While there were a large number of Colt inscribed to Union officers during the Civil War, very few Colt Model 1861 Navy revolvers were inscribed. Only 25,000 of these revolvers were manufactured by 1865 compared to 153,000 Model 1860 Army revolvers and 180,000 Model 1851 Navy revolvers. This revolver was manufactured in 1863 and has nickel-silver blade front sight, the one-line New York barrel address, "COLTS/PATENT" on the left side of the frame, "36 CAL" and "4" on the left side of the trigger guard, the standard naval roll scene on the cylinder, and matching serial numbers aside from the replacement wedge. The serial numbers on the bottom also have "2" marked either above or below. The back strap is inscribed "Capt. A. Philbrook/Co D 24th Regt. Wis. Vol." Captain Alvah Philbrook was the captain of company D of the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Copies of materials relating to his Civil War service are included with the lot. The regiment was organized at Milwaukee and mustered into service in August 1862 and was sent to Kentucky. They fought at Stone's River, Chickamauga, Franklin, Nashville, Missionary Ridge and Chattanooga. Captain Philbrook was killed in action at the Second Battle of Franklin in Tennessee on November 30, 1864. Gen. Stanley said: "I will not absolutely say the 24th Wis. saved the battle of Franklin, but they had a great deal to do with saving it." The slightly outnumbered Union troops devastated the assaulting Confederates under John Bell Hood inflicting 6,252 casualties. During the battle, the 24th was part of the 1st Brigade under the command of Colonel Emerson E. Opdycke who disobeyed an order and arranged his men at the farmhouse of Fountain Branch Carter. At the "Carter House," the 24th prevented a break in the Union line by charging forward against the Confederates as other Union regiments fell back in confusion. Their counter-charge halted the Confederates. Major Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglass MacArthur, was severely wounded and turned command of the 24th over to Philbrook who continued to press the men forward. Meanwhile, the Confederate forces continued to pour into what they believed to be a break in the Union lines that instead proves to be a deadly kill-zone with fire from three sides and continued to reform for multiple assaults on the Union lines. Sergeant Thomas Ford of Company H wrote that, "In one of the many rebel surges during the next several hours, Captain Philbrook noticed one of his Company D privates, an Irish immigrant with a thick brogue, dodging and ducking from the noise of rebel bullets whining past. 'Mike,' the 34-year-old broad-shouldered railroad man admonished, 'quit dodging your head there. Stand up and take it like a man.' The final word had not left the captain's mouth when a bullet struck him in the middle of his forehead." Command fell to Captain Edwin Parsons of Company K, and he is recorded as collecting Philbrook's personal effects. After inflicting heavy losses on the Confederates, the Union forces were able to orderly continue on to Nashville, but Philbrook and many others were left behind on the battlefield. Many of the Union dead were buried in common graves formed from the trenches. Philbrook's final resting place remains unknown. He is likely buried with other Union soldiers not far from where he fell. This revolver may have been among the effects secured by Parson and delivered back to Philbrook's wife. Per "De Loss Love's Wisconsin in the War of Rebellion," "Major Alvah Philbrook, who was instantly killed at Franklin, soon after the grand charge that turned the tide of battle in our favor 'was beloved and esteemed' says Captain Partsons, 'by all, both officers and men, and his loss was sorely felt.' Lieutenant Good rich adds, 'He had not an enemy in the whole regiment.' He served faithfully and bravely; his name was entered on General Rosecrans' roll of honor for gallant services in the field; he rose from captaincy of his company to the majority of his regiment; and his death seems the more sad because he fell so near to the close of the great contest when soon he might have shared in the nation's rejoicing over victory. But victory and liberty cost many such deaths!" He left behind a wife and young daughter, both named Caroline.
Fine with 50% plus original blue finish on the barrel, silver-gray patina on the cylinder, 60% original case colors, 25% original silver plating on the trigger guard concentrated around the front and bow and exhibiting dark aged patina, lighter aged patina on the exposed brass, and mild overall wear. The grip is also fine and has much of the original varnish, mild handling and edge wear, and some chips and small flakes at the edges. Mechanically fine. This is a very attractive and rare example of an inscribed Colt Model 1861 Navy revolver, already one of the scarcest Civil War Colts, and its inscription to an officer killed while leading his men in battle at Franklin, Tennessee, certainly make it a worthy addition to any Civil War or Colt percussion revolver collection.
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