Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 154: Texas Confederate Cavalryman's Colt Walker Revolver

Auction Date: May 14, 2021

Well-Documented D Company No. 13 Colt Model 1847 Walker Percussion Revolver Documented as Owned by Texas Pioneer and Confederate Cavalry Veteran John Z. Leyendecker with a Massive Amount of Extensive Research

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $160,000 - $275,000

Well-Documented D Company No. 13 Colt Model 1847 Walker Percussion Revolver Documented as Owned by Texas Pioneer and Confederate Cavalry Veteran John Z. Leyendecker with a Massive Amount of Extensive Research

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Walker
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44
Barrel: 9 inch part round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 4146
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 148
Class: Antique

The Colt Walker is the pinnacle of collecting for advanced Colt collection. These incredibly historic revolvers are among the most difficult to obtain of all antique American firearms. Only 1,000 military contract Walker revolvers were manufactured by Samuel Colt at Eli Whitney's factory in Connecticut. They are the model responsible for relaunching Samuel Colt’s firearms making business and propelling his name and his firearms to international fame. They were first issued to the U.S. Mounted Rifles in 1847 and first used in the Mexican-American War. Many remained in Texas after the war, and some, like this one, are documented as having been used by Confederate cavalrymen during the Civil War. Those in working condition continued to be used through the Civil War by Confederates. Due to this extensive use in the mid-19th century and beyond, as well as flaws in the metallurgy, only around 10% of Colt Walkers survive, and many that do are incomplete relics. This revolver was displayed as part of the famous Parade of Walkers in 2003 by Mr. Virgil Mylin and is pictured in the Gun Report article "The Texas Gun Collectors' Parade of Walkers" by Dick Salzer about the display. The Colt comes with a copy of its display certificate signed by the TGCA Walker Display Committee (Paul Sorrell, Bobby Smith, Michael Simens and Bobby Vance) and information about the display are included within the two binders of research and documents that accompany the revolver. The revolver is also listed in some of the published lists of surviving Walkers. The documents include correspondence with multiple descendants of Confederate Assistant Quartermaster John Z. Leyendecker (1827-1902) who owned this revolver. After his purchase, Mr. Mylin contacted the Leyendecker surviving relatives who confirmed they personally knew of the revolver and that it had been passed down through their family. The family documents also provide insight into Leyendecker’s biography discussed below. Per family tradition, this revolver was carried by John Z. Leyendecker in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. It was later passed onto Joseph Leyendecker (1871-1963), one of his sons, and the younger Leyendecker may have also personally used the revolver in the southwest while he was transporting freight between Laredo and San Antonio. He passed the revolver on to Liston Leyendecker (1931-2001), his grandson and one of John Z. Leyendecker’s many grandchildren. Liston Leyendecker was professional historian living in Colorado when he sold the revolver to noted antique American firearms expert and collector Frank Sellers in 1981. Since then, it has been owned by a select group of collectors. The revolver is one of an estimated 220 revolvers manufactured with "D COMPANY" markings (the 1,000 military contract Walker Model Revolvers were serial-numbered sequentially with Company A-E with between 120 and 220 revolvers marked for each company). It has the base of the German silver front sight blade present and a small notch in the hammer for a rear sight. “D COMPANY No 13” is on the left side of the barrel lug and frame. “D” and “13” visible on the cylinder. The front of the brass trigger guard has “D COMY No 13.” The butt of the iron back strap has “D COMPANY No 13” reading from the heel towards the toe. The cylinder pin is marked “13” on the bottom, and “13” is repeated on the left side of the front strap and the toe of the grip. A copy of a December 9, 1982, letter from Sellers is included in which he explains that the rammer assembly (rammer, screw, plunger, and plunger screw) is a period replacement "probably done by a blacksmith to replace these parts which were notoriously weak on the original." The rammer catch is a modern replacement made by Sellers since no catch was present when he acquired it. The wedge screw is also a replacement, but the wedge "is probably the original." "Internal parts, as far as could be determined without removing the hammer, trigger, and bolt screws, which are frozen, are all original and carry the proper assembly marks." The included letter from R.L. Wilson details his examination of the revolver, which essentially confirms what Sellers and the family information provide, but Wilson also adds that the "US/1847" markings on the barrel lug were likely defaced to prevent reclamation by the government. He wrote that he "considers D Company No. 13 as a superior example to the majority" of surviving Walkers and notes specifically that it is better than C