Lot #86
Lot #88

Lot 87: General Leonard Wood’s Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action Revolver

Well-Documented, Historically Significant Medal of Honor Recipient and Theodore Roosevelt’s Friend and Rough Riders Commander Major General Leonard Wood’s Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model Revolver with Factory Letter

Auction Date: December 9, 2022

Lot 87: General Leonard Wood’s Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action Revolver

Well-Documented, Historically Significant Medal of Honor Recipient and Theodore Roosevelt’s Friend and Rough Riders Commander Major General Leonard Wood’s Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model Revolver with Factory Letter

Auction Date: December 9, 2022

Estimated Price: $30,000 - $50,000
Price Realized:

Well-Documented, Historically Significant Medal of Honor Recipient and Theodore Roosevelt’s Friend and Rough Riders Commander Major General Leonard Wood’s Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model Revolver with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 44 Double Action
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44 S&W Russian
Barrel: 6 1/2 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: hard rubber
Stock:
Item Views: 1593
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 94
Class: Antique
Description:

This incredibly historic Smith & Wesson revolver is factory documented as shipped to one of the most influential American military officers of the late 19th century and early 20th century while he was serving as the governor of Moro Province in the Philippines during the bloody Moro Rebellion: Major General Leonard S. Wood. By that time Wood had already served in the U.S. Army for around two decades, had been awarded the Medal of Honor, and had served with his friend Theodore Roosevelt as the commander of the famous 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the Rough Riders, during the Spanish-American War. In the years that followed, Wood rose to one of the highest positions in the U.S. military: Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and he was initially favored to lead the U.S. Army during World War I and a leading candidate for the presidency in 1920. He continued to serve after retiring in 1921 when he was appointed as governor general of the Philippines, holding that position nearly until his death in 1927. The accompanying April 2000 factory letter for this historic revolver confirms the 6 ½ inch barrel, blue finish and checkered black hard rubber grips as well as its shipment to Major General Leonard S. Wood (no address listed) on May 20, 1905, (all frames were manufactured prior to 1899, making this model an antique). It is not often that the factory shipped directly to an individual as it was Smith & Wesson policy to work directly with its distributors. Shipping to an individual occurred only in special cases, usually when the individual was a prominent person; such is certainly the case with General Wood. As noted above, at the time it was shipped, Wood was serving in the Philippines as the governor of Moro Province during the Moro Rebellion. In the rebellion, the Colt Army revolvers in .38 Long Colt earned a reputation of lacking enough firepower to stop the suicidal attacks by sword wielding juramentados. Thus, a .44 Smith & Wesson Russian was a logical choice as a sidearm for Wood; it offered more power than the .38 Long Colt and faster follow-up shots than the single action Colt "Artillery Model" revolvers. Over the years this revolver has appeared in a number of publications including “Guns of the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum:” on page 88, the July 2017 issue of "American Rifleman" on pages 90 and 91, David Chicoine’s “Smith & Wesson Sixguns of the Old West” on page 400, Dean Boorman’s “The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms” on page 110, and Jesse Hardin’s “Old Guns and Whispering Ghosts” on page 175. The revolver was on display at the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum from 2013 to 2022 and was featured on Ozarkswatch TV, NSAM in April 2018 and CSPAN Presidential Firearms (https://www.c-span.org/video/?438656-1/presidential-firearms). The revolver has the standard two-line address/patent dates legend on the barrel rib, the left side of the barrel has the caliber designation, and matching serial numbers appear on the butt, right grip frame, cylinder, barrel, and barrel latch. Major General Leonard Wood (1860-1927) is hands down one the most noteworthy American officers of the late 19th century Indian Wars and early 20th century. Though he rose to the highest positions of the U.S. Army, Wood joined the military not through a background of military studies at West Point or Annapolis but as a physician after studying at the Harvard Medical School, completing his MD in 1884. He was then contracted in June 1885 as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army's Department of Arizona. He served with the 4th Cavalry based out of Fort Huachuca in Arizona during the Apache Wars, including the campaign that led to the capture of famed Bedonkohe Apache leader Geronimo. During the campaign, Wood carried dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and, though not officially an officer at the time, also took command of a detachment of the 8th Infantry following a fight with the Apache in which their officers had been killed. