Confederate Spiller & Burr Revolver (Presentation!)

The Spiller & Burr was a copy of the 1854 Whitney revolver, made in .36 caliber under contract to the CSA. As with so many Confederate arms projects, many thousands were promised and only a small fraction actually delivered. The Whitney in particular suffered from a lack of suitable materials, with cylinders having to be made from twisted iron instead of proper steel.

Hi guys thanks for tuning in to another Video on Forgotten weapons calm I mean I’m here today at the James Giulia Auction house and I’m taking a look at Some of the guns that they’re putting up For sale in their upcoming March of 2016 Auction now I’m looking at this time an Example of the third most common Confederate martial revolver so we can Kind of consider that there are two Different groups of Confederate Revolvers or handguns on the one hand You have the guns that were actually Legitimately contracted by the Confederate States of America on the Other hand you have guns that weren’t Contracted specifically but were bought Commercially by soldiers and actually Saw military use nonetheless now this Falls into that that first category These were the result of a specific Contract with the CSA so this is a Spiller and burr and there are actually Three characters involved in this we Have Edward Spiller who was he actually Lived up in Baltimore Maryland before The war and was a businessman he ran a Commission business and apparently from The record it seems he was kind of a Loudmouth very southern friendly sort of Businessman and when the war broke out He kind of had to hotfoot it down to the South because his his opinions weren’t Really going to do him very much good in

The north so he moved down to Richmond And there he ran into David Burr who had Been it was an engineer building steam Engines so you can kind of see where This is going here we have the Businessman and the engineer yeah that’s Kind of what you need to start a company So there’s a third guy involved in this Story and he’s almost more important Than the other two although his name Didn’t end up on the guns his name is Lieutenant Colonel James Burton and he Held a number of positions but most Importantly for this he was actually in Charge of the CSA’s armory system so There you go you know you think about it If you’re building setting up a company To manufacture arms for the government And one of your founding partners is the Guy who’s responsible for procuring arms For that government kind of got it made Right well done In fact on top of this Burton was a Remarkably accomplished gunsmith gun Maker on his own right he had been chief Engineer at the small arm Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield he Had also been superintendent of the the U.s. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry he knew His stuff and between him and Spiller And burr basically the setup was Burton The government man would arrange for a Contract with the the CSA for guns for 15,000 revolvers to be purchased and he

Would be responsible for getting the the Machinery set up and running and then in Exchange he was paid a lump sum of Actually a couple of lump sums as the Project progressed and he would get 1/3 Of the businesses profits Spiller and Burr on the other hand were primarily at This point responsible for fronting what Money they were not able to get from the Confederate government so the CSA Ultimately put up about $60,000 in in Front money which is really sizable some At the time and Spiller and burrow Responsible for putting up that much Again each so they they put up personal Security for another hundred and twenty Thousand dollars which is an immense Amount of money so at this point things Start to kind of go sideways the the Actual contract with the CSA specified Copies of the cult cult pattern Revolvers and this is not a cult pattern Revolver the Spiller and burr is Actually a copy of the Whitney revolver Well there isn’t any specific evidence But we can pretty well determine what Happened here Spiller and Berger came Across a guy named Robinson who had set Up a factory to make sharps type Carbines and Whitney revolvers he never Actually made any revolvers but he did Sell his factory to Spiller and burr and It’s pretty obvious to see that what Happened was they their plans for making

Colt pattern revolvers got thrown in the Garbage when they were realized that Here they had the opportunity to Purchase a complete factory with all the Tooling and effectively the whole Technical package for making Whitney Revolvers so forget that we’re not going To try and engineer our own new product We’ll just make this thing that Robinson Had already done the background work on For us so that’s how this pistol changed From being a Colt copied to a Whitney Copy now the first four thousand guns Were supposed to be delivered in December of 1862 what they ultimately Did deliver in December of 1862 was fifteen fifteen Guns total that was it And they sent them to Confederate Ordnance who sent them back and Basically said yeah there are a bunch of Changes we need you to make so we’ll Look at those changes in a moment when We look at the gun up close but that Didn’t go well so they went back and by June of 1863 now they delivered another Forty guns which is I mean we’re Supposed to be getting a lot of guns in Here and there’s not much coming out of This factory of those forty guns seven Were accepted and thirty-three were Rejected for flaws among other things Cylinders the chambers didn’t line up With the barrel which is kind of a

