Rock Island Auction Company proudly presents the incredibly iconic “Floyd Navy.” The engraving was executed by master engraver Gustave Young and has his classic deluxe style with floral blooms and animal heads among the highly detailed scroll engraving. Note the dog head among the scrolls on the left side of the barrel and classic wolf/dog head on the hammer, typical features of Gustave Young’s work. The overall pattern is the classic style perfected by Young. The inscription on the back strap reads, “To Hon J.B. Floyd/From Col. Colts Workmen.” A second presentation inscription is featured on the front strap and reads, “Peter Otey from Gen. Floyd.” The revolver has an apostrophe marked by the matching serial numbers on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, and back strap indicating factory engraving. The cylinder, wedge and arbor pin are also numbered to the gun. The left side of the frame is stamped “COLTS/PATENT” above “US.” The revolver falls in the 42000-80000 serial number range of Model 1851s which were purchased by the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War. This revolver was manufactured in 1856. It is fitted with a dovetail type front sight. The top barrel flat is marked "-ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-". The cylinder has the naval battle scene along with scrollwork at the rear. Fitted with a nicely figured deluxe walnut grip with varnish finish. The partitioned case contains a sealed Eley Brothers cap tin, a sealed package of six seamless skin Navy cartridges, a “COLT’S/PATENT” double face powder flask featuring a patriotic/military motif, a blued “COLT’S/PATENT” dual cavity bullet mold, and some lead balls. Includes a 2012 dated Bobby Smith Antique guns receipt (copy) for the revolver. The revolver is pictured and identified in R.L. Wilson’s “Fine Colts: The Dr. Joseph A. Murphy Collection” on pages 38-39. The revolver was also exhibited in "Samuel Colt Presents” at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in 1961-62 and is pictured and identified in the book of the same title on page 245. It is also photographed in the iconic 1970s Texas Gun Annual from the collection of Dr. Robert Nelson, whom also once owned the famous "Millikin Dragoon". This revolver is one of 3 Colt presentation arms along with a shoulder stock presented to Floyd as documented in “Samuel Colt Presents” (pages 241-246). As R.L. Wilson explains, “The [Colt factory] gift consisted of at least a Third Model Dragoon with matching shoulder stock (number 16467), a Model 1849 Pocket revolver (number 113858), the Model 1851 Navy, and a Sidehammer revolving rifle (number 1935). Possibly more pieces were involved…[but] records are incomplete. All items in the set were engraved and inscribed, excepting no inscription was present on the back strap of the Dragoon.” Wilson attributed the engraving to Gustave Young. According to Wilson, “Young was one of the factory workmen who journeyed to Washington, D.C., for personal presentation of the set to Floyd.” The presentation occurred in 1857. Samuel Colt was a master salesman above all his other attributes, and he found that the best kind of advertising that he could employ to promote his products were the products themselves. He handed out finely engraved and inscribed presentation guns to anyone he thought to be a worthy recipient. One of his guns placed in the hands of an influential person, believed Colt, would go a long way in winning support and acceptance of his products. As Secretary of War during the U.S. President James Buchanan administration from 1857 to 1860, John Floyd was the perfect candidate for a set of Colt presentation arms that originally included this Model 1851. John B. Floyd (1806-1863) studied law at South Carolina College, and after graduating in 1829, set up his own law practice in Abingdon, Virginia. This was to be a brief venture as he soon left Abingdon with one of his brothers for Arkansas where they invested in a cotton plantation. In the beginning the cotton enterprise was profitable, but the Panic of 1837 left Floyd in debt and as a result he lost the plantation. Making matters worse was an infectious disease outbreak that killed most of his slaves and nearly killed him. He returned to practicing law in Abingdon. By the late 1840s Floyd, a Democrat, was involved in state politics. He was elected to the General Assembly in 1847 and in 1849 was elected governor, a position his father held during the Nat Turner Insurrection. An original land deed from 1850 signed by Floyd when he was governor is included as well as a carte de visite of Floyd. In 1857, President James Buchanan appointed Floyd secretary of war, a reward for aiding Buchanan during the presidential campaign. Floyd’s tenure with the War Department was generally viewed as corrupt; he was accused of orchestrating shady government contracts. His decision to appoint a family member as quartermaster general of the army over senior officials created many enemies including future Confederate General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis, and the dispute followed him to Richmond. Floyd resigned from the War Department on December 29, 1860. He disagreed with Buchanan over the handling of Major Robert Anderson’s occupation of Fort Sumner, was accused of secretly transferring arms and munitions from Northern to Southern arsenals in preparation of the Civil War, and was accused and later exonerated of taking part in a bonds scandal at the Department of the Interior. In late May 1861, Floyd was appointed brigadier general in the Confederate