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor by both the expedition's commander Nelson A. Miles and his commanding officer Henry W. Lawton and was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 8, 1898, shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. By 1898, he had been promoted to captain and served as the personal physician of President Grover Cleveland and then William McKinley. In the nation's capital, Wood became a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt was an early proponent of war with Spain and support for Cuban independence. President McKinley meanwhile wanted to avoid war. The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, pushed the public further into supporting war with Spain although the actual cause of the explosion remains debated to this day. The U.S. still did not declare war, but did increase support to Cuba, including establishing a blockade which resulted in Spain declaring war on the U.S. When the war broke out, Wood became the commander of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry and Roosevelt served as his second in command. The unit became known as the Rough Riders very early on and attracted national media attention. Wood was in command of the Rough Riders when they landed in Cuba and in the Battle of Las Guasimas just after their arrival and was then quickly promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and placed in command of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade after the former commander fell ill. At the famous Battle of San Juan Hill, Wood was thus in command of the brigade while Roosevelt was in command of the Rough Riders within it, and they famously emerged victorious and captured and defended both Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill. While Roosevelt and the Rough Riders returned home and Roosevelt was soon to become governor of New York, Vice President, and President in short order, Wood remained behind in Cuba. He received a proper promotion to brigadier general and served first as military governor of Santiago and then all of Cuba. As governor, Wood earned a notable reputation as being a strong and effective administrator. In 1903, Wood was promoted to major general and was assigned to the Philippines where he served as provincial governor of the restless Moro Province and commander of the Philippine Division in 1906-1908. At the time the U.S. was attempting to put an end to the rebellion by the Moros who began armed resistance when the U.S. moved to curtail Moro autonomy following victory in the northern provinces of the Philippines. It was during his service in the Philippines when this revolver was shipped to Wood, and its double action, powerful caliber, easy to reload design made the S&W .44 DA Revolver an appealing sidearm to use in a bloody insurgency in the Philippines. This well-cared for and well-used revolver certainly has the look of being carried through the jungle. As governor, Wood moved aggressively to curtail the power of the Sultan of Sulu, officially abolished slavery and offered U.S. military protection to former slaves, reformed the legal system, instituted a poll tax, and attempted to modernize the region's economy to bring peace and stability but Moro resistance continued. Towards the end of his term as governor, in early March of 1906, — less than a year after the revolver was shipped to Wood — he ordered U.S. forces against Moros at the volcanic crater of Bud Dajo on Jolo Island in the First Battle of Bud Dajo, the bloodiest engagement of the Moro Rebellion. After requesting for the Moros to disband and then to send the women and children to safety were rebuffed, the U.S. force opened fire with their mountain guns. Wood himself arrived on the scene on March 6. Negotiations were again attempted, but the Moros refused. U.S. forces advanced on the crater from three directions. The Moros were primarily armed with traditional edged weapons such as their distinct barung and kris swords along with spears and rocks while the U.S. military was armed with modern bolt action rifles, grenades, artillery, and machine guns. Despite being outnumbered and heavily out-gunned, the Moros bravely put up a stiff resistance. The U.S. forces captured the trenches and then placed their mountain guns and machine guns in positions around the crater. The Moros still refused to surrender and were cut down, some in hand-to-hand combat fighting to the death while charging the American lines rather than surrendering. By the time the battle was over, there were only 