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LOT 130
Rare and Desirable Ainsworth “Lot Six” U.S. Cavalry Model Colt Single Action Army Revolver with Kopec Gold Seal Letter and Documented North Dakota Provenance - Serial no. 6140, 45 Colt cal., 7 1/2 inch round bbl., blue/casehardened finish, walnut grips. This incredible revolver is a rare Lot Six Colt Single Action
Army revolver in original Cavalry Model configuration. It was manufactured under
contract with the U.S. Ordnance Department in 1874 and sub-inspected by Orville W.
Ainsworth. As such, it is from one of the prime lots issued to the famous 7th Cavalry led
by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana on June 25, 1876. In 1874, 921 Colts were shipped
to the 7th Cavalry from the Rock Island Arsenal, of those, approximately 300 were from Lot Six. Specifically, the table on page 252 of “Colt Cavalry and Artillery Revolvers. . .a Continuing Study” by Kopec and Fenn indicates it is in the “Prime Serial Number Range” of 5505-6516 for
the revolvers issued to Companies D and I. These companies received eighty-three revolvers each later than the rest of the 7th Cavalry as they were on detached service at Fort Totten under Major Reno’s command with the Northern Boundary Survey. At the Battle of Little Bighorn, D Company was in Captain Benteen’s command, and most of I Company was part of Custer’s ill-fated command aside from seven men in the pack train detail. Serial numbers 5505, 5637, 5740, 5743, 6048, 6067, and 6269 from Lot Six all have documented or attributed 7th Cavalry history per Kopec and Fenn. Other revolvers from Lot Six were issued to the 2nd Cavalry that also fought in the Great Sioux War of 1876, including at the Battle of Powder River on March 17, 1876, and at the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, 1876, a week before the Battle of Little Bighorn. Revolvers close to this one are also documented by Kopec and Fenn as issued to the state militia in New York.
The documentation included with this revolver includes correspondence between collectors concerning this revolver’s provenance and indicates that the revolver was purchased in the early 1960s by Lenard Cave of Jamestown, North Dakota, from a young man at a gun show in Bismark, North Dakota, who indicated his grandfather had found it hidden in a fort. As a local, Cave did not doubt the story given it was well- known that Fort Abraham Lincoln’s buildings had been torn down and the lumber used to build ranches and homes in Mandan just to the
north of the fort and across the Missouri River from Bismark. Cave subsequently sold the revolver to Richard Atkinson in 1969, and Tom Odom purchased the revolver from Atkinson in 2017. Fort Abraham Lincoln was where the 7th Cavalry was stationed from 1873 to 1882. If this revolver was issued to the 7th Cavalry and indeed discovered at the fort, then it was likely either with one of the troopers of Company D or one of the spare revolvers stored in the fort given that, with the exception of those issued to the seven men with the pack train, all of I Company’s revolvers are presumed to have been captured by the Native Americans after Custer’s command was annihilated by the combined Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho forces.
Only around 330 of the over 600 revolvers used by the 7th Cavalry in the battle made it back to Fort Abraham Lincoln after the battle leaving over 600 of the original 921 revolvers issued to the 7th Cavalry remaining in service following the battle. Many of these revolvers saw extensive use in the West for many more years. In 1893, most of the U.S. Cavalry Model revolvers still in service, with the exception of militia revolvers, were recalled by the Ordnance Department and placed in storage with the adoption of the double action Colt Model 1892 revolvers. In 1898, over 16,000 of the former Cavalry revolvers from storage were refurbished at the Springfield Armory, including having their barrels shortened to 5 1/2 inches. These shorter “Artillery Models” saw use in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection. Then, 5,294 of these revolvers were returned to Colt to be repaired and refinished in 1900-1903. The long service lives and multiple rounds of refurbishment have left few
Lot Six revolvers in original Cavalry Model configuration, but this revolver escaped these modifications and remains in its desirable original configuration which is congruent with the tale from the provenance documents.
It has matching serial numbers visible on the frame, trigger guard, back strap, and cylinder and also marked on the barrel hidden under the ejector housing and handwritten in the back strap mortise of the grip. The 7 1/2 inch long barrel has blade front sight with the original polishing lines visible to the sides, “+ COLT’S PT. F. A. MFG. Co. HARTFORD. CT. U.S.A.+” on top with the breaks in the die of the “o” in “Co.” and right leg of the “A” of “HARTFORD,” and “P” and “A” on the bottom at the breech. The frame has the two-line, two-date patent marking on the left followed
by “U.S.” along with assembly number “351” on the loading gate, and a top strap groove rear sight with notch at the rear. Additional “A” sub- inspection marks are found on the trigger guard just ahead of the bow and on the top of the back strap behind the hammer. The grip has a boxed “OWA” cartouche on the left.
A connection to the fort and the revolver turning up in North Dakota certainly supports the possibility that this revolver was issued to the 7th Cavalry. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and 7th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln prior to their ill-fated attack on the Native American encampment at the Little Bighorn. Custer and his wife Libbie arrived in 1873. From Fort Abraham Lincoln, Custer struck out on his Black Hills Expedition that confirmed the presence of gold in the Black Hills, an area of immense cultural and spiritual value to the Lakota, and led to the Black Hills War (aka Great Sioux War of 1876) and ultimately to Custer’s ill-fated attack on the massive Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho village on the Little Bighorn River on June 25 and 26 of 1876 that ended with the annihilation of Custer’s entire command and over half of
the entire 7th Cavalry force present injured or dead. It was at Fort Abraham Lincoln on July 6, 1876, that Mrs. Custer learned of the fate of her husband and his men. Thereafter, she worked to establish Custer as a national hero and martyr of American westward expansion. Without her, rather than being enshrined as a heroic last stand against overwhelming odds, the battle and Custer’s demise would have been remembered as one of the worst tactical blunders in American military history.
While Custer’s command was wiped out, the other companies under Major Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen at Little Bighorn had fought
on. While they too suffered losses, they successfully held out until the victorious Native Americans moved on. At the Battle of Little Bighorn, approximately 632 revolvers would have been present, and the others would have been left behind at Fort Abraham Lincoln. Of those that went into the battle, only around 330 returned. These plus the revolvers left behind at the fort comprise the vast majority of the known surviving 7th Cavalry revolvers. The others were lost, destroyed, or captured by the Native American warriors and rarely turn up at all. This revolver clearly survived and remains in fairly high condition for a U.S. Cavalry revolver.

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