Rock Island Auction Company
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Lot 1127: El Teb Cased Pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolvers

Auction Date: December 5, 2020

Exceptional Pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolvers with London Proofs, Accessories, and Case with Inscription for the Historic Battle of El Teb

Estimated Price: $16,000 - $25,000

A) Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1851 Navy
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 36
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 775
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 98
Class: Antique
Description:

The case lid for this pair has "EL TEB" and "FEBRUARY 29TH/1884" inscribed on the central escutcheon. During the Mahdist War, Sudanese Islamic jihadists inspired and led by Muhammad Ahmad who had proclaimed himself the "Mahdi" (Guided One) fought against their Egyptian rulers and their British allies. Though poorly armed and trained, they overcame multiple Egyptian commands and secured their weapons. On February 4, 1884, Egyptian troops under Englishman Valentine Baker (Baker Pasha) suffered a humiliating and brutal defeat at the hands of the comparably poorly armed Mahdist rebels at the First Battle of El Teb. Only around 1,000 of Baker's command escaped while around 2,400 were dead and many others agreed to join the rebels rather than be massacred. Sir Gerald Graham led British forces diverted to respond to the first battle. The Second Battle of El Teb took place on February 29th, 1884, between the British Army with 4,206 men and 28 artillery pieces against upwards of 15,000 Sudanese Mahdists and defected Egyptian soldiers. The British had modern firearms, including Gatling and Gardner guns, and were well-trained and disciplined while the locals were primarily armed with and experienced with a combination of traditional swords, spears, and other outdated weaponry. They also had modern firearms and artillery they had captured from the Egyptians but were unable to use them effectively. The British formed a square with the Gordon Highlanders holding the front and the Black Watch at the rear. The right flank was held by the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers and 3rd King’s Royal Rifle Corps while the left flank was held by the 1st York and Lancaster Regiment and a detachment of Royal Marine Light Infantry. They were supported by cavalry, hussars, and mounted infantry. Unlike the Egyptians in the first battle, the British remained disciplined and used their advanced weaponry to deadly effect while the Mahdists fiercely but futilely charged the British square with their traditional weapons and were shot down in droves. Others played dead or hid and then attacked the mounted British troops when they weren't expecting it, but the British suffered only light casualties, including 5 officers and 24 non-commissioned ranks killed. The Mahdists lost around 2,000 to 2,500 killed plus many more wounded. Graham and British troops met the Mahdists again at the Battle of Tamai on March 13 and defeated them though the Sudanese again fought with great ferocity and this time managed to more successfully engage the British in hand to hand combat. Nonetheless, the British losses, the most significant of the war, were again comparably light while thousands of the Mahdists were killed. Exactly who these revolvers belonged to is not clear. They would have been rather outdated by the time of the battle, but percussion firearms were certainly still in use at that time and the British units engaged in the battle had been diverted. It seems likely that an officer or soldier engaged in the battle was either presented them or had the case inscribed to commemorate the victory. The revolvers were manufactured in 1864 (A) and 1865 (B) and have "1" (B) and "2" (A) stamped near the heel of the butts. Both have London proof and view marks and otherwise have standard markings and features for Civil War era commercial Model 1851 Navy revolvers. They have matching serial numbers including the wedges and the grips. The case contains a glass oiler, Dixon powder flask, Eley Bros. cap tin, L-shaped combination tool, and a cleaning rod.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 85% plus original vibrant case colors remaining, 80% original bright high polish blue finish on the barrel, 30% original blue on the cylinder which has a distinct roll scene and mostly solid safety pins, smooth gray and brown patina on the flaked and faded areas, 25% original silver remaining on the grip frame concentrated most heavily around the trigger guard, and light scratches and marks. The grip is also very fine and has some light dings and scratches, strong original varnish, and light handling and storage wear. Mechanically excellent. Most of the wear appears to be from age and handling rather than use. The case is also very fine and has mostly storage related wear including some spots of discoloration and slight tears of the lining from contact with the revolvers. The accessories are very good with age and storage related wear. A very attractive set all around.



B) Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1851 Navy
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 36
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 775
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 98
Class: Antique
Description:

See "A."

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 70% plus original vibrant case colors remaining, 70% original high polish blue on the barrel, traces of original blue on the cylinder which has a distinct roll-scene and some solid safety pins, mostly smooth brown patina where the finish has flaked or faded, 50% original silver plating remaining on the grip frame, and relatively minor overall wear including some scratches and dings. The grip is fine and has several mostly minor dents and scratches, nearly all of the glossy varnish remaining, and light edge wear. Mechanically excellent. This is an outstanding pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy revolvers. This was the model most widely used by foreign militaries and one of the most important and collectible Colt models.



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