Colt Third Model Dragoon
Western History

          General John Buford of Brandy Station fame during the Civil War, and the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, where he held Seminary Ridge for General George Meade, was Colonel Philip St. George Cooke's able quartermaster during the Utah War of 1857. Colonel William S. Harney had been relieved of command and Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston, his replacement, wouldn't reach the field near the South Pass of Wyoming until the early winter of 1857.

         Buford's name was given to the fort on the Laramie River in 1866. Fort Halleck, built on the north slope of Elk Mountain in Wyoming in 1862, was abandoned in 1866, the materials salvaged from Fort Halleck hauled fifty-four miles and used in Fort Buford's construction. The War Department, ninety days later, realized they had a Fort Buford in Montana and re-named the fort, Fort Sanders after Brigadier General William Sanders, who died of wounds received in the battle of Knoxville in the Civil War.

Ashley's Men

     "To enterprising young men. The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri river to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years. For particulars enquire of Major Henry, near the lead mines in the county of Washington, who will ascend with, and command, the party; or of the subscriber near St. Louis."

[Signed]   William H. Ashley

James Clyman, one of whom answered this announcement from the Missouri Republican of March 20, 1822, said of the men who engaged in this adventure that Falstaff's battalion was genteel in comparison.

Later, in 1827 - "Ashley was to supply hunting provisions to Smith, Jackson and Sublette for their fall hunt, provided they notified him by March 1st in St. Louis. Along the upper reaches of the Sweetwater near South Pass, the December snows were heavy. Jedediah Smith, the explorer of the partnership, was in California. David Jackson had stayed in winter quarters to the west of South Pass to arrange the spring hunt. On January 1st William Sublette and Moses (Black) Harris had set out on snowshoes accompanied by one pack dog. St. Louis, over fourteen hundred miles to the east, was their goal; fifty-nine days their limit. Two weeks out of Ham's Fork near Independence Rock on the Sweetwater, they found buffalo and deep snow drifts. On down the Platte in the middle of what's now Nebraska, nearly starved, sick with exhaustion and still hundreds of miles from civilization, they ate the pack dog. Their strength replenished and small game more abundant, they limped into St. Louis on March 4, 1827, three days overdue. Even so, Ashley honored the contract. Sublette, his mules loaded with traps, guns, lead, powder, shot, blankets, whiskey, sugar and coffee, headed back up the Platte after only ten days rest."

From Amy's Gold

Colt's 3rd Model Dragoon

The Dragoons were heavy, but no matter, the horse was going to carry it. Captain Samuel Walker, after the war with Mexico, in 1846, had convinced the army to purchase a new pistol from Sam Colt. It was named the Walker Colt. Big and heavy it soon gave way to an evolving series of Dragoons. The third model Dragoon still weighted over four pounds. The War Department commanded a regiment of First Dragoons, not so much as cavalry, but as mounted infantry. During the Revolutionary War, Light Horse Harry Lee had learned the value of mounted infantry where the soldier kept two horses, one as a pack horse and the other to ride. His saddle had one or two holsters which carried his single shot, muzzle loaded, flint lock ignited, horse pistols, called Dragoons.When the Mounted Rifles, Mounted Infantry and regiments of Dragoons gave up their two horse system to the McClellan saddled one horse per man Cavalry the mule pulled freight wagons replaced the ox-cart supply system of Revolutionary War times.

The Dragoon revolvers were percussion ignited. That is, the cylinder was not bored through, but had a nipple screwed into the rear of each cylinder. A percussion cap was placed on the nipple to prepare for firing. Each cylinder was charged with black powder. Next, an over-powder wad was seated with the loading lever and then a lead ball rammed home. When in a hurry, the over-powder wad was omitted. The gas seal without the over-powder wad was not as reliable, however. If the user had time, he smeared grease over each cylinder to prevent the ignition flash from firing more than one cylinder.

The Walker Colt was called a .44 caliber, but it was actually .45 caliber. It weighted over four and one half pounds, had a cylinder of two and one half inches in diameter and a barrel of 9 inches in length. It had no rammer latch. It was stamped, U. S. 1847, on the right side of the barrel lug.

The First Model Dragoon had a rammer latch under and near the end of the barrel. Its cylinder was reduced one quarter of an inch in diameter to two and one quarter inches. Its barrel was shortened to seven and one half inches. The trigger guard retained the square back of the Walker Colt.

The Second Model Dragoon retained the same cylinder and barrel dimensions, but had rectangular bolt stops.

The Third Model Dragoon, illustrated above, had a long trigger, an improved rammer latch and a round trigger guard. Cylinder engraving, by W. L. Ormsby, showed mounted troops pursuing mounted Indians. Markings varied from "U. S. Dragoons," to "U. S. M. R." to "U. S. M. I." meaning United States Mounted Rifles and United States Mounted Infantry. The Dragoons were highly sought after side arms during the Plains Wars of the 1850's and 1860's and by both sides during the War of Secession.

Samuel Colt died on January 10, 1862. His New Model Army 1860 revolver weighted only two pounds eleven ounces and was .44 caliber. Elisha King Root, Colt's chief engineer, continued Colt's production of firearms during the Civil War. Colt's 1860 Army effectively replaced the war horse Dragoons.

From Comes A Pale Horse a novel by Robert O. Burgess Illustrated by Brenda Helm

LeMat sidearm similar to the one carried by J. E. B. Stuart

General Stuart was killed at the battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864

"LeMat? What's a LeMat?" Romer asked.

"Father called it his grapeshot revolver. It holds nine, forty caliber balls in its cylinder and there's a second barrel under the revolver's barrel that's smooth bore and is charged with buckshot . . . that makes it a shotgun, doesn't it?" She reached under the wagon's seat and pulled the big revolver from its holster. "Take a look," she said.

"Why," Romer said, turning the pistol over in his hands, "This is a confederate pistol."

"My father sold hardware, including revolvers. He knew Doctor LeMat before the war. LeMat lived in New Orleans. I visited New Orleans myself . . . when I was a young girl."

From Comes A Pale Horse

a novel by Robert O. Burgess

LeMat pistol illustrated by Brenda Helm

I made this knife using O1 tool steel. I used a square graver to engrave the Marine Corps emblem.

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