Excellent. The barrel and magazine retain 95% of the original blue finish. Nearly all of the original blue finish remains on the bolt. The receiver retains 90% of the vivid original case colors with wear limited to the bottom where the case colors have faded. The forearm cap, hammer, trigger, lever and crescent buttplate retain 95% of the original case colors. The wood is excellent with much of the original finish remaining and showing a few scattered and relatively minor handling marks. The gold watch and case are excellent. This is a truly rare and historic rifle and watch in exceptional original condition. Arguably one of the most historic Winchester lever action rifles to come to public auction!
This historic group consists of a Winchester Model 1886 Sporting Rifle (serial number 1) presented to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Henry W. Lawton by fellow Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, friend and influencial firearms designor and noted friend of the Browning family Lieut. George E. Albee and a gold pocket watch made by C. Howard & Company Boston and presented to Capt. Lawton by "The Cattlemen of Central New Mexico". The top barrel flat of the rifle is inscribed: "ALBEE TO LAWTON". The inside of the watch case bears the inscription: "Presented to/CAPT. H.W. LAWTON/4th Cavalry/BY THE/Cattlemen of Central New Mexico/as a token of their appreciation of his/gallant service in the capture of the/Apache Indian Chief/-GERONIMO-/and his band/Albuquerque, New Mexico/Sept. 27th 1886". Henry W. Lawton (1843-1899) enlisted in the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry in August 1861. At the conclusion of his 90-day service, he re-enlisted in the 30th Indiana Infantry and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant. Lawton fought with the 30th Indiana in the battles of Shiloh, Stone's River, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin and numerous small engagements. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in the Battle of Atlanta on August 3, 1864. Speaking about the battle of Franklin, General W. Grose wrote, "The Thirtieth Indiana, most of whom were new recruits, under Captain Lawton, commanding the regiment, stood by the colors to the man and fought well." In March 1865, Lawton was promoted to Brevet Colonel for gallant and meritorious services. After he mustered out of Federal service, Lawton studied law briefly at Harvard University. In May 1867, he accepted a commission as a Lieutenant in the 41st Infantry. In 1871, Lawton transferred to the 4th Cavalry where he fought in campaigns against the Kiowa and Comanche. In the summer of 1886, under the direct orders of Gen. Nelson A. Miles, Capt. Lawton and Capt. Charles Gatewood led a small force of soldiers and Apache scouts into Mexico in pursuit of the hostile Chiricahua Apaches led by Geronimo. In September 1886, after a pursuit of over 1300 miles across Mexico and Arizona territory, Gatewood and Lawton found Geronimo and negotiated the surrender of last band of hostile Apaches to the U.S. Army. The surrender of Geronimo ended over 25 years of bloody conflict with the Apache in the Southwest. Alfred F. Sims, a solider who fought under Lawton's command, stated, "The work of Lawton in the Apache campaign will go down in our history as one of the greatest achievements of Indian warfare….It was his untiring energy and ceaseless vigilance that put down the uprising." Lawton was promoted to major in 1888, Lieutenant-Colonel in 1889 and Colonel in 1898. During the Spanish-American War he fought in the battles of La Guasimas, El Caney and San Juan Hill. In 1899, Lawton, now a Major-General was ordered to the Philippines to command the 1st Division, VIII Corps, against Filipino insurgents. On December 19, 1899, General Lawton was killed in action in the battle of San Mateo. Speaking about Lawton's death, U.S. President William McKinley said, "I have learned with inexpressible sorrow of the death of Major-General Lawton, and ask to share with the officers and men of the Eighth Corps in their grief. One of the most gallant officers of the Army has fallen." Henry W. Lawton was one of the most respected officers in the U.S. Army. Lawton, Oklahoma was named in his honor. George E. Albee was a 4th Cavalry officer who served with Lawton in the Southwest. Included with this group is a copy of a letter from Winchester Repeating Arms to Lieutenant Albee signed by T.S. Bennett. The letter discusses testing and purchase of Winchester-Hotchkiss Bolt Action Rifles by the Army and mentions a report by Capt. Lawton. Albee's connection with Winchester almost certainly allowed him to obtain Winchester Model 1886 (serial number 1) as a gift for Capt. Lawton following the surrender of Geronimo. Serial number 1 is a standard Winchester Model 1886 Sporting Rifle with 26-inch full octagon barrel and full length magazine. The barrel has a standard sporting front sight with nickel silver blade and a folding leaf rear sight marked "1876" at the top of the leaf. The barrel, magazine, bolt and loading gate are blued and the forearm cap, receiver, hammer, trigger, lever and crescent buttplate are color casehardened. The stock and forearm are straight grain American walnut with a polished finish. The factory inscription "ALBEE TO LAWTON" is located on the top barrel flat between the rear sight and the receiver. The serial number "1" is stamped in script on the lower tang between the lever and the rear tang screw. The two-line legend ("-MANUFACTURED BY THE-/- "WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN. CONN. U.S.A.-") is roll-stamped on the top of the barrel ahead of the rear sight. "45-70" is stamped in script numerals on the top barrel flat between the inscription and the edge of the receiver. The upper receiver tang is roll-stamped "-MODEL 1886-" between the tang screws. The 1884 and 1885 patent markings found on the lower tang of later production rifles are not present on this rifle. The gold plated "C. Howard & Co." pocket watch is suspended by a heavy gold chain with long gold links inscribed with the names of the New Mexico cattlemen who contributed to the presentation. The watch is accompanied by two letters from former owner Arnold Marcus Chernoff that describe the watch, chain and circumstances of the presentation to Capt. Lawton. One of the letters notes that the price of the Howard watch and chain was $1000.00 in 1885. Also included with the group are numerous documents related to Henry W. Lawton's military career including copies of his service records dating from the 1861-1899. This combination of Winchester Model 1886 (serial number 1) presented to the officer credited with the surrender of Geronimo and the very high quality watch and chain presented to Capt. Lawton by New Mexico cattlemen is one of the most important and historic firearms groups ever offered by the Rock island Auction Co. General Henry W. Lawton's career involved distinguished combat service in the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the Civil War, ended the Apache Wars, and was killed in action leading troops in the Philippines. ANY firearm associated with Lawton would be a rare and historic piece. This first production Winchester Model 1886 rifle with factory presentation to Henry W. Lawton from a fellow soldier following the surrender of Geronimo combined with a presentation watch and chain for the same action is a one-of-kind group.