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Confederate Navy Inspected 2nd Model LeMat Revolver

 

Produced in Paris, this example bears the serial number "2476" on the right side of the barrel, right side of the frame, and also on the cylinder. Two-digit "76" stamped on loading lever, rammer, and screw. The 6 ½" octagonal .42 ca. barrel bears the marking "SYSTME LEMAT BTE S.G.D.G PARIS" on the top flat, identical to the barrel marking of LeMat SN 2475, a custom engraved LeMat pictured in both "Confederate Hanguns", by Albaugh, Benet, and Simmons and "LeMat The Man, The Gun", by Forgett and Serpette. In addition to the serial number on the barrel is the LeMat logo "L.M" surmounted by a star. The front of the cylinder also bears a stamped "M" in a square cartouche, the acceptance stamp of Confederate Navy Lt. William H. Murdaugh. It is in complete untouched condition with all original parts, having apparently never been disassembled in modern times, cleaned, or altered in any way. Some of the original blue remains, primarily on the barrels and cylinder, but there is a fair amount of moderate pitting on most metal surfaces, as might be expected on a gun which saw service at sea. Pitting partly obscures the serial number on the frame, though it unquestionably matches. The checkered wood grips are sound and complete, showing wear and scarring typical of the rest of the gun. Mechanics function flawlessly. Examples bearing the "M" stamp are very scarce and were undoubtedly issued to Confederate naval officers.

The unique 10-shot LeMat revolver is one of the most iconic and certainly the most recognizable Confederate firearm. Its 9-shot cylinder revolving around an 18 gauge buckshot barrel is the stuff of legend and it was the favorite sidearm of Inman in the novel and movie "Cold Mountain", as well as the hero in Bernard Cornwell’s "Starbuck Chronicles". Volumes have been written about Dr. LeMat and his famous revolver, so I won’t go into detail here. Except for a few early prototypes made by John Krider & Co. of Philadelphia prior to the Civil War, all the percussion LeMat revolvers were made abroad under contract to the Confederate States of America, first in Liege, Belgium, then Paris, and finally Birmingham, England. While many variations exist, those made in Belgium are generally considered to be the First Model, with loading lever on the right side of the octagonal to round barrel, a spur trigger guard, and a swivel lanyard ring on the butt cap. Changes were made and the quality generally improved after the move to Paris, with earlier Paris guns keeping some features of the Belgian models, resulting in what is generally classified as "transitional" models. The main change was moving the loading lever to the left side of a fully octagonal barrel, and eventually replacing the spur trigger guard with a round one and removing the swivel lanyard ring from the butt cap (though a fixed lanyard hole remained). This form is considered to be the "Second Model" and makes up the majority of surviving examples. It is generally believed that about 2900 LeMats were made in the three locations and that approximately 1500 made it through the Union blockade and were accepted by the Confederacy (900 for the Army and 600 for the Navy), but few records survive of either production or delivery. Some LeMats are known to have been carried by famous Confederate officers, but without a known Confederate inspection stamp few can be positively attributed to Confederate use. In June of 1864 Lt. William H. Murdaugh was appointed as inspector for the CS Navy’s contract of 2000 LeMat revolvers. The revolvers that were inspected and passed on by Lt. Murdaugh bear his stamp, the letter "M" in relief inside a square cartouche stamped on the cylinder. Therefore, examples bearing Murdaugh’s inspection stamp can be positively identified as having been accepted for use by the CS Navy. Murdaugh took delivery of Paris LeMats in England, where they were proofed according to British law, and then passed on for delivery to the Confederacy via the Bahamas. While bearing the clear original stamp of Lt. Murdaugh, the example offered here has no London proof marks, a variation never before encountered.

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