6 survivors out of up to 1,000 Moros. The U.S. forces lost 21 killed and 75 wounded. It was an overwhelming victory for U.S. forces, and Wood was congratulated by his friend President Roosevelt. However, the battle became a public relations disaster when reports of women and children being killed by U.S. soldiers quickly emerged. The incident occurred in the final days of General Wood’s term as governor of Moro Province and became publicized as the Moro Crater Massacre leading to public criticism of Wood's leadership. Though he had not led the assault, he accepted full-responsibility as the senior officer, and the controversy blew over fairly quickly. However, Mark Twain's scathing critique for his handling of the event is credited with later hampering Wood's presidential ambitions. When his term as governor ended, he took command of the Philippine Division. When Wood returned stateside, he was placed in command of the Eastern Department. Under President Taft, Roosevelt's handpicked successor, Wood served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army in 1910-1914 and thus prepared the U.S. military for World War I. It was also in 1910 that Wood became one of the first patients to undergo successful brain surgery to remove a tumor. During the lead up to World War I, Wood was an outspoken advocate for military preparedness and was instrumental in the organization of civilian officer training camps, which became the model for some 30 divisional camps scattered throughout the U.S. He was a primary candidate to command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the First World War but was passed over due to his criticism of the Wilson administration. Nonetheless, Wood was influential in the training of the U.S. 89th and 10th Infantry Divisions and received the Army Distinguished Service Medal and recognition as a Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor. In 1919, his friend Theodore Roosevelt died, and Wood was widely considered to be his natural successor. While serving as the commander of the 6th Corps Area, he made a run for the Republican presidential nomination but narrowly lost out to Warren Harding. President Harding appointed the recently retired Wood to the Wood-Forbes Mission to the Philippines, and Wood, likely taking his trusty side arm with him, was soon appointed governor general, a post he held until forced to resign due to the recurrence of his brain tumor in 1927. After returning to the states, he died in surgery. The well-known Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri is named for him. Letters of provenance are included that trace the ownership of this revolver after Wood's death. Although they erroneously state the revolver was carried by General Wood during the Geronimo and San Juan Hill campaigns, these letters indicate the revolver remained with Wood's family until it was sold by his grandson. In his notarized letter from July 1962, auctioneer and appraiser Herbert F. Cole states this revolver (listed by serial number) along with a S&W .38 caliber revolver no. 399155 (incorrectly listed in .32 caliber) came from the General Wood family collection and were consigned by Wood's grandson. By 1965, the .44 DA revolver was in the possession of Norman Brigham Pemberton of Milton, Massachusetts. Pemberton’s April 1965 letter addressed to S&W asking for information pertaining to the revolver is included as well as the factory letter S&W sent to Pemberton. As with the factory letter from 2000, the 1965 factory letter confirms this .44 DA Revolver was shipped to General Wood. Additional information is obtained from Pemberton’s included June 1997 dated notarized letter (copy) when he transferred ownership of the revolver to Antonio Croce of Hackettstown, New Jersey. In the letter, Pemberton states he purchased the revolver directly from Herbert Cole. Provenance: General Leonard Wood; The Wood Family Collection; The Norman Pemberton Collection; The Antonio Croce Collection: The Supica Collection

Rating Definition:

Very good plus, displaying honest use and wear for a revolver owned by Indian Wars Medal of Honor recipient and Spanish-American War Rough Riders commander Major General Leonard Wood and shipped to him during his service in the Philippines. 30% original blue finish remains and the grips have defined checkering. Mechanically excellent. Don’t miss your opportunity to acquire a well-documented Smith & Wesson revolver owned by one of the most influential military leaders of his day. From chasing Geronimo in the Southwest deserts to riding alongside Theodore Roosevelt in the famed Rough Riders to fighting an insurgency in the Filipino jungles, General Wood had a front row seat to American military operations that defined the late 19th and early 20th centuries. General Wood's Smith & Wesson .44 DA First Model Revolver will make for a great addition to any Smith & Wesson or U.S. militaria collection.



Customer Product Questions

There are currently no customer product questions on this lot