Lot #1241
Lot #1243

Lot 1242: John J. Crittenden Burnside Carbine from Abraham Lincoln & Chest

Immensely Historic, Reported Only Known Documented Abraham Lincoln Presentation Firearm in Private Hands: Bristol Firearms Co. Second Model Burnside Breech Loading Percussion Civil War Carbine with Silver Plaque Inscribed to Kentucky Statesman John J. Crittenden from President Abraham Lincoln on February 1st, 1862, Accompanied by Large Wooden Sea Chest Inscribed John J. Crittenden

Auction Date: December 10, 2022

Lot 1242: John J. Crittenden Burnside Carbine from Abraham Lincoln & Chest

Immensely Historic, Reported Only Known Documented Abraham Lincoln Presentation Firearm in Private Hands: Bristol Firearms Co. Second Model Burnside Breech Loading Percussion Civil War Carbine with Silver Plaque Inscribed to Kentucky Statesman John J. Crittenden from President Abraham Lincoln on February 1st, 1862, Accompanied by Large Wooden Sea Chest Inscribed John J. Crittenden

Auction Date: December 10, 2022

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Estimated Price: $100,000 - $300,000

Immensely Historic, Reported Only Known Documented Abraham Lincoln Presentation Firearm in Private Hands: Bristol Firearms Co. Second Model Burnside Breech Loading Percussion Civil War Carbine with Silver Plaque Inscribed to Kentucky Statesman John J. Crittenden from President Abraham Lincoln on February 1st, 1862, Accompanied by Large Wooden Sea Chest Inscribed John J. Crittenden

Manufacturer: Bristol Firearm Co.
Model: Burnside
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 54
Barrel: 21 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1009
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 222
Class: Antique
Description:

