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SN 1856 & 4257. Cal. 44. Fine pair of ’60 Army revolvers with 8″ rnd bbls that have nickel silver front sights and Hartford addresses. Frames are 4-screw type cut for shoulder stock with flat head hammer screws and stock screws and have small “COLTS PATENT” on left front side. The silver plated brass trigger guards and iron backstraps each contain a 1-pc walnut grip, matching numbered to their respective revolver. Cylinders are rebated with Ormsby Naval battle scene roll marking. Accompanied by their orig burgundy velvet lined mahogany casing, compartmented in the bottom for both revolvers, a single sided “COLTS PATENT” trophy of flags and arms flask with angled spout, a blued steel “COLT’S PATENT” bullet and ball mold with sprue cutter, a tin of paper wrapped Ely’s caps, a full sealed packet of 6 combustible .44 cartridges, an open front half of a packet of 6 combustible cartridges by Colt’s Cartridge Works, an L-shaped nipple wrench and, as with most known Col. Colt presentation sets such as offered here there are spare parts in the left front compartment which consists of 2 hammer springs, a trigger return/lock bolt spring, a hand with spring and one nipple. Right rear compartment has 8 lead bullets. This pair of pistols are among the most historic Civil War revolvers ever presented by Samuel Colt. Col. James Cameron and his 79th New York Highlanders were at the center of fighting at the first major battle of the War – “Bull Run”. Attempting to overrun heavy Confederate batteries against a murderous fire, but to no purpose, Cameron fell at the forefront of his men, mortally wounded, shot through both lungs. The Union lost its position on the field and Cameron’s body was not recovered by his family for over a year. There is a massive archive accompanying this grouping telling the remarkable story of how these pistols were separated after their return from the battlefield; the casing and one pistol had gone to his brother William, and the second to his sister who kept the pistol along with other mementos, including his uniform buttons and family photographs plus a tintype of Cameron. This archive numbers over 50 orig wartime photographs, documents and letters plus a fabulous large hand-tinted framed oval albumin photograph with an image that measures 15″ x 12″, his signed commission as Colonel of the 79th New York, ironically signed just 19 days before his death and a fabulous 18″ x 13″ color lithograph announcing the 2nd Annual Ball of the 79th Regiment Highland Guards. The story of these fabulous pistols being reunited is explained in an article by renowned collector Hank Truslow, that appeared in the American Society of Arms Collectors Magazine (2008), Vol. 97, pps 20-22, transcribed here…The inscription on the backstraps of these two civilian model 1860 Colt Army revolvers tells just a part of their story. The recipient, Col. James Cameron, was a brother of Simon Cameron, the first Secretary of War under President Lincoln. The Cameron family was politically influential in Pennsylvania politics and Simon Cameron used this influence to assure Lincoln he had the delegate support needed for the Republican nomination in the election of 1860. In return, Lincoln gave Cameron his choice of Cabinet position, either as Secretary of State or Secretary of War. Cameron chose the War Department post. Simon’s brother William resided in Lewisburg, PA and had vast real estate holdings in Philadelphia as well as in the Lewisburg area. He also owned a bank and, most importantly, the railroad system between Sunbury and Philadelphia known today as the Main Line. Prior to the war, his brother James Cameron had apprenticed as an attorney and worked at the newspaper while managing the railroad station, all in Sunbury. James and his wife Rebecca also operated two farms, one in Milton, PA where they resided and the other in West Chillisquaque township, PA. These properties will reappear later in the presentation. Rebecca was the daughter of Henry Leman, the famed gun maker from Lancaster, PA. The Cameron family had migrated to the Sunbury area from Lancaster in the 1840s. When the war broke out, Simon would do two things that would influence the family for generations. The first was his accomplishment of getting Congress to reimburse the railroads twenty-five cents a head for each soldier it transported. With his brother William controlling the railroads, it is easy to see how William amassed a fortune during the war. The other action taken by Simon would cost the life of his brother James. Simon pressured Governor Morgan of New York to appoint James to a position in the New York militia. Included in my display is a letter from the New York Adjutant General pointing out that it was not legal for a non-resident to serve in a state militia unit. In spite of this, James Cameron’s appointment went through. This commission is also included in the display. I have not yet been able to determine exactly what influence Simon Cameron used on Governor Morgan but the transaction has his fingerprints all over it. Because of these and other hints of corruption, Lincoln was forced by Congress to replace Cameron with Stanton less than a year into his term. Cameron landed on his feet, however, as he became the United States first Minister (now called Ambassador) to Russia. On June 20, 1861 the 79th New York Highlanders held a gala party in Washington, DC to celebrate the election of James Cameron as their Colonel. Simon gave an eloquent speech at this event, not knowing that in a month and a day James would be killed at the Battle of Bull Run. I suspect that it was at this gathering in Washington that Col. Colt presented James Cameron with this pair of pistols and Simon Cameron with the pair of pistols on display at the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg. These are two of the earliest known wartime presentations made by Colt. On July 21, 1861 James Cameron fell mortally wounded while rallying his men at Bull Run. His horse, sword and pistols were recovered on the battlefield and sent to Simon Cameron via James Cameron’s orderly. They were then sent on to William in Lewisburg. For many years, one of the revolvers and the double casing were on display at the Sunbury GAR post. The second revolver was assumed to have been lost and all hope of finding it was lost as well. Remarkably, after the separation of an unknown length of time, the guns were reunited on November 17, 1988. The odds that the pair would be restored have to be astronomical. By chance, Virgil Mylin stopped in at the Pennsylvania Antique