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  • Writer's pictureT. Logan Metesh

Augusta Machine Works Revolver

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Augusta Machine Works revolver
Augusta Machine Works revolver (Courtesy RIAC)

Confederate-made revolvers have long fascinated collectors. Some firms, such as the Dance Brothers of Texas or Griswold & Gunnison of Georgia, are fairly well-known and documented. Others, however, are still fairly obscure despite 150+ years of research. As William Albaugh, III, noted author of Confederate Handguns, so aptly put it: these "revolvers are now a cause of much speculation and adoration among the demented brotherhood known loosely as gun collectors."

One such obscure manufacturer was the Augusta Machine Works of Augusta, Georgia. The facility was located right along the Augusta Canal, which fed from Lake Olmstead and the Savannah River. After the war, the works were home to a lumber company. When interviewed in the early 1960s, former lumber employees recall digging up revolver parts when working on construction projects at the site.

Augusta Machine Works as seen after the Civil War.

Alas, time marches on and the manufacturing complex no longer exists. Today, the site is occupied by Dyess Park and has a street address of 903 8th St.

The site was not far from other important Confederate arms manufactories: Rigdon & Ansley's revolver facility was just half a dozen blocks to the northwest, and the Confederate Powder Works was a dozen or so more blocks to the northwest of Rigdon & Ansley's.

Today, the site is a city park.

Like many Confederate copies, those presumed to have been made at the Augusta Machine Works are modeled after the Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver. Curiously, the guns lack any markings at all except for their serial number, which, actually, could be either a number (48 being the highest known today) or a letter (J, K, O, and Y have been documented).

Because of the lack of markings, the easiest way to identify one of these guns is by its cylinder stops. Most that have been observed have 12 instead of the more common six stops. Though to further complicate the matter, two have been identified with having only six stops.

Regardless of the variation, the guns are exceptionally rare. It is believed that no more than 100 were made between 1861 and 1864. Only a handful are known to survive.

That alone makes the example being offered at the September 2019 Premier Gun Auction by Rock Island Auction Company a prized piece for any Confederate collector, but the allure of this gun grows. It has documentation that links it to a surgeon with the 1st Florida Infantry - Dr. Hugh Berkeley - and his medical kit is included in the lot.

"But wait, there's more!" (Be sure to read that in your best "Billy Mays for OxyClean" voice.)

Serial number 1 visible on cylinder face. (Courtesy RIAC)

Now, whether or not that means the gun was actually the first one made could be debated. Remember: they also numbered their guns with letters. Still, having an exceedingly rare gun documented to a specific soldier that also just so happens to be serial number 1 is ... well, exceedingly rare. I know I already said that, but there's just no other way to put it!

The revolver has a pre-auction estimate of $50,000-$80,000. An online search showed that RIAC offered this exact same gun during their April 2013 Premier Gun Auction with a pre-auction estimate of $60,000-$80,000 and it did not sell.

What will the outcome be this time? I can't fathom a guess at what it might hammer for, serial number/letter K, which is also documented to an individual soldier, sold in October 2017 for $37,375. Regardless of what this one sells for, one thing is for certain: there's going to be an extremely happy member of "the demented brotherhood known loosely as gun collectors."

UPDATE: The revolver sold at auction on September 7, 2019, for $48,875.

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