This is about a FINE condition example of a scarce US martially marked Whitney Navy percussion revolver from the American Civil War. The Whitney Navy was a 6-shot, .36 caliber, single action percussion revolver that was manufactured from the late 1850s through the mid-1860s. The revolver went into production after Colt’s patent on his revolver mechanism expired in 1857. The first 1,500 or so (aka “1st Model” Whitney Navy revolvers) were manufactured without a loading lever and were of lighter construction than the later 2nd Model revolvers. Between the Whitney desire to improve upon the guns, and the habit of making design changes when parts on hand ran out, both the 1st and 2nd Models were manufactured in a number of different “types’ with a clear pattern of evolution that took place throughout their production. Some 33,000 Whitney Navy revolvers were produced during the production run, with many seeing US government use. The US Army acquired 10,587 of the revolvers between 1861 and 1864 and the US Navy purchased an additional 6,226 between 1863 and 1865. The state of New Jersey purchased 920 Whitney Navy revolvers in 1863, but 792 of those guns were subsequently resold to the US Army in 1863 and 1864. Those guns are included in the US Army purchases listed above. A number of Whitney Navy revolvers also appear to have been acquired by the South and saw service during the American Civil War. Some were purchased prior to the outbreak of hostilities, and these guns tend to be early production 2nd Model revolvers produced prior to the spring of 1861. A good example is Whitney Navy #3110, which was owned by Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart, and is now in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society. However, Confederate forces acquired many more Whitney Navy revolvers after the conflict started. These later production guns were no doubt obtained through a combination of capturing weapons and purchasing the guns surreptitiously from secondary retailers rather than Whitney. At least two-dozen Whitney Navy revolvers are known to have been repaired for use by the 4th Virginia “Black Horse” Cavalry, and a handful of identified Whitney Navy revolvers with Confederate provenance exist was well. It is not surprising that the revolver found favor on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, as the robust design with a reinforcing top strap, a solid frame with a screwed in barrel and the simple turn of a wing nut to release the loading lever and cylinder arbor were all significant improvements over the open top frame and wedge-retained barrel of the Colt design. The popularity of the revolvers in the south is further indicated by the fact that the design was copied by Confederate gunmakers like Spiller & Burr and T.W. Cofer, both of whom produced Whitney-like revolvers for the south.
This Martially Marked Whitney Navy Revolver is serial number 18971 Y and is an early production 2nd Model 4th Type. This variant of the Whitney Navy is encountered in the approximate serial number range of 15,000 to 25,000. The primary identifying feature of the 2nd Model 4th Type Navy revolvers were the change in the cylinder roll scene from an eagle, shield and lion to an eagle, shield, lion and naval engagement with “Whitneyville” added in a banner within the shield. The 4th type revolvers retained the Colt-style, wedge shaped loading lever latch that had been adopted with the 3rd type revolvers, replacing the earlier ball detent catch. The pistol bears the matching serial number 18971 on the loading lever, on the bottom of the barrel (concealed by the loading lever), on the cylinder arbor, on the rear face of the cylinder and stamped inside both of the grip panels. This number places the gun in the range of Whitney Navy revolvers issued to the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry. While not listed specifically by number in the Springfield Research Service Serial Number Books Volume 4 lists these guns that are very close to this one, including #18,961(10 numbers away) and #18,976 (5 numbers away). The reference book only lists guns issued to Troop D, and they range from #16,371 through #19,200, with six guns within 50 numbers of this one +/-. Based upon the broad range of numbers issued to that one troop, it seems very likely that another company of the 21st PA Cavalry was issued this revolver. The 21st PA was a late war unit, organized in February of 1864, and that saw service with the Army of the Potomac from the battle of Cold Harbor through the surrender at Appomattox, with other major engagements including the Petersburg Campaign, Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek. The top of the 7 ““ octagon barrel is stamped in two lines:
As is often the case, the mark is somewhat lightly stamped with the bottom line quite weak, but with the top line completely legible. The gun is also marked with numerous small sub-inspection marks throughout, primarily the capital letters B and D. A clear and crisp inspection cartouche is present on the left grip. The scrip STB is the mark of Springfield Arsenal civilian sub-inspector Samuel T. Bugbee who inspected a wide variety of contract arms during the American Civil War, including arms produced by Whitney, Starr and Burnside, as well as Colt altered Mississippi Rifles.
