Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1106: Samuel Colt Presentation Engraved Colt 1851 Navy of Col. Lally

Auction Date: May 14, 2022

Exceptional and Iconic Cased Samuel Colt Presentation Factory Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolver Inscribed to Mexican-American War Hero Colonel Lally from Colonel Colt

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $110,000 - $210,000

Exceptional and Iconic Cased Samuel Colt Presentation Factory Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolver Inscribed to Mexican-American War Hero Colonel Lally from Colonel Colt

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1851 Navy
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 36
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: deluxe factory walnut
Item Views: 1352
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 92
Class: Antique

This revolver is factory inscribed "To/Col. Lally/FROM Col. Colt" on the back strap and was covered in the article "Col. Lally Colt" by Arnold Chernoff in "The Gun Report" in July 1958. The engraving on this revolver based on more recent research by Herbert Houze would be attributed to Thomas J. Barlow. This revolver is notably similar to the Model 1851 Navy revolver (sn. 5270) inscribed from Samuel Colt to General Franklin Pierce (see pages 16-17 of "Colt Factory Engravers of the Nineteenth Century" by Houze) which is highly relevant to the discussion of this revolver below and why it was presented to Colonel Lally, and Lally had a direct business relationship with Samuel Colt. The engraving consists of wavy line borders at the muzzle and breech ends of the barrel, the classic "donut scroll" engraving with areas of crosshatched backgrounds, some gadroon borders, a bestial mask on the hammer that is more like a dragon than a wolf, "COLTS/PATENT" hand engraved in a scroll panel on the left side of the frame, and some additional panels engraved by some of the serial numbers. The revolver has a brass cone front sight, "-ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-" on the top of the barrel, the standard Naval Battle of Campeche roll-scene and patent marking on the cylinder, blank wedge, all-matching serial numbers, the factory "dot" marking denoting special finishing/engraving by the lower serial numbers, a very attractive and nicely figured factory deluxe walnut grip with a high polish "piano" varnish finish, and the standard blued barrel and cylinder, casehardened frame as well as hammer and loading lever, and silver plated grip straps. The revolver comes in a case with a Eley Bros. cap tin, early Colt patent navy powder flask with sloped charger, blued L-shaped combination screwdriver and nipple wrench, a Colt's Cartridge Works marked cartridge pack, and a replacement brass ball and bullet mold with iron sprue cutter marked "COLTS/PATENT" and numbered "7967" on the left side. Folliot Thornton Lally was a native of Maine. Copies of information relating to his Mexican-American War service, including pension and land bounty records, are included. He was originally commissioned as a captain but was quickly made a second major in the 9th Infantry which was popularly known as the New England Regiment as it was made up of men from the New England states during the Mexican-American War. The unit was originally commanded by Franklin Pierce before he was promoted to brigadier general and took over the brigade that the 9th was within. Major Lally is mostly remembered for the heroic march from Veracruz to supply the garrison at Puebla in August 1847 under heavy pressure from the Mexican irregulars which earned him a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel. In the article, Chernoff notes that Lally, as a major in the 9th Infantry, left Vera Cruz with 1,000 men on August 6, 1847. Lally prepared his men for attacks along the route. They were attacked at Paso de Ovejas on the 10th and lost 11 killed and 40 wounded, some of the latter died of their wounds. On the 12th, they met the enemy again at National Bridge (Puente Nacional) which the Mexican forces had barricaded and also took fire from the fort on the heights. They managed to clear the enemy from the fort and bridge but suffered losses over six hours of fighting. After holding in the town until the 14th, he moved his men across Rio Del Plan despite the bridge being demolished. On the 15th, they moved forward to Cerro Gordo and drove the opposing forces off with artillery and infantry, capturing two artillery pieces and nine thousand muskets. In the meantime, the National Bridge in their rear had again been seized by the Mexican forces. On the 19th, his men faced another attack at Las Animas near Jalapa where Lally was struck by a ball in the neck but remained in command until his victory was secured and Jalapa taken. His wound is mentioned on one of the included casualty reports. During the fights along the route, Lally had lost 105 men killed, wounded, or missing. In his report to Governor Wilson, Lally reported they had not lost a single wagon to the enemy and that his men has "badly whipped" the Mexicans under Father Jarauta at Cerro Gordo. He counted his losses as 7 officers wounded, 12 rank and file killed, 5 mortally wounded, and 66 wounded and that he had a number of men sick. Lally was met by General Joseph Lane who took over command, and Lally' was part of Lane's forces along with Captain Samuel H. Walker's men at Huamantla against Santa Anna's forces where Walker was famously killed at the end of September. Walker of course is an incredibly important figure in the rebirth of Colt's firearms enterprise in 1847. After Walker's death, Lane turned the infantry loose upon the town which they pillaged. The victory over Santa Anna forced the Mexicans to end the siege of Puebla when Lane's column arrived on October 12. The revolver was manufactured in 1851. In 1852, Franklin Pierce was the Democratic candidate for president, and Lally was a delegate from Maine for Pierce, his former commander. Both this revolver and the revolver inscribed for Pierce from Samuel Colt noted above may have been presented at, or in