjamin Butler as the first department commander.

The company was posted in May and June to Camp Hamilton and to Newport News. The former, established just outside the fort, was regarded as the first Union camp on Virginia soil. The latter was occupied as more Union troops arrived and strengthened the garrison. At some point, however, Capt. Davis was appointed Provost of Fort Monroe and the company likely then served as the provost guard. They are not mentioned in the Battle of Big Bethel in June, but may have seen outpost and picket duty. As provost guard they likely helped implement Butler’s “contraband” orders, which took at face value slave owner’s assertions that enslaved persons were “property,” and followed it to its legal conclusion that since they could be of service to the Confederate war effort, they were therefore contraband and not subject to return if they reached Union lines and freedom. When Butler left the Department in August he specifically mentioned Davis and the company in his farewell order, Gen. Order 27, 18 August 1861: “The unattached companies of Massachusetts Volunteers have by their good conduct merited approbation, and the command of Captain Davis deserves special commendation.”

Blake was discharged for disability at Fort Monroe on 9 December 1861. His disability was convulsions from epilepsy, which he had before enlisting. It is testimony to his devotion to the cause that he enlisted and went to war for the Union anyway. The company converted to artillery a short time later and served thereafter as the 7th Independent Mass. Battery. Blake returned home to Lowell, where he became a member of Ladd and Whitney G.A.R. Post 185, named after two of the member of the Sixth killed at Baltimore. He died in 1891, survived by his wife and two of four children.

This is a very nice looking Colt with an interesting very early-war record.  [sr]

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