November 2022


Inv. 01-19784

Cal. 36. S#’s 111188/111225. This beautiful pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy revolvers are standard configuration & are fine crisp examples w/ identical presentations on backstraps of each revolver: “PRESENTED TO MAJ. G. SNIPER 101ST REGT N.Y. VOLS BY HIS / LATE COMMAND CO. E 51ST REGT NYSM”. Pistols are displayed in mahogany casing w/ accessories.

There is a lone monumental equestrian statue in Syracuse, New York & that is of German Emigre Sniper (1836-1894) where he resided. Sniper had local military career, first in the Syracuse Light Guards in 1854 & volunteering in 1861; when the war began as captain of the local 51st NY in Army of the Potomac facing Robert E Lee in the Seven Days battles. Capt. Sniper, 26 years old would return home, marry & start a family, but soon returned to service as Major in 101st NY when these revolvers were presented in February 1862. Sniper would stay in Syracuse though 1863 but would join the newly formed 185th NY in his county as Lieut. Col. & would serve under Gen. Joshua Chamberlain. Sniper’s 185th left Syracuse in September 1864, joining the Army of the Potomac during its siege of Petersburg, Va. The regiment saw action there in skirmishes at Burgess Farm, Hatcher’s Run & Watkin’s Farm. The regiment saw its heaviest action, suffering more than 200 casualties, at a place called Quaker Road on March 29, 1865, as Grant pressed Lee’s right flank. During the battle, Union forces were initially being repulsed. The brigade commander of the 185th, Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, anxiously asked Colonel Sniper if his regiment could “save the day.” Sniper replied “he would try”, and the 185th launched a counter-attack.

While carrying the regimental flag, the unit’s color-bearer, Benton H. Wilson, was wounded twice. The sergeant of the color-company took over carrying the Stars & Stripes, but was killed in short order. Another member of the color guard seized the flag, but was immediately shot in the hand. Capt. Lathrop next grasped the colors, but was severely wounded in the foot. At this juncture, Sniper seized the flag & shouted, “Men of the 185th, forward!” They rallied, followed the gallant Sniper & the final advance was made, overrunning the Confederate position. Further action for the 185th occurred at the critical Union victory at Five Forks & eventually near Appomattox Court House. It was there, on April 9, 1865, just as Lee’s flag of truce to discuss surrender was being shown, that Lt. Hiram Clark of the 185th became the last man killed in the Army of the Potomac when a rebel shell took his life. Sniper & the 185th returned to Syracuse by train on June 3, 1865 and marched from the station in Vanderbilt Square to welcoming ceremonies in Hanover Square. The tattered remains of the silk flag that Sniper used to rally his men rests at the Onondaga County Courthouse. Sniper was brevetted Brig. Gen. for gallantry shown at the battle of Quaker Rd., March 29th1865. There was always a sincere measure of respect between members of the 185th & the former commander of their brigade, Chamberlain. In June 1899, Chamberlain traveled to Baldwinsville from Maine to address a reunion of the 185th. After the war, Sniper’s reputation as a leader & his popularity among the city’s German-American community propelled him into government service. He served three terms in the state assembly, was elected county clerk and eventually a deputy collector of internal revenue.

Sniper died unexpectedly in his North Side home, at 504 Prospect Ave., in 1894, just a few blocks from where his statue would be unveiled in 1905 – a civic project sponsored by local veterans & designed by Syracuse architect Charles E. Colton & sculpture by Frederick Moynihan. Framed oil escutcheon (37″ x 31″) details Sniper’s Civil War career & rarely found are these oil on canvas examples, most were on preprinted paper as cost of an original painting was high.