Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1102: Colt Model 1847 Walker Revolver Inscribed "F.H. Kennedy"

Auction Date: May 14, 2022

Rare and Desirable Historic C Company U.S. Colt Model 1847 Walker Percussion Revolver Inscribed for Terry's Texas Ranger "F.H. Kennedy"

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $250,000 - $375,000

Rare and Desirable Historic C Company U.S. Colt Model 1847 Walker Percussion Revolver Inscribed for Terry's Texas Ranger "F.H. Kennedy"

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Walker
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44
Barrel: 9 inch part round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 1892
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 86
Class: Antique
Description:

Only 1,000 of the historical U.S. martial contract Colt Walker revolvers were manufactured in 1847. These massive "horse pistols" resurrected Samuel Colt's firearms business. The design was famously conceived in collaboration with Captain Samuel H. Walker of the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Regiment of Mounted Riflemen. John Coffee Hays, Walker, and the Texas Rangers had successfully used Colt's Paterson revolvers while outnumbered in combat with the Comanche in Texas and in battle with the Mexican army in the 1840s. In 1847, Samuel Colt contacted Walker asking for details on the battles in which his revolvers had been used and for an endorsement that he could then use to pursue government contracts. Walker wrote back a glowing endorsement of Colt's revolvers but also made suggestions on how to improve the design, and a contract for 1,000 revolvers was signed. Colt did not have a manufacturing facility for the revolvers, so he contracted to have Eli Whitney Jr. build them for him. Aside from a few special pairs sent earlier, this revolver would have been part of the first batch of 220 revolvers with the C Company markings (Walker's company in the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen) shipped to the Vera Cruz Ordnance Depot, but nearly all of these were diverted for Colonel Hays's men in the Texas Rangers. During the fighting, the Walker was reported to be as effective as a rifle at 100 yards and more effective than a musket at 200 yards. Walker was famously killed while armed with a pair of these revolvers at the Battle of Juamantla in October 1847. After the Mexican-American War ended, most of the surviving Colt Walker revolvers were returned to government arsenals in Texas, and, of the 191 turned in by Hays's men, only 82 are recorded as remaining serviceable. Many of the Walkers used during the Mexican-American War and in fights with Native Americans in the late 1840s were shipped to the San Antonio Ordnance Depot and were captured by the Confederacy at the beginning of the Civil War and then issued to Confederate cavalry units. This revolver is shown on page 23 of the Alamo exhibit publication “Firearms of the Texas Frontier: Flintlock to Cartridge, 1836-1876” by Alamo Historian and Curator Dr. Richard Bruce Winders and was also featured as the Alamo Artifact of the Month in the October 2014 edition of The Alamo Messenger where it was noted as being featured in the exhibit which was set to open on October 15, 2014. It is also featured in the Fall 2019 issue of “The Texas Gun Collector” on pages 30-31 in the article “Best of Show TCGA Show, Fall 2018: A Passel of Walkers” by John Galle where he reports his friend Doug Myers first noted the back strap inscription after Galle received the revolver in 2014. He notes that “F.H. Kennedy enrolled in Terry’s Texas Rangers in Houston in 1861” and the revolver previously belonged to Arnold Chernoff and John Fluck. He also states “C-136 is the only Walker that I know of that has been carried in the Mexican War (98% probability) and the Civil War.” In an included copy of a letter from R.L. Wilson to Arnold Chernoff, this revolver is noted as “one of the fifteen best Walkers in America” and as “distinguished in having completely matching numbers and all original parts.” Wilson attributes the lever latch as a factory alteration. In an included copy of a letter from Herb Glass, Jr to John Galle in 2015, Glass states this revolver “can be certainly counted among the best of the ‘no cylinder scene Walkers’” and notes that the “4” markings are “apparently an assembly number related to the loading lever alteration. It is possible this alteration is factory done; the work is certainly of factory quality.” He also notes that the grips are numbered “131” instead of “136” but attributes this as a factory error and notes that it is also marked “136” in the buttstrap cutout. The revolver has a German silver blade front sight, "ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY" marked on the top flat at the breech, "US/1847" marked on the right side of the barrel lug, and a period modified loading lever with lever catch below the barrel. The frame and barrel have "C COMPANY No 136" on the left side, and the same is repeated on the butt. The trigger guard has "C COM-Y No 136." "COM-Y No 136" is on the side of the cylinder, and "13" is on the rear. "136" is on the bottom of the arbor and marked in the rear grip mortise, and "136" with the "3" horizontal us on the wedge. "4" is marked on the right side of the arbor and frame, the left side of the barrel lug, on the bottom of the barrel, on the front face of the cylinder, and the bottom of the grip. A horizontally flipped "N" or "11" is marked on the left side of the grip at the top. The inscription "F.H. KENNEDY." is along the back strap cut over some of the wear. In Wilbur F.S. Quick's inventory of known Walkers from 1953, this revolver was identified as owned by Charles W. Fritz of Norwood, Ohio. Per the National Park Service Soldiers & Sailors database, an F.H. Kennedy fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War as a private from Houston in Company K of the 8th Texas Cavalry (Terry's Texas Rangers). Copies of some of his service records shared on-line list him as 23 years old and later show him sick in a private hospital in Nashville starting in April-May of 1862. His fate is not known. Other records suggest he was a druggist by profession before the war and was born in Kentucky. Per the Texas State Historical Association, when they enlisted in Terry's Texas Rangers, "Each man was required to furnish a shotgun or carbine, a Colt revolver, a Bowie knife, and a saddle, bridle, and blanket." They fought at Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Atlanta and raided in Kentucky and Tennessee with Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. They were sent to try to slow Sherman's "March to the Sea," and fought at Bentonville, seen generally as the end of the war. They did not surrender and instead escaped with plans to continue fighting, but with the collapse of the Confederate cause, they split up and returned home to Texas. Provenance: The Dr. Douglas Sirkin Collection; The John Galle Collection

Rating Definition:

Very good with traces of period applied blue finish on the frame and protected areas of the back strap, mix of gray and brown patina on the balance of the iron, some mild pitting, general moderate dings and scratches, brass safety pin on the rear of the cylinder, attractive aged patina on the trigger guard, and generally rather light overall wear for a U.S. Colt Walker revolver. The grip is good and has a repaired crack visible along the left side, chips at the toe, and moderate handling wear. Mechanically fine. Definitely an attractive and interesting Walker from the batch marked for Samuel Walker's own company.



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