This carbine is easily the most historically significant Burnside carbine in existence: its silver oval presentation plaque on the right side of the stock reads: "Presented to the/Hon. J.J. Crittenden by A. Lincoln/President of the United States/As a testimony of affectionate regard/for his long and patriotic Services/to which a grateful people bear/willing testimony/Feby 1st 1862." This fascinating carbine remained the property of American statesman John Jordan Crittenden's family until 1992 when it was sold by Jane Crittenden Harris after being displayed for several years at the Kentucky Military History Museum. This Second Model Burnside carbine was manufactured c. 1861 to very early 1862. Some of these carbines were used at the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 and other early engagements. The carbine’s five-groove rifled barrel has a pinched blade front sight, notch and folding leaf rear sight, and the serial number "593" on the underside. The frame has "BURNSIDE'S/PATENT/MARCH 25TH/1856/593," and the matching serial number is repeated on the breech block. The lock has "BRISTOL FIREARMS CO." The Second Model uses George P. Foster's patented breech-latch which is marked: "G. P. FOSTER.PAT./APRIL 10th 1860" on the right side. A sling bar and ring are mounted on the left side, and the stock also has a sling swivel on the bottom and is marked with two cartouches, one a "WAT" cartouche (Captain William Anderson Thornton). The accompanying sea chest measures 38 inches wide by 21 inches tall by 24 inches deep and has "John J. Crittenden" inscribed on the brass lid plaque. It is also documented as remaining in the Crittenden family and was passed down to Mrs. Harris. When it comes to American history and certainly to 19th century American history, there is no figure as iconic as President Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. He has long been regarded to be one of the greatest American presidents alongside the Roosevelts, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Lincoln sought to avoid the Civil War, but when war came, he mobilized millions of men to fight to preserve the Union and worked tirelessly to keep the Border States from seceding. Lincoln was clear that while slavery had been the issue that caused the rupture, the Union’s goal was to reunify the country under the Constitution. Early in the war, his administration had to work to assure the slave-holding Border States that remained in the Union that the federal government was not going to meddle in their “peculiar institution.” However, less than a full year into the war, the issue of slavery became intermingled with the war effort and complicated his efforts to retain the Border States. Lincoln and other Republicans in the North came to view emancipation and then the enlistment of freedmen as an important part of the Union war effort, but he had to move cautiously to keep men like his old associate John Jordan Crittenden of Kentucky, Lincoln’s birth state, on his side. Crittenden was by that time one of the most distinguished men in Congress. Though millions of firearms were manufactured and used during the Civil War, the only other firearms known to have been presented by Abraham Lincoln are pairs of highly embellished Colt revolvers presented to foreign leaders which begs the question of why this Burnside carbine, the only known Lincoln presentation firearm in private hands today, was presented on February 1, 1862, to U.S. Representative Crittenden. The two men had known each other since at least the late 1840s but had taken different political paths after the breakup of the Whigs, and Crittenden was certainly an influential figure both at home in Kentucky and in Washington, D.C., but why February 1, 1862? Though this carbine has been known for many years, the details of the presentation have remained a mystery, but there are clues based on the historical context in regards to what else was going on in early 1862 for the Crittenden family, the Union war effort, Lincoln and Crittenden's relationship, the president's political goals, and ongoing events in the important border state of Kentucky that may explain why President Lincoln presented Congressman Crittenden this carbine at that time. In early 1862, the fate of the Union was uncertain at best. When the war began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, most Americans in both the North and South expected the war to be quick and decisive, and many of the initial enlistments were only for a period of 90 days. However, as 1861 turned to 1862, there was no end in sight. Many of the nation’s leading military men had resigned from the already small regular U.S. Army to join the Confederacy, and the Union had lost Fort Sumter and other forts throughout the South, the first major battle at the First Battle of Bull Run, and several other engagements with Confederate forces and could only count a small number of minor successes in small skirmishes as victories. The Union’s main success was the blockading of the South and severely limiting the Confederacy’s export of cotton and the importation of arms under Scott’s Anaconda Plan. For the Union, holding Kentucky was critically important. As Lincoln wrote to Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning on September 22, 1862, “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.” John Jordan Crittenden (1787-1863) was one of the nation's leading politicians during the early 19th century, tumultuous antebellum era, and early part of the Civil War. Without his support, Lincoln could not expect to hold Kentucky and the Border States. Crittenden had started his career as a lawyer and quickly moved into government. He had been the territorial attorney general of Illinois back in 1809-1810 when the territory was largely still held by Native Americans and sparsely populated by white Americans and when Lincoln was an obscure infant in a log cabin in Kentucky. He then served in the Kentucky legislature during the War of 1812 and then in the U.S. Senate off and on until 1861 and also served as U.S. attorney general under William Henry Harrison briefly, as governor of Kentucky in 