army and spent most of the summer and autumn of 1861 quarreling with fellow former Virginia governor Brigadier General Henry Wise before being assigned commander of Fort Donelson in Tennessee. He arrived at Fort Donelson just as the fort was under attack by Union naval and army forces commanded by Ulysses S. Grant. While Floyd may have been a horrible Secretary of War, he was an even worse military tactician. Historians have argued that Floyd’s lack of leadership played a significant role in the Union’s first major victory. With little military experience, Floyd deferred most of the decision making to his experienced subordinates, Brigadier Generals Gideon Pillow and Simon Buckner. Union forces laid siege, resulting in a furious fight as the Confederate forces attempted break out. As the tide of the battle was turning in the favor of the Confederacy, the order was given for the Southern troops to return to their entrenchments. Grant took full advantage of the confusion and indecision that befell Floyd’s forces by launching a counterattack that resulted in the retaking of lost ground as well as gaining new footholds. Floyd and Pillow turned command of the fort to Buckner and escaped with about 2,000 men to Nashville. Buckner surrendered to Grant who demanded, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." For the rest of his life Floyd claimed that he escaped because if captured he would have been hanged as a traitor due to the controversy surrounding his time as Secretary of War just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War and it was futile to defend “the naked fort,” as he called it, from the Union’s onslaught. Included in this lot is a March 25, 1862 dated letter written by Floyd and addressed to the Honorable Henry S. Foote, Chairman Virginia House of Representatives. The four page letter is Floyd’s defense for the defeat at Fort Donelson. This letter is pictured with the revolver in “Fine Colts.” In conjunction with the capture of Fort Henry, the Battle of Fort Donelson was the first major Union victory and forced the South to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The rivers and railways in the area became vital Northern supply lines in the Western Theater. The battle was nothing short of opening “the heartland of the Confederacy” to Federal troops. The battle also gave the North a new hero: “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. Floyd went on to assist in the evacuation of Nashville, the first Confederate capital to fall. In the aftermath of the fall of Nashville, President Davis relieved Floyd of command without a hearing. Floyd returned to Abingdon where he was appointed a major general in the state militia. Shortly thereafter he died on August 23, 1863. The front strap inscription indicates that Floyd presented the revolver to Peter Otey (1840-1902). Otey was a staff officer with the 51st Virginia Infantry under Floyd and was among those who escaped with Floyd from Fort Donelson to Nashville. At the time, Otey was engaged to his future wife, Malvina Floyd, the general’s niece. Otey and Malvina were married on April 15, 1863, just a few months prior to General Floyd’s death in August. Perhaps this revolver was presented to Otey as a wedding gift or for appreciation for his service on the general’s staff. Nevertheless, the two men thought highly of each other as demonstrated by the general’s presentation of the revolver and Otey and his wife naming their only son, John Floyd Otey (1872-1888), after the general. In October 1862, Otey was commissioned a major with the 30th Virginia Sharpshooters Battalion. He fought in numerous battles including the Battles of Shiloh, Cedar Creek, New Market, and Waynesboro. He was wounded at the Battle of New Market, recovered from his arm wound, and was taken prisoner of war at the Battle of Waynesboro, which was the final battle for Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early whose army, including the 30th Virginia Sharpshooters Battalion, was destroyed. After the war Otey worked in banking and sold insurance before organizing the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad to which he served as president. As a Democrat, he served in Congress from 1895 until his death in 1902.
Exceptionally fine. The barrel retains 85% bright original high polished blue finish, and the cylinder retains 60% original polish blue finish with the balance a smooth brown patina. 90% original case colors remain on the hammer and frame, and 70% original case colors remain on the loading lever. 98% original silver plating remains on the grip straps. The cylinder scene is complete. The engraving is crisp and inscriptions are crisp. The grip is excellent with a small chip near the bottom, otherwise minor dings and scratches and most of the original varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. The case is fine with minor handling/storage marks, discreet museum type collection number on a short end, and typical high spot wear. The powder flask retains 80% plus of the original brown lacquer and gilt finishes. 95% original high polished blue finish remains on the presentation grade bullet mold. Without a doubt this historic factory presentation engraved Model 1851 will be a stand out piece even in the most advanced private, public, Colt, or Civil War collection. This extraordinary Colt revolver is a key historic reminder of the American story when philosophical division between the North and South eventually led to a civil war. Provenance: The Curt McClymond Collection.
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