Rock Island Auction Company
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Lot 3136: Model 1851 Navy Revolvers Presented by Colt to Lord Cardigan

Auction Date: May 16, 2021

Historic and Magnificent Cased and Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolvers Presented to the Commander of the Light Brigade

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $110,000 - $180,000

A) Colt Model 1851 Navy

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1851 Navy
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 36 percussion
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue
Grip: highly figured varnished walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 1266
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 78
Class: Antique
Description:

This cased pair of factory engraved Colt Model 1851 London Navy Revolvers (serial no. 19089 and no. 19092) was presented by Samuel Colt to career British officer James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868). During the Crimean War, Lord Cardigan was a major general and commanded the British Light Brigade in the Sebastopol Campaign. On October 25, 1854, during the Battle of Balaclava, Lord Cardigan famously led approximately 670 troopers from the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. They were armed with lances and sabers and were supposed to have been directed against redoubts already being overrun to prevent the Russians from withdrawing guns but were instead relayed an incorrect order by Captain Louis E. Nolan that sent the brigade into a suicidal charge under fire from Russian artillery and small arms against a fortified and well-defended Russian battery. At the end of the 20 minute encounter, the Light Brigade had suffered 110 killed, another 130 wounded (some mortally), and around 30 captured. Captain Nolan was one of the first to die in the charge. They also lost 335 horses. During the charge, Cardigan was at the front, engaged with the Russians in hand-to-hand combat, and then returned back up the valley alone and emerged remarkably unscathed. In his recollections of the battle, he stated they “advanced down a gradual descent of more than three-quarters of a mile, with the batteries vomiting forth upon us shells and shot, round and grape, with one battery on our right flank and another on the left, and all the intermediate ground covered with the Russian riflemen; so that when we came to within a distance of fifty yards from the mouths of the artillery which had been hurling destruction upon us, we were, in fact, surrounded and encircled by a blaze of fire, in addition to the fire of the riflemen upon our flanks.” Once the survivors reached the Russian battery, they were able to kill or drive back many of the artillerymen and silence the guns temporarily. They forced their way through “the mass of Russian cavalry of – as we have since learned – 5,240 strong; and having broken through that mass” and then were force to fight their way back through in retreat and were again under murderous fire from the enemy artillery and riflemen. The Light Brigade were heralded as heroes, and their actions used to symbolize the immense courage of the British cavalry and more broadly the Royal Army. Cardigan left for England in December and was invited to tell Queen Victoria his account of the battle. He became an instant celebrity telling tales of the events (some fantastical), and the famous “cardigan” sweater was named for him. In 1859, he became the colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards and was retired as a lieutenant-general in 1860 as the colonel the 11th Hussars, his first command from 1836. His final act as a military officer was reviewing the 11th before they embarked for India in 1866. These revolvers are some of the best known and documented of all the Samuel Colt presentation pieces and are some of the most historic of all Colt presentation revolvers. This casing has been illustrated and described in numerous publications including: "Samuel Colt Presents", "The Book of Colt Engraving" and "Steel Canvas" by R.L Wilson and the "Antique Arms Annual” from 1971. The 2nd Model London Navy Revolvers were manufactured in 1855 and are engraved in script on the back straps: "Presented to/The Earl of Cardigan/by the Inventor" in three lines. The revolvers have blued barrels and cylinders, casehardened frames, loading levers and hammers and steel silver-plated trigger guards and back straps. The one-piece, deluxe walnut grips have a high polish 'piano' finish. The revolvers are embellished with delicate British vine style scroll engraving on the barrels, loading lever flats, frames, trigger guards and back straps. The tops of the hammers are decorated with a fish motif. The cylinders are roll-engraved with the standard Texas Navy battle scene. The top of each barrel is roll-stamped: "-ADDRESS COL. COLT. LONDON -" in a panel with engraved borders. "COLTS PATENT" is engraved in Old English letters in a ribbons on the left side of each frame. The full serial number is located on the loading lever, barrel, frame, trigger guard, back strap and cylinder of each revolver. All of the visible serial numbers on both revolvers match. A punch-mark below the serial number on the barrel, frame, trigger guard and back strap indicates that the revolvers were designated for special finish and engraving. London proof and view marks are stamped on the left side of each barrel lug and over alternate chambers on each cylinder. The revolvers have a brass bound English style oak case with green felt lining and ten compartments. The case lid is inlaid with the circular, folding brass handles surrounding a round brass plate engraved with an earl’s coronet for Lord Cardigan. Three of the interior compartments have brass handles. The case contains: a steel cleaning rod with blued ball handle, two lacquered Eley cap tins with green paper labels, two blued nipple wrench/screwdriver combination tools, two double cavity bullet molds marked: "COLTS/PATENT" on the sprue cutters (one silver plated), spare parts including a mainspring and percussion nipples, and a "COLTS NAVY FLASK" from "JAMES DIXON/& SONS/SHEFFELD” with a brown lacquer body, gold-plated brass top and adjustable spout and niter blue spring.

Rating Definition:

Fine. Both revolvers have a smooth blue/silver-gray on the barrels and cylinders with traces of original finish in protected areas. Number 089 retains 90% or the roll-engraved battle scene; Number 092 has 70% of the cylinder scene with some light pitting. Both revolvers have 80% of the original casehardened finish on the loading levers, frames and hammers with strong case colors. 60% of the silver-plated finish is present on the trigger guards and back straps. The engraved presentations on the back straps are crisp. The barrel addresses, patent markings and proofs are crisp. The deluxe walnut grips on both revolvers are excellent and retain nearly all of the original high gloss varnish with minimal handling and storage wear. The actions of both revolvers function fine. The case exterior is in very good condition with minor scratches and handling marks. The case interior is in fine condition. The green felt lining is bright and clean. Interior wear is limited to several minor tears in the lining on the case partitions from contact with the revolver hammers and front sights. The accessories are all in excellent condition and the flask is near mint with nearly all of original brown lacquer and gold-plated finish.



B) Colt Model 1851 Navy

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1851 Navy
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 36 percussion
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue
Grip: highly figured varnished walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 1266
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 78
Class: Antique
Description:

As described in "A."

Rating Definition:

As described in A. These high condition and historic Colt London Navy Revolvers are among the best known and significant of all the Samuel Colt presentation arms. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the centerpiece of the most advanced Colt collection.



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