1848 to 1850, and as U.S. attorney general again under Millard Fillmore in 1850 to 1853, the only man to serve in the role on two separate occasions. When the Whig Party, to which he and Lincoln belonged, fell apart in 1854 after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Crittenden remained committed to preserving the Union through compromise. He was present for the famous caning of Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate on May 22, 1856, and was nearly attacked himself when he tried to intervene to save Sumner and aided him when the attack ended. In 1858, he is credited with aiding Stephen Douglas's campaign and thus Lincoln's defeat despite Lincoln writing to Crittenden asking him to not interfere. After the election, Lincoln wrote again to Crittenden on November 4, 1858, "The emotions of defeat, at the close of a struggle in which I felt more than a merely selfish interest, and to which defeat the use of your name contributed largely, are fresh upon me; but, even in this mood, I can not for a moment suspect you of anything dishonorable." Lincoln in this letter clearly indicates Crittenden’s wide influence along with his respect for the elder statesman who many regard as the successor to Kentucky's famous Whig leader Henry Clay. Crittenden created and led the Constitutional Union Party. In the election of 1860, the party wanted to run Crittenden for president but he declined, so they ran John Bell of Tennessee against Lincoln, Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and Southern Democrat John C. Breckenridge for the presidency. Though Bell received the smallest share of the vote nationally, he carried the Border States of Kentucky and Tennessee and even Virginia by just a hair. When Lincoln won in 1860 and the slave states began preparing to secede, Crittenden worked on his most famous attempt to hold the nation together: the Crittenden Compromise. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky stated Crittenden “did literally all he could to try avoid this great national conflagration” and noted that he had “tried to repair the cracks between the North and South” and was believed by many at the time to be the only one who could find a solution to hold the country together. He hoped to prevent secession and preserve the Union as had been done since the early days of the republic by finding a compromise that protected slavery but also limited its expansion. As a senator, he sought constitutional amendments that would guarantee the federal government could not interfere with slavery in the South and also provisions limiting the expansion of slavery to below the 36°30' parallel all the way to the Pacific following the previously agreed upon Missouri Compromise. His plan was opposed by Lincoln and the Republicans as it would allow the extension of slavery into further territories rather than containing it, and it failed to make it out of committee. Historian Michael D. Robinson wrote, “While the Bluegrass politician certainly failed to win passage of his compromise package, he did organize an impressive political campaign during 1860-61 that helped keep the four crucial Border South states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri from seceding. Crittenden kept the hope of a possible settlement alive into the spring of 1861, which prevented many white border southerners from abandoning the Union. He built an imposing Unionist network throughout the Border South, used an array of political maneuvers at home and in Washington, D.C., and after the war commenced in April 1861 relied heavily on the might of the U.S. military, but in the end he accomplished his goal of keeping the Confederacy from swelling to fifteen states. That in itself skewed the balance sheet of the war heavily in favor of the Union...” Though he helped keep Kentucky officially in the Union camp, the state was divided on whether to support the Union or the Confederacy and initially officially declared neutrality. Lincoln's administration was cautious in their handling of the state for fear of nudging it into the Confederacy even after Unionist swept most of its state level and national legislative seats. He considered Kentucky to be "the bellwether of the loyal slave states" according to Kentucky historian Lowell H. Harrison, and Crittenden was one of the most influential and respected Union supporters in the border states overall and certainly within Kentucky. At the same time, secessionists in the state also attempted to setup their own provisional government, and many prominent Confederates were Kentuckians. Crittenden's own family was much divided. George, his eldest son, was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Black Hawk War and Mexican-American War and had resigned from the U.S. Army and joined the Confederacy despite his father pleading him while two of Crittenden's younger sons fought for the Union and remained loyal to the country like their father. As most Southern representatives left Washington, D.C., following their states' secession, and Lincoln and his cabinet strongly considered Crittenden to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice John Archibald Campbell but ultimately decided against it by the time Campbell had finally left. The fact that he was considered strongly for the position clearly indicates the Lincoln administration’s recognition of Crittenden's popularity and political might. He was elected to Congress in a special session in the summer of 1861 despite previously wanting to retire. In the special session of Congress in 1861, the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution passed just following the First Battle of Bull Run declaring: "That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease." On August 14, 1861, Crittenden was one of three Kentuckians who met with the president to urge him to veto the First Confiscation Act which allowed Union forces to confiscate slaves being used in direct support of the Confederate war effort. Lincoln did not, but he did step in to stop Fremont's more aggressive actions in Missouri as part of his effort to hold the Border States, including Kentucky, and