Company No. 33 from the Colt factory museum collection as well as examples in several other prominent museums. He concludes, "D Company No. 13 is an extremely important Walker, due particularly to the accompanying history of Mexican War and frontier Texas use, as well as during the frontier Texas and Civil War services of John Z. Leyendecker." John Zirvas (Johann Zefrus) Leyendecker was born September 10, 1827, at Mellmerod in the Dutchy of Nassau in what is now Germany and emigrated to the U.S. when he was 18 years old along with his parents and siblings on the Riga and arrived in Texas in 1845. His family settled at Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. He is reported to have fought in the Mexican-American War but documentation providing details of that service have not been uncovered. He opened a sutler’s shop and Indian trading post at Fort Chadbourne with fellow German immigrant Christian Kraus in March of 1853. In 1855, he opened a store in Laredo. He became a U.S. citizen on April 1, 1856. On June 1, 1857, he married Maria Andrea Benavides (1835-1863), the sister of influential local leader Santos Benavides (1823-1891). Together they had four children and adopted another. His store in Laredo was robbed in 1858. He also had another store in Fredericksburg. He is reported as the first postmaster of Laredo in 1858-1859. During the Civil War, the recent immigrants from Germany living in the Texas Hill Country were generally Unionists and held anti-slavery views, but his brother-in-law was the commanding officer of the 33rd Texas Cavalry, commonly known as the Benavides Regiment or Benavides Cavalry, and Leyendecker elected to serve under him as a lieutenant and later captain. Colonel Benavides was the highest ranking Confederate Tejano. Records list Leyendecker as the acting assistant quartermaster and acting assistant commissary of subsistence for the regiment based at Fort McIntosh. He appears to have enlisted in 1863. Among the Benavides Cavalry’s exploits were fending off three attacks by an estimated 200 Union troops at the Battle of Laredo on March 18, 1864, despite only numbering around 42 men themselves. The Union troops attacked to try to destroy bales of cotton destined for Mexico. The Confederate victory ensured the passage of cotton into to Mexico and thus helped to provide resources to the Confederate cause. As a merchant and quartermaster, Leyendecker was involved in the sale and shipment of Confederate cotton and the purchasing of goods from Mexico and likely had his own personal finances at stake. Benavides also led his men in the last official land battle of the Civil War at the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12 and 13 of 1865. Leyendecker’s first wife died during the war from tuberculosis, and he remarried to her sister Juliana (1837-1926) on August 1, 1865. This was apparently in accordance with his wife’s wishes. Together they raised his surviving children from the first marriage and had ten more, including Joseph Patrick Leyendecker (1871-1963) who was later given this revolver by his father and likely used it himself in the Southwest. According to one of his second wife’s included obituaries, John Leyendecker was one of two men in Laredo along with Father Souchon when Union forces arrived. After first fearing he would be executed, his wife noted that he was instead kept on as quartermaster for the Union troops in Laredo. He was the postmaster in Laredo for nine years during Reconstruction and was active in politics, including as the representative for Colorado County in the Texas Legislature in 1873-1874. He was also a prominent local businessman with various official capacities, including as treasurer and secretary and a director of the Rio Grande & Eagle Pass Railway. His fine home built after the war still stands in Laredo today and remained in the family until 1995. His obituaries from August 1902 note that he was a Texas pioneer and was well-known throughout the state. The ranching community of Leyendecker, Texas, (now essentially a ghost town) northwest of Laredo and John Z. Leyendecker Elementary School in Laredo were named in his honor. Provenance: John Z. Leyendecker, Joseph P. Leyendecker, Liston Leyendecker, Frank Sellers, Don Fraser, Eric Vaule, Paul Sorrel, Frank Singer, Virgil Mylin, Michael E. Simens, Current Consignor

Rating Definition:

Good and above average for a Colt Walker revolver with an even brown patina, light oxidation and pitting, and moderate wear on the steel and deep aged patina on the brass. "D COMPANY No. 13" remains legible, and the balance of the barrel has no visible markings and has material absent around the frame pins and a thin crack at the loading cut-out on the right. The cylinder scene is gone, but the "D" and "13" are distinct. The frame marking is largely distinct. The trigger guard marking is the clearest, and the back strap marking remains discernible. The matching undersized, heavily worn grip has chips and slivers absent from the edges, especially at the toe. Mechanically fine. Antique Colts with Texas heritage always bring a premium, and Colt Walkers certainly generate a lot of interest on their own. A Colt Walker with documented provenance dating back to a Confederate officer is truly a collection defining treasure, especially one in as high of condition as this.

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