RARE & HISTORIC COLT 1862 POLICE REVOLVER PRESENTED TO CIVIL WAR ADJUTANT GENERAL LORENZO THOMAS WITH “COMPLIMENTS OF COL. COLT”
No Civil War Colt revolvers are more historic than those personally presented by Samuel Colt to important military personages leading up to the war that changed American history. Samuel Colt died in January 1862 and there are only a handful of revolvers presented by him during the Civil War. This is one that Lorenzo Thomas wrote a letter thanking Colt just two months before his death for the wonderful gift of three revolvers. Originally this gun was cased with Model 1860 Army & 1861 Navy revolvers and their whereabouts are unknown currently. This was Colt’s newest model introduced in 1861, what we know now as the model 1862 pocket police in navy caliber. Samuel Colt was ingenious businessman, and it is known that he sent same sets of revolvers to the most important men involved in the United States army at the beginning of the war. Other recipients were General James Wolfe Ripley (Chief of Ordnance), General Randolph B. Marcy (McClellan’s chief of staff), General Joseph K.F. Mansfield (commanded the Department of Washington), General Irvin McDowell (division commander in the Army of the Potomac), General Ambrose E. Burnside (commander of the North Carolina Expeditionary Force), General Thomas W. Sherman (commander of the Port Royal Expedition), General Andrew Porter (provost marshal of the District of Columbia), General George B. McClellan (general-in-chief of all the Union armies), Major General Nathaniel P. Banks (commander of NC district), General Benjamin F. Butler (commander at Fort Monroe), General William Anderson Thornton (commander and Chief Inspector of US arsenals), Colonel James Cameron (brother of the Secretary of War, who was killed at 1st Manassas), Secretary of War Simon Cameron, and Colonel Edward S. Sanford (U.S. Military Telegraph Service/Corps).
General Lorenzo Thomas (1804-1875) is well known name among Civil War aficionados, as Thomas held the rank of adjutant general of the US army 1861-1863. His signature is on most every Abraham Lincoln signed presidential military commission till he began service in the Deep South recruiting African American soldiers for black regiments. After the war, he was appointed Secretary of War by U.S. President Andrew Johnson, precipitating Johnson’s impeachment.
Prior to the war, Thomas entered West Point at the age of 15 and graduated in 1823, served in the 4th US infantry during the Seminole Indian war, during the Mexican war he was chief of staff of commanding general Winfield Scott.
Thomas was promoted to colonel and adjutant general of the U.S. Army on March 7, 1861. On August 10, 1861, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Thomas a brigadier general in the regular army.
He held the position of adjutant general until he retired in 1869, except for a special assignment to recruit African-American troops in the Military Division of the Mississippi from 1863 to 1865.
On April 6, 1863, General Thomas was sent by the War Department to Helena, Arkansas to recruit freedmen into the U.S. Army. He created the first black troop in Arkansas, fighting for the Union as part of Bureau of Colored Troops, which was created by the War Department on May 22, 1863.
John Hay, Lincoln’s biographer and secretary recalled a conversation between President Lincoln and General Thomas on August 1, 1863, as Thomas was preparing to leave for the Mississippi River valley to begin his work. “General! You are going about a most important work. There is a draft down there which can be enforced.” Thomas replied: “I will enforce it.” Thomas later repeated the President’s remark at lunch, leading Hay to observe: “I regard his attitude as most significant. He is a man accustomed through a long lifetime to watch with eager interest the intentions of power and the course of events; till he has acquired an instinct of expediency which answers to him the place of sagacity & principle. He is a straw which shows whither the wind is blowing. The tendency of the country is to universal freedom, when men like Thomas make abolition speeches at public dinners.
A few days later, President Lincoln wrote General Ulysses S. Grant: “Gen. Thomas has gone again to the Mississippi Valley, with the view of raising colored troops. I have no reason to doubt that you are doing what you reasonably can upon the same subject. I believe it is a resource which if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest– It works doubly, weakening the enemy & strengthening us, We were not fully ripe for it, until the river was opened. Now, I think at least a hundred thousand can, and ought to be rapidly organized along it’s shores, relieving all white troops to serve elsewhere.”
UNATTTACHED ACCESSORIES: copy of November 23, 1861 letter from Lorenzo Thomas to Col. Colt thanking him for gift of pistols. 1870 vintage Gutekunst cabinet card photo of Thomas in major general uniform, War Dept. General Order March 3, 1875 announcing Thomas’s death, 4-page “Memoir of General Lorenzo Thomas” in paper wraps, reproduction French fitted casing with accessories for display.