SMITH AND WESSON No. 2 ARMY REVOLVER ID’D BY CARVING TO C.W. KNIFFIN, LIEUTENANT 49th MASS, WIA PORT HUDSON

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Item Code: 2022-982

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This is a good example of the Smith and Wesson Number 2 Army Revolver, a model made from 1861 to 1874, and very popular from its use of self-contained, waterproof rimfire cartridges. The army preferred larger calibers for enlistedmen, but it’s .32 caliber rounds were sufficient as a side arm and personal protection, and few did end up the hands of enlistedmen in the 7th Kentucky Cavalry through Kittredge of Cincinnati. It was a favorite among officers, travelers, and westerners including Custer and Wild Bill Hickock.

Serial numbers were up to 35,000 by the end of the Civil War. This one is number 21185 and likely dates to 1864, though ongoing research may alter that. It bears the name “C.W. Kniffin” clearly carved on the bottom of the grips. Charles Warner Kniffin (1836-1925) was a merchant at West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who enrolled at age 25 on 9/8/1862, mustered in for nine month’s service on 9/19/62 was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of Co. B, 49th Massachusetts to date from Sept. 8.

The regiment was organized in response to the President’s call for troops of 8/4/1862, and companies mustered in for nine months service during September and October. It moved to Camp Wool in Massachusetts in early November and then to Camp Banks on Long Island, NY, in preparation for the Banks expedition to Louisiana, which it joined 2/7/63 at New Orleans, becoming part of the 19th Army Corps in the Department and Army of the Gulf. It took part in the demonstration against Port Hudson in March was then posted to Baton Rouge for two months, when joined the campaign of Port Hudson, fighting at Plains Store on May 21, arriving at Port Hudson about May 24, and taking part in the first assault, on May 27, costing the regiment 16 killed and 64 wounded, with the Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and Lieutenant Kniffin among them, hit by a shell fragment in the right arm. He was granted a 20-day leave of absence on June 24, during which he traveled home, and was also granted a 30-day extension. Whether he rejoined the regiment before it returned to Massachusetts in late August is unclear, but he mustered out with them 9/1/63 at Pittsfield. He returned to business, was a highly regarded member of the community, and a member of G.A.R. W.W. Rockwell Post #125 in Pittsfield as well as the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S. At his death in 1925 he was the last surviving commissioned officer of the 49th and left only two Civil War veterans surviving in West Stockbridge.

The barrel and frame are gunmetal gray with some thin brown, rubbed to muted silver on the edges. The cylinder and ejector rod show faded blue. The grips have a good fit, nice color, wear to the finish and few light handling dings. Cylinder, upper frame, and barrel assembly show some fine pitting, most notable in front of the cylinder, suggesting it is from firing. The cylinder patent dates and barrel address  markings are legible, as is the serial number and the carved “C.W. Kniffin” next to the buttstrap.  Mechanics function properly and well. Typically, these “tip up” revolvers are found with excessive play in the hinge between the barrel and frame and they tend to wiggle; that is the case with this example, which has just a minor wiggle to it. The bore has some pitting, and some of the rifling still remaining.  [sr] [ph:m]

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