relation to, the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore at the beginning of June in 1852 or closer to the election and Pierce's victory that fall. Samuel Colt was a Democrat and no doubt would have wanted to secure favor with his party's candidate and future president, and his presentation of revolvers to influential military and political figures to build support for his business both in the U.S. and abroad is well known. Lally had Pierce's favor which helped him gain influence, including Pierce's recommendation in 1848 for a spot as a commissioner for the demarcation of the border with Mexico. Other period sources also note that Lally held an office under Pierce's administration, but the details of that office were not listed. While much of the details of Lally's life after the Mexican-American War are not clearly documented, multiple sources provide glimpses of Lally's post-war life, including a direct business relationship with none other than Samuel Colt. A newspaper article in the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier on June 17, 1861, clearly states, "We learn from the Gardiner Journal that Maj. F.T. Lally of Farmingdale, who has been spending the past few weeks in New York city, has left for Arizona, where he is employed by Col. Colt of Hartford, to take charge of the working of a quicksilver mine." On July 7, 1863, the Hartford Courant records Lally among the gentlemen with letters waiting for them in Hartford suggesting he still had business there, but how long he remained in the employment of Colt and Colt's company and when it his business relationship began is not clear at this time. Given the presentation of this '51 Navy , Lally may have been employed by Colt in the 1850s. Quicksilver, better known as mercury, was one of the key ingredients of mercury fulminate, the explosive compound used for priming percussion caps and early cartridges. The mercury from Arizona may have been being used at Colt's Cartridge Works opened in Hartford in 1857 to produce combustible cartridges. Lally's service during the Mexican-American War and his relationship with Franklin Pierce had made him an influential figure. In September 1848, he sought Franklin Pierce's support in being named as a commissioner for the demarcation of the border with Mexico and received Pierce's recommendation. In August of 1851, Lally was part of the team for Dr. Gardner in the case of the "Gardner Claim" relating to Dr. Gardner's claim to have been kicked out of his mining enterprise by the Mexican army during the war. Gardner had initially been charged with fraud for making his claim but ultimately won the case and $482,000, a portion of which is rumored to have gone to Lally. He reported being paid $10,000-11,000. He said he was brought onto the counsel due to his service in Mexico and the fact that he had paid attention to mining interests there at the time. He noted that he was involved in 10-12 cases brought before the commission. Notably, his father-in-law, George Evans, was the president of the Board of Commissioners dealing with the Mexican claims though Lally in a written statement stated that Evans was not and did not know how much Lally's fees were. Some reports indicate he earned $50-60,000 in relation to the claims brought before the board, a large sum for the period. Lally supported Pierce's run for president and was a delegate in 1852 and 1856. He was also a corporate of the Cobbossee Contee Railroad Company authorized by the Maine legislature in 1854. In 1855, he was listed as on the board of directors of the of the Kennebec & Portland Railroad and as living in Farmingdale. In 1861, he was identified as "one of the leaders of Democracy in Maine" and a "Democrat of the straightest sect" who held a prominent office under President Pierce. Samuel Colt was notably also a northern Democrat. Lally wrote published letters calling for Maine to be prepared to help defend the Union and the capital noting in one that "our first and great duty in this emergency is, without doubt, to uphold the Government and preserve the Union." He offered to raise a thousand men to serve the Union. In 1874, he was elected as one of the vice-presidents of the Mexican War Veterans Association and was active in the organization through at least 1879 and also remained active in Democratic Party politics into the 1880s. He died at the age of 78 on January 4, 1894, from pneumonia and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. Provenance: Arnold Chernoff Collection

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. The historic Colonel Colt presentation inscription, the early factory engraving, the markings, and the classic cylinder scene all remain crisp. The revolver retains 80% plus of the original blue finish on the barrel, 30% original blue on the cylinder, subtle original case colors, and 90% of the original silver plating. The faded areas of the barrel and cylinder have smooth brown patina. The casehardened components are mostly silver-gray, and the silver and small exposed areas of brass have light aged patina. There is some light pitting on the hammer. The revolver otherwise displays generally only light age and handling related wear. The deluxe varnished walnut grip is very fine and has lovely figure, most of the original varnish, some minor edge and handling wear, some minor dings and scratches, and a very slight hairline crack on the right behind the trigger guard bow. Mechanically excellent. The case is fine with moderate age and storage related wear including some staining and contact wear on the lining and absent key hole escutcheon. The flask is very fine and retains 85% plus of the original dark brown varnish and has attractive aged patina. The other accessories are fine with mild age related wear. This is an incredible and rare early factory engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy inscribed from Samuel Colt to Colonel F.T. Lally, an American officer recognized for gallant and meritorious service in the Mexican-American War and who worked for Samuel Colt at least in 1861.

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