This US Military Inspected Whitney Navy Revolver is in about FINE condition. The gun retains strong traces of its original blued finish, possibly as much as 5%-10%. The original bright blue is most plentiful on the bottom of the barrel where the loading lever has protected it. There is also some blue in the nooks and crannies of the frame and in protected areas. The balance of the gun has a mostly smooth plum brown patina, with some scattered pinpricking and very light pitting present. The primary areas of roughness are along the edges of the topstrap, the face of the cylinder and the muzzle of the pistol; all the result of real world use. The rear of the cylinder shows light pitting and surface oxidation in the cone recesses as well. Typically, Whitney Navy revolvers retain no cylinder scene, due the fact that scene was often lightly rolled and the hard service that they tended to see. Even Whitney Navy revolvers that did not see hard use typically have weak or non-existent scenes due to how lightly they were applied. The cylinder scene on this revolver is really fine and is one of the best condition Whitney Navy cylinder scene that I have encountered. The scene is at least 85% intact and remains extremely crisp and sharp. The close-up photos of the cylinder scene below do not due the crispness and clarity of the scene justice. The loading lever retains about strong traces of its original case coloring, which has dulled to a smoky blue-gray patina with scattered mottling and traces of blue and purple coloration. The most obvious patch of case coloring is on the top of the loading lever where the serial number is stamped. The gun appears to be 100% complete and correct in every way. The revolver remains very crisp and retains strong markings throughout, with exception of the lightly stamped lower line of the barrel address. The action of the revolver is mechanically excellent and the gun times, indexes and locks-up exactly as it should. All of the original cones (nipples) are present, and are in very good, crisp and usable condition. The original brass-post front sight is in place at the end of the barrel and is in fine condition as well, although it is slightly bent. The bore is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. It is partly bright, mixed with some flecked patches of darker oxidized brown patina. The bore retains very good, very strong 7-groove rifling. The bore does show some lightly scattered pitting along its entire length, with a couple of small patches of more moderate pitting noted as well. The original arbor pin retention wing nut is in place and still operates exactly as it should, and even the retaining screw for the wing nut appears to be original to the revolver. The hammer retains some weak traces of its original case coloring, which has faded to a dark a smoky blue-gray color for the most part. The trigger retains about 30% original blue, which has faded to a deep, smoky plum patina. The smaller brass trigger guard (correct for this model) has a medium golden patina. The pistol remains extremely crisp throughout with sharp edges on the barrel, and very good screw heads showing minimal slot wear, with only one frame screw and the arbor pin screw showing moderate wear. Most of the screws even retain some traces of their fire blued finish which has faded and dulled with age. The two-piece oil finished walnut grips are in about FINE condition. They are complete and solid with no breaks, cracks or repairs. The grips do show the some of the normally expected bumps and dings from service and use, but even these are minimal. There are also some of the expected dings and impact marks on their bottoms, where Civil War era pistols were inevitably used as hammers during their service life! As noted, the left grip retains a very crisp and clear inspection cartouche as well.
Overall this is an extremely crisp and complete example of a US Military Inspected Whitney Navy 2nd Model 4th Type Revolver. This is a 100% complete and correct example of a Whitney Navy that is in tremendously better condition than they are typically encountered. The gun is very attractive, and in person (under normal lighting) appears to have even more finish than the harsh photographic lights tend to indicate in the photos below. The revolver clearly saw real world carry and use but was extremely well cared for. Martially marked Whitney Navy revolvers are fairly scarce, and when encountered usually show very hard use and rarely retain any finish. For a US military purchased and inspected Whitney Navy this is really a very fine example that will be a fantastic addition to your collection of Civil War secondary martial revolvers. It is a gun that I am very sure you will be proud to display in your collection.SOLD