assured Crittenden and others in the border state that he and the federal government would not mettle with their affairs. However, on September 4, 1861, Confederate forces moved in to attempt to take control of Kentucky, and Union forces entered the state in response. On December 10, 1861, the Confederacy claimed Kentucky as one of its states and added a central star to their flag in response, but the official state government of Kentucky remained loyal to the Union. As both sides worked to take control of the state, a large battle to determine the state's fate was inevitable both politically and on the battlefield. Union forces under Brigadier General George Thomas moved to attack Major General George Crittenden's forces at Mill Springs in early 1862. George Crittenden, son of John Crittenden, ordered his men to attack the Union forces preemptively at dawn on January 19, 1862, to prevent additional Union troops from consolidating. General Felix Zollicoffer was killed early in the battle when he approached a Union officer of the 4th Kentucky Infantry leading to disarray among the Confederates. Crittenden rallied his men, but Thomas's men fought off Crittenden's attack and then successfully turned Crittenden’s left flank, forcing the Confederates to retreat. Crittenden was unable to regain control of his men leading to a disastrous rout culminating in Crittenden’s men fleeing the state, leaving behind Zollicoffer and around 124 others killed and around 400 others wounded or missing plus numerous artillery pieces, horses, and other valuable equipment. General Crittenden himself was wounded but escaped. Stragglers from his army continued to arrive in Tennessee at the end of the month and into February. The rout effectively terminated George Crittenden's career as a commander, including accusations that he was drunk during the battle and of treason against the Confederacy, though he remained in the Confederate Army in lesser roles. For the Union, the Battle of Mill Springs was their first major victory after multiple humiliating Union defeats. As such, it was both a victory for Representative Crittenden’s cause of keeping Kentucky in the Union and a humiliation for his family. The victory was shortly followed by the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donnelson in Tennessee in February, which soon overshadowed the Battle of Mill Springs, but those battles took place after the date on this carbine. Thus, on February 1, 1862, the defeat of Representative Crittenden's son in Kentucky was the only major Union victory and was significant in bolstering Union morale overall, securing eastern Kentucky, and keeping the state within the Union. Though the battle was fought on January 19, the news of the victory was largely published towards the end of the month which meant that Lincoln's attention was particularly drawn to the state and its most influential Unionist leader on February 1, 1862, a perfect time to present a firearm to the Kentucky statesman. Newspapers such as the Weekly Sentinel of Indianapolis and Daily Delta of New Orleans in February 1862 reported that Crittenden was heavily distressed by the fact that his eldest son was fighting for the Confederacy and had been disgraced at Mill Springs. The wording of the inscription certainly seems to be designed to salve any discomfort he was feeling concerning how the nation, and the president in particular, was feeling regards to the elder statesman’s own patriotism and contributions to the country, and perhaps Lincoln hoped to nudge Crittenden more to support emancipation as part of his effort to restore the Union. In early 1862, Lincoln was also working to deal with slavery and runaway slaves both within the rebelling states and particularly in regards to the Border States. In the later, Lincoln was trying to find ways to encourage the states to choose emancipation themselves as he had repeatedly promised not to interfere directly. Lincoln met with Crittenden and other border state representatives to discuss compensated emancipation in their states. Crittenden was an important figure to persuade if Lincoln was going to secure emancipation in the Border States given his influence, but Crittenden could not be persuaded to support the effort. He was also working on keeping the Border States content in regards to federal policy concerning slaves in the rebelling states, and there he found more agreement with Crittenden. For example, on January 20, 1862, the Rutland Daily Herald of Vermont reported that fugitive slaves were being treated the same as other property and "We would therefore have it subject to confiscation like other property. We would not have our army return a fugitive slave any more than we would have it return a fugitive horse from the enemy,-and such we understand to be the distinct policy of President Lincoln. Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, gives his cordial assent to this policy, and it is the policy which will wipe out slavery ultimately, and save the Union presently, and therefore we are in favor of it most heartily." Though George's defection to the Confederacy and his defeat at Mill Springs served as a humiliation and strain for John Crittenden, he remained proud of his other sons as well as some of his grandsons who fought for the Union. Thomas's actions on the battlefield in particular were a source of pride; he served admirably at Shiloh and was promoted to major general and then fought with distinction again at Stone's River later in the year where his command is credited with playing a major role in the Union victory and the younger Crittenden argued that the Union should stand and fight rather than withdraw. As Lincoln continued to move toward emancipation more broadly both on military and moral grounds, he personally met with Crittenden more, including a meeting with the congressman as well as John W. Crisfield of Maryland and William A. Hall of Missouri on December 18, 1862, to discuss their concerns and opposition regarding the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln was set to put in effect on January 1, 1863, which would declare all slaves within the rebelling states “thenceforward, and forever free.” While Crittenden did not come around to support emancipation broadly nor the use of freedmen as soldiers, he continued to remain an ardent Unionist. He and other border state Unionists were primarily focused on the war effort and reunification and did not want abolitionism to be part of the mix as they saw the issue as too divisive or were themselves personally in support of slavery. Crittenden openly asked why loyal Kentuckians should be asked to give up their slaves when they were already giving so much in the fight for the Union. Though he still wished to retire, he ran for reelection again in the summer of 1863 due to the urging of his friends and never stopped working to reunite the Union but died shortly after returning to his home in Frankfort on July 26, 1863. You can imagine he must have wondered what the nation's fate would be. Though Crittenden and others had opposed Kentucky being drug into the war, the birth state of both President Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson became a key battleground and ultimately supplied 125,000 soldiers to the Union, including more black soldiers for the Union war effort than any other state aside from Louisiana. With the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865, slavery was officially abolished within the United States, but Kentucky refused to ratify the amendment until 1976. Ultimately, thanks to men like two of Crittenden's younger sons, Union forces prevailed, and the country was reunited. In the years that followed, many of Crittenden's descendants and relatives served in the U.S. military and government, including his grandson Lieutenant John Jordan Crittenden III, who was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn in the Great Sioux War of 1876. After his death, this carbine remained within the Crittenden family and was passed down through several generations until 1992 as documented in the included documentation. An affidavit from Jane Crittenden Harris is included confirming her father was the great grandson of John Jordan Crittenden. She notes "We kept the Lincoln gun under the couch in the den, but I took it to school for show-and-tell on several occasions on Lincoln's birthday." She further notes that when her father died, the gun was willed to her brother, John Jordan Crittenden, who then loaned the gun to the Kentucky Military History Museum. A copy of a bill of sale from her brother to her on November 26, 1991, is included, as is a copy of a bill of sale from when it left the family's possession for the first time on January 25, 1992, to a well-known dealer for $37,500. A document from two days later indicates the dealer promptly resold the carbine for $135,000 to the Alexander Gallery of New York before taking possession of it. Copies of Mrs. Harris's father's will and bequests are also included and list "John Jordan Crittenden's sea chest marked with his name on brass plate" as bequeathed to Jane C. Harris and "A hunting gun given to the first John Jordan Crittenden by Abraham Lincoln" among the items bequeathed to Jordan Crittenden. Other documents relating to the loan of the carbine to the Kentucky Military History Museum are included. Curator Nicky Hughes of the Kentucky Military History Museum writing to Jordan Crittenden indicated that in 1981 they were preparing an exhibit for the rifle. The rifle was also featured in the "Roll of Honor" in Man at Arms July/August 1989 issue (included) and noted as "The Burnside Type II .45 [sic] Caliber Carbine presented to Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden by President Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1862. Crittenden tried to avert the Civil War through compromise." The photo credits the museum. Many additional documents relating to Senator Crittenden and his family, including his sons who fought in the Civil War, are included. One is "The Crittenden Memoirs," a rare and extensive family history. A sheet of three $20 bills from the Farmers Bank of Kentucky with John Jordan Crittenden and his wife is also among the documents. John Jordan Crittenden discussed the rare sheet of bills in an article in the LA Times in March 1990. Also included are E. Anthony carte de visites of Mr. and Mrs. Crittenden. A sword passed down through the family from Colonel Thomas L. Crittenden, J.J. Crittenden's son, is also in the auction in Lot 1242. Provenance: John J. Crittenden from President Abraham Lincoln; The Crittenden Family Collection; The Kevin Hoffman Collection; Property of a Gentleman

Rating Definition:

Very good. The historic silver inscription panel has aged patina, some small scattered dings, and a crisp inscription. The carbine primarily displays an even, untouched dark brown patina overall. There are some small traces of original blue finish visible in protected areas. The barrel has a bulge 10 inches from the muzzle. The metal exhibits some mild pitting mainly concentrated around the nipple and breech. The trigger plate/lever catch has a repair. The front upper tang screw is absent. The stock is fine and has some mild dings and scratches, a few dents, slight play in the fit, and some tiny slivers absent. The lock currently will not hold at half or full-cock, but the lever mechanism is fine. The chest is also very good and has some cracks, repairs, absent lining, fragments of newspaper, and moderate overall wear from age, storage, and use. The inscription on the chest lid is crisp. This rare early Civil War carbine is easily one of the most historically significant firearms in existence. Its inscription from President Abraham Lincoln to Congressman John J. Crittenden early in the Civil War as the fate of the Union remained in peril, makes it an incredible artifact from the most divisive period in our nation's history and demonstrates that even during that period, Americans tried to work together to resolve pressing issues despite different political values. Abraham Lincoln is famously reported to have said, "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." To have Kentucky on his side, he needed Crittenden.



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