Gun Collectors Association fall show. He was on his way to Long Island to deliver some guns that he had sold and decided at the last minute to stop and check out the show. I happened to be at Ted Dolan’s table when Virgil came up and announced that he had a gun presented to James Cameron by Col. Colt. I had never met Virgil and thought right away that he had been put up to play a joke on me by all those in the room who knew I was looking for just such a gun. Only after Virgil showed me the pistol and I showed him the picture of its mate did we realize what had happened. Virgil’s gun had been in the famed Johnnie Basset collection and was found in Indiana. James Cameron had a sister who married a doctor in Indiana, thus leaving Lewisburg. We can only guess that she took one of Jame’s revolvers with her, leaving the other with William. Along with the gun came family images and other artifacts that lead me to believe that this is how and why the guns were separated. As an epilogue, the Cameron family remained powerful in Pennsylvania politics into the 1920s, with Simon’s son J. Donald Cameron influencing much of what went on in Harrisburg. After James’ death at Bull run, his farms were put up for sheriff’s sale by the very bank owned by William. Simon and William purchased both properties for dimes on the dollar and sent widow Rebecca packing to Lancaster with her $300 widow’s dower, thus making them two of the pioneer robber barons of the 19th Century! James Cameron’s body was buried near the Henry house on the battlefield. The Confederates knew where it was but General Beauregard did not allow the body to be returned to the family for over a year. Many negotiators traveled under flags of truce to try to arrange for its return and most of them ended up held as prisoners of war. A newspaper account gave credit to Confederate General Wade Hampton for shooting Col. Cameron, a charge that General Hampton fiercely denied”… Mr. Truslow in this wonderful article cites apparently universal sentiments concerning Simon Cameron, brother of the slain martyr. Two short notes to Simon Cameron which are included as facsimile in this archive have to be transcribed here: 1) “March 29 / Dear General / I understand that you forgive me for all past offenses, yet I am not Christian enough to feel the same towards you as you passed me so “lightly by” when you visit the White House. / Very truly yours / Mary Lincoln”. 2) July 26, 1861 / To General Cameron / Dear Sir / Your cursed ambition has been the cause of the death of your amiable brother. You have pushed yourself into position for which God and nature never intended and you will meet your reward by the midnight howls of your conscious. Your case is “that of the frog” trying to blow himself up to be as big as the ox and the result a “bust up”. / Yours respectfully / T. Doughtery. This is one of the most interesting archives one can ever read; just the drama involved in recovering his effects and his body would make an interesting book or movie. This pair of orig Col. Colt presentation revolvers are one of the most historic and iconic pair ever offered by James D. Julia Auctions and also is extremely fine condition. CONDITION: Both revolvers are identical configuration and all matching except wedges, which are unnumbered. 1) Revolver #1856 is very fine with the bbl retaining about 70% glossy orig blue, mixed with light patina and a couple small spots of rust. Rammer handle and pivot retain bright case colors. Frame retains virtually all of its orig bright case colors, slightly faded. Hammer retains bright case colors on the right side, more faded on the left and rear edges. Cylinder retains about 35-40% orig blue in the rebated area with the larger diameter mostly blue brown patina and shows about 80% Naval battle scene roll marking. All 6 safety pins are servicable. Trigger guard & front strap retain 92-93% orig silver. Backstrap & buttstrap are cleaned bright metal. Grip is sound with sharp edges and a couple of small nicks and overall retains about all of its bright orig varnish. Mechanics are fine. Bright shiny bore with scattered pitting. 2) Revolver #4257 is also very fine. Bbl retains 15-20% orig blue with the balance having flaked to a light patina. Rammer pivot retains bright case colors, turning silver on the handle. Frame retains very bright case colors on right side and in sheltered areas on left side, a little faded elsewhere. Recoil shields are moderately faded. Hammer retains dark case colors, brilliant on back edge. Cylinder retains about 50% thin orig blue and shows about 80% Naval battle scene roll marking. Trigger guard retains about 65% orig silver, thin with brass showing through on front strap. Backstrap & buttstrap retain traces of silver being mostly cleaned metal patina. Grip has 3 or 4 small gouges with flaking around the bottom edges and sides and overall retains about 65-70% orig varnish. Hammer will not catch in half-cock notch, otherwise mechanics are fine. Bright shiny bore with a few small spots of pitting. Wedge is a replacement. Case has a crack across the lid with a short grain check, 3 or 4 small grain checks in the bottom and overall retains most of an old refinish. Interior is heavily faded, being mostly a gold color inside the lid with a rectangular patch of burgundy color where something had been placed there for many years. Bottom is also heavily faded with light soil and damage from front sights. Flask has 3 or 4 small dents on backside and shows about 70% orig finish. Mold is crisp with about 90% orig blue with the loss areas flaked. Other accessories and parts are fine. Documents and photographs accompanying are very good overall. Hard images, buttons and other artifacts contained in a “Remembrance Box” are also very good. The framed New York State Commission appears dry mounted with cracks and a tear on right side with foxing and acid burn, but ink inscriptions are dark and completely legible. The large watercolor albumin photo is in very good to fine condition in contemporary gold leaf gesso frame with small spots of foxing and acid burn, unaffecting aesthetics. Framed color lithograph of Annual Ball of the 79th appears fine overall though not removed to check for mounting. 49633-1 JS (100,000-150,000) – Lot 3143

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Auction: Firearms - October 2015
Please Note: All prices include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, which is paid by the buyer as part of the purchase price. The prices noted here after the auction are considered unofficial and do not become official until after the 46th day.