Here is a really neat Colt 1849 Pocket revolver with a great Civil War history. The name on the bottomstrap is inscribed "A.B. Fiske". The revolver is in the 203,000 range which places its production date to probably the early part of 1862. After doing quite a bit of research, the only A.B. Fiske I have located with those exact initials is a man named Alonzo B. Fiske, a young man from Boston, Massachussetts during the early 1860's.
Fiske shows up in records having served in 3 different MASS regiments during the Civil War ascending through the ranks from Private to 1st Lieutenant by the war's end. Due to a slow learning curve in my research, I have obtained from the National Archives in Washington, only Fiske's roll sheets from only one of these Regt's, the 55th Regiment. I'm sure the other two sets Regimental roll sheets could also be obtained from the National Archives to reveal much more information than what I'm about to present. We would love to research this piece further but due to the constraints of running a business, its time to put this one up for sale...reluctantly.
Here's what I can tell you guys. Fiske was born in 1838 in Massachussetts where by his early 20's had become a carpenter in Boston. One month after the Civil War began he enlists as a Private in Company K of the 29th Massachussetts Infantry Regiment on May 18, 1861. Fiske probably would have probably purchased or received this revolver as a gift in 1862. Colt Revolvers were extremely popular with enlisted soldiers of both sides during the war....just look at the multitude of Civil War tintype photos with soldiers brandishing 49 Colt Revolvers across their chests. Fiske would have used it as personal carry or back-up weapon. The worn inscription probably helped Fiske keep track of his weapon in camp as well as provide us with a link to an otherwise probably forgotten past.
After joining the 29th, Fiske and his Co. K would see combat for the first time just 3 weeks later after enlisting at the battle of Big Bethel, VA on June 10, 1861. A few months later in Jan. 1862, he is promoted to the rank of Corporal. During this time, the 29th Massachussetts was sent to Newport News, VA for Winter Quarters. Two months later, the 29th would witness one of the most historic events of the War. On March 8, 1862, standing on the shore near Hampton Roads, VA, the 29th Mass witnessed the Confederate Ironclad Merrimac destroy the USS Cumberland and the Congress. The following day, they witnessed the first battle between modern ironclads when the Monitor arrived to fend off the Merrimac.
In June of 1862, the 29th Mass was attached to the legendary Meagher's Irish Brigade, Richardson's Division, Sumner's (2d) Corps. The 29th was one of the only non-Irish Regiments, if not THE ONLY regiment whose Boston members were of Puritan descent to serve in the Irish Brigade. Apparently, the Irish Brigade was supposed to receive a new Irish replacement Reg't from the state of Massachussetts. However, this new Reg't was not ready in time, so the State gave them the 29th instead.
Once in the Irish Brigade, the 29th fought in several battles during 1862 including Fair Oaks, VA, the Peninsular Campaign, Gaines' Mill, Savage's Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern HIll, and on Sept. 17, it participated in the battle of Antietam. On Nov. 30, the 29th was transferred to Christ's Brigade which fought at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862. Shortly after this battle, Fiske receives a disability discharge on Feb. 26, 1863 in Boston, MA. I think some further research might yield more specifics as to whether he was wounded at Fredericksburg or sick.
Fiske must have recovered well enough to serve because on July 19, 1864 he enlists as a 1st Lieutenant with the 16th Company Unattached Infantry Regiment for 100 days from Aug. 6 to Nov. 14, 1864. This unit consisted of 3 officers and 83 men and performed guard duty around Boston Harbor serving mainly at Galloupe's Island.
During Fiske's time on Galloupe Island, Lieutenant A.B. Fiske was forwarded from the Mass. Vol. Militia to Company F of 55th Massachussetts Colored Infantry Regiment. The 55th Colored Regiment was the sister regiment to the 54th Infantry...the same unit featured in the Movie "Glory" in 1989 with Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Mathew Broderick. The next part is a bit puzzling to me. while I have obtained Fiske's roll sheets for the 55th from the National Archives, he appears not to have joined the regiment. He is listed on the Muster and Descriptive Rolls of the 55th as forwarded from a detachment of US Volunteers on Sept. 20, 1864 on Galloupe's Island...exactly where his unit, the 16th was stationed. However, the notation at the bottom notes "Name not taken up on rolls of regt." My guess is Fiske was in the 55th in name only as he is mustered out on Nov. 16, 1864 with the 16th Reg't.
After the war, Alonzo B Fiske went back to civilian life. According to the US Census of 1870 and 1880, he was residing in Boston where he married, had children, and resumed work as a House Carpenter.
FISKE'S REVOLVER: The Colt 1849 Pocket Revolver Fiske carried was probably manufactured in early 1862. Overall, its in NRA Antique Good Condition...well used but still retaining lots of eye appeal. It is a .31 caliber revolver with 5" octagonal barrel and desirable 6 shot cylinder. With the exception of the wedge, all numbers are matching...to be specific, the numbers match on the frame, barrel, triggerguard, backstrap, cylinder, loading lever, and arbor pin all have the same serial number. No original finish remains on the metal with the exception of traces of silver plating on the brass backstrap and triggerguard. The iron components have turned to a smooth light brown patina with good edges and knurlings. The Hartford barrel address shows significant wear and is only partially legible. Hard service has resulted in the fragile Cylinder scene wearing away although the stamped serial number is intact. The screws are in excellent condition. Nice mechanics and good tight frame to barrel fit...with no play. Grips are in Very Good condition with no chips, cracks or repairs. The bottom of the grips are stamped "-25" right next to where Fiske's name is engraved on the bottomstrap.
It isn't often we find 19th century arms with a history we can connect to them....and an interesting one is usually not in the cards. To know Fiske and his revolver saw action among many events, action at Antietam with the Irish Brigade, combat at Fredericksburg, and witnessed the battle of the Monitor and Merrimac has only really stirred a great deal of thought towards what his life must have entailed during the Civil War. We can only hope thatsomeone will continue this research so that its full history can be properly presented to future generations.