View Full Version : 1861 Whiney Navy Revolver?
10-02-2011, 08:42 PM
Not sure if this is the right place for this, but here goes: I was wondering if anyone could give me some information about the use of Whitney's 1861 Navy revolvers in the war. According to one not-so-good source, there were some 11,000 issued to Federal troops. I recently came into posession of a Palmetto repop, and was curious about the gun's history (if any) in the conflict.
10-02-2011, 09:23 PM
Good Lawd. Can't believe I said "Whiney", 'stead of "Whitney".
10-03-2011, 07:05 AM
Are they the ones that produce the bullets that whine overhead? :D
(I don't know a thing about Whitneys; I just couldn't let a good pun go to waste!)
10-03-2011, 11:38 AM
About six months before the start of hostilities the Charles County Mounted Volunteers (later Dement's Battery 1st MD Arty., CSA) purchased a quantity of Whitney Navy revolvers and Jenks carbines from Schuyler, Hartley, and Graham. The carbines were disliked by the men (mechanism didn't appear to be robust enough for the demands of field service) and were promptly returned to SH&G. The revolvers, however, were kept.
I don't have any info close at hand as to whether or not those revolvers were present during Confederate service, and honestly can't remember just now. The majority of my research files are currently in storage, but I will post more details as soon as I can dig them out.
At the very least, the Commonwealth of Virginia was issuing Whitney revolvers to their troops and others as is clearly stated in Message from the Execttive of the Commonwealth, with Accompanying Documents, Showing the Military and Naval Preparations for the Defence of the State of Virginia, &c. &c.
A quick scan shows these issues from the Virginia State Armory from April 1, 1861, to June 14, 1861, inclusive:
Captain W.B. BALL - Chesterfield. - 8 Whitney's Pistols and Equipments
JOHN S. BARBOUR - President of Orange and Alex. Rail Road. - • 40 Whitney's Revolvers and Moulds, 40 Waist Holsters Belts and Plates
Officers Virginia Navy. - 5 Whitney's Revolvers and Holsters
Colonel C.E. TOMPIKINS - Kanawha. – 5 Whitney Revolvers and holsters
General JOHNSTON. – 3 Whitney's Pistols
Kanawha Valley--Colonel C.Q. TOMPKINS, Commanding. - 5 Whitney's Revolvers
A more careful study will likely show more. This important 95 page period document is available on line at:
10-03-2011, 06:32 PM
Thanks Guys! Keep it coming, folks! I recieved the Whitney in the mail today, and it's a cool little gun.
10-03-2011, 06:47 PM
Whitney Navy revolvers might have been the first to go into full production utiizing a solid frame based on Eli Jr's August 1854 patent. With the expiration of the Colt patent, Whitney as well as a number of other gunmakers immediately snatched up some of the Colt design features.
Based on surviving serial numbers, some 32,000 were made between 1856 and 1864. The Army and Navy purchased a little over 14,000. That might, or might not, include 3600 purchased by the government on the open market. And includes 5,726 purchased by the Navy between 1863 and 1865. New Jersey also bought 792.
As was fairly common, competitors copied the Whitney, such as Western Arms. And it is said the Confederates copied it as the Spiller & Burr.
The 1863-1864 ordnance records show Whitneys in the hands of the U.S. cavalry regiments:
3rd New York
5th and 11th Penn.
10-04-2011, 11:05 AM
Thanks, Curt! The numbers are definitely helpful. I would say Mr. Burton's .36 calibre revolver, manufactured by the firm of Spiller & Burr, was DEFINITELY a copy of the whitney. The so-called "first model" S&B's look pretty much identical to the whitney, and the "second model" S&B (the one reproduced by Pietta) just has the forward portion of the frame beefed up.
10-04-2011, 11:51 AM
I don't recall the actions or the dates when (?) the Federal government shut down sales, but... it was not all that unusual for some companies early on in 1861 to have sold arms and stuff to the new Confederacy.
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