INSCRIBED MANHATTAN REVOLVER OF M.W. TYLER, CO. F 37th MASS, LIEUTENANT, CAPTAIN, AND BREVET MAJOR, TWICE WOUNDED IN ACTION

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Item Code: 766-1455

Manhattan .36 caliber revolvers bore more than a passing resemblance to Colts. The company took advantage of the expiration Colt patents in 1857 to start making their own versions of the Colt Navy, which could look a lot like a Colt 1849 Pocket depending on barrel length, though still of Navy size, i.e. .36 caliber.

This one is serial number 47742, all matching, and thus falls early in the company’s “Series 4” pattern that began about number 45200 according to Flayderman. This follows the standard configuration with five-shot cylinder and has 4-inch barrel, making it light and convenient to carry, but still packing a punch. They were popular civilian arms and fit an infantry officer’s needs very well.

The mechanics are good and the varnished grips are excellent, with a tight fit. The barrel, frame and cylinder are gray with dark spots, and show shallow pitting, though elements of the cylinder scene can be made out amid dings and scratches, as can the 1859 patent date. The octagonal barrel has a very clear address on the top flat: “Manhattan Firearms Co. Newark N.J. / March 8, 1864.” The brass triggerguard and backstrap show strong remnants of their original silver wash. This is lighter and tarnished on the triggerguard and inside strap, but stronger on the backstrap and rubbed somewhat brighter from handling.

Engraved on the back strap is, “Lieut. Mason W. Tyler 37th MASS VOL.” with the rank, name and unit number in script and “Mass Vol” in upper case block lettering. The regiment was organized in western Massachusetts 8/30/62 and spent its entire service in the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac. It was hard-fighting and lost 4 officer and 165 enlisted men just in those killed outright or mortally wounded in battles like the Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Winchester. It was heavily engaged right up to the very end, fighting and taking losses in the final assault on Petersburg 2 April 1865 and at Sailor’s Creek April 6.

 

Mason Whiting Tyler (1840-1907) had just graduated from Amherst College when he enlisted 8/13/1862 at age 22 and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of Co. F, 37th Massachusetts Volunteers on 9/4/62. He spent most of service with the regiment, serving a few months in mid-1864 as Acting Aide-de-Camp to General Neill. He was wounded twice during his service, at Winchester (9/19/64) and Petersburg (3/25/65.) The second wound was at first believed to be light, like the first, but worsened considerably and he came near losing a leg, though he returned in time to lead the regiment in the Grand Review in May 1865, albeit needing a cane when on foot. He had been promoted to major 3/4/65, though in a bit of retroactive, petty, bureaucracy, that muster was revoked after the war because the regiment at the time did not field enough men to merit a major. He seems to have been commissioned Lt. Colonel and Colonel as well, but not mustered at those ranks since the regiment had been discharged in the meantime, which was likely just as well, since those promotions too would have been revoked by the same clerk. He thus in later years fell back on his brevet to Major, which was awarded soon after Winchester for “distinguished gallantry” in the battle.

The engraving on the pistol’s backstrap calls Tyler a lieutenant, though the pistol has a March 1864 patent date and Tyler was promoted to captain in January 1863. The explanation seems to be found on page 288 of Tyler’s “Recollections.” In a letter written on 9/23/1864 either to his brother William (born 1841) or John (born 1851,) Tyler mentions that he is sending home a pistol picked up on the battlefield of Winchester: “I have a Colt’s revolver, navy size, which I picked up on the field. I think I will send it to you at the first opportunity, or I may keep it through the campaign, and then let you have it to keep until I get through the war at least. It will amuse you in some of your leisure time.” Tyler does call it a Colt, but given how intentionally similar Manhattans are to Colts, it is not a stretch to think this is the pistol, especially since he says it is “Navy size,” the standard way of referring to .36 caliber pistols versus those of pocket or army size (.31 and .44 caliber.) The pistol was thus likely engraved for Tyler by his brother before returning it, who likely played it safe, given Tyler’s various promotions, brevets, and revoked musters, by having it engraved with the rank at which he entered service.

Tyler took a law degree after the war and was a member of several prominent legal firms. His last firm was a partnership with two of his sons. He was active in the G.A.R. and M.O.L.L.U.S. He died in NY City in 1907 and is buried in New Jersey.

This is a nicely inscribed Manhattan carried, and likely picked up at Winchester, by an active officer. We include a copy of his “Recollections” with the pistol. We can’t help but note that one of the things that made the 37th Massachusetts a formidable regiment in the field, was its armament with Spencer rifles in Fall 1864. [sr] [ph:L]

DISCLAIMER: All firearms are sold as collector's items only - we do not accept responsibility as to the shooting safety or reliability of any antique firearm. All firearms are described as accurately as possible, given the restraints of a catalog listing length. We want satisfied customers & often "under" describe the weapons. Any city or state regulations regarding owning antique firearms are the responsibility of the purchaser. All firearms are "mechanically perfect" unless noted, but again, are NOT warranted as safe to fire!

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