Problem Excessive cylinder gap kind of a problem They were spill remember were having a Really hard time actually getting these Guns produced and Burton to for all of His technical expertise that’s not going To really help him from the problems That beset the Confederacy on Manufacturing anything they had massive Shortages of raw materials you know a Gun like this you would want the Cylinder made out of steel they were Able to make one short cut out right off The bat by using a brass a cast brass Frame by the way these frames were still Rather weak and it’s of the ones that Are known it’s not that uncommon for Them to be bent or damaged on the top Top strap where pressure is the greatest But ideally they really needed steel for The cylinders they couldn’t get steel so They ended up using twisted iron instead The idea was you could take a bar of Iron by twisting it you could kind of Change the grain structure and give it a Little bit more strength which was good Enough to work but not really all that Great at one point a report from Burton Mentions that they’re doing their best But in one particular batch of proofing They went to proof thirty-two cylinders And eighteen of them exploded when They’re approved so they were having Serious trouble with materials among

Everything else this was getting pretty Discouraging to Spiller and Burr and Burton by the summer of 1863 Spiller and Burr were trying decided that they this Bits had gone far enough They tried to get the Confederate Government to buy them out it took until January at which point the Confederate Government did actually buy them out in January of 1864 at that point the the Factory tooling was moved down to Macon Georgia at that point spiller member had Manufactured seven to eight hundred Revolvers depending on which source you Read so they’d planned on having 15,000 Finished by this point and what they’d Actually produced was a couple hundred Definitely you know this is a project That started with high hopes and kind of Naive patriotic optimism that you know We can do anything and the south will Win and sure we’ll make fifteen thousand Revolvers and it turned into the Realities of trying to manufacture a Complex product in a wartime economy Under embargo and blockade so this Confederate government like I said moved The production facilities down to Georgia where they did manage to produce A significant additional number of guns Ultimately December of nineteen of 1864 The facility was shut down completely Basically because of the the uncoming Threat from General Sherman and by that

Time the total production had hit Fourteen hundred and fifty one of these Guns so initially the contract here’s a Funny way to think about this initially The contract was the first five thousand Guns would be paid for $40 apiece by the Confederate government when you look at What this ended up actually costing them Even if you leave out everything that Was actually paid for the guns directly When they were finished the Confederate Government put in sixty thousand dollars And they got fourteen hundred and fifty One pistols out of it One book makes an interesting point that Decades ago when these guns were you Know a thousand dollars apiece the Collector was still getting them cheaper Than the Confederacy had which is an Interesting way to think about it oh why Don’t I bring the camera back here let’s Take a look at a couple of details of This this particular gun is one of the Best conditions Spiller and burr Revolvers out there so it’s a good one To check out alright so in general we Have a Whitney pattern revolver here Solid brass frame it’s got a full frame Over the top not an open top like a Colt Pattern many of the Arts on here are literally Interchangeable with Whitney’s including In particular the loading lever so this Particular Spiller invert it is not

Serial number 239 and on the bottom of The butt here you can see that it is Inscribed to a dr. Thomas Hill he was The surgeon for the third Regiment of The North Carolina artillery and I think This is probably the only Spiller and Burr that’s out there with an original Inscription like this and this may be Part of why this gun is so in such good Condition is as a surgeon he probably Wasn’t throwing this thing down in the Mud very often but very cool to see that Particular inscription there and gives The gun some provenance to a specific Officer who would have carried it now I Had mentioned that when the first 15 of These revolvers were delivered to the Confederate ordnance department they Came back with a couple of improvements They wanted made so let’s take a look at Those first off the first 15 were Actually slightly less than 36 caliber So one of the changes they wanted was to Bring it up to standard 36 caliber which Was done on the early guns there was Actually like a ball bearing style of Latch here on the loading lever that was Deemed not strong enough and they Recommended that it be replaced with a Colt style loading lever which was done So they they have this style of latch Now so the other major improvement that Was recommended was the addition of These safety slots by having a slot like

This between each of the percussion caps This gives you places to rest the hammer So that you can carry all six chambers Loaded this is a 36 caliber six-shot Revolver but you can carry all six Loaded and then put the hammer in this Slot so that the cylinder won’t slip There we have it on so here we have it On a chamber put it right in the middle Right there now we’re in between two Chambers so the hammer is safe in this Position and hitting the back of the Hammer unintentionally won’t fire the Gun so all of those changes were made There are two examples of that first Batch of 15 that still exist which make For very interesting reference pieces to See what was changed on the The course of production now some Spiller and burr revolvers will have a CS a Confederate states mark right here This one does not it just kind of seems To be random chance which do and which Don’t you will also find again kind of At random a Spiller and burr stamp on The top of the barrel some do some don’t About fifty fifty doesn’t seem to have Any connection to serial number some of The ones that were made by the Government after the factory was bought Out and moved do have Spiller and burr Marking some that were made literally by Spiller and Berg don’t have it one Interesting thing they’re actually two

Of these stamps one of them had a defect In the e which you can just see there And Spiller so you’ll find that stamped The same on all the guns I believe the Other one had a defect in one of the Ours so one of the other interesting Kind of neat little detail features of The Spiller member is the front sight Post here it is actually a cone it’s not A simple cylindrical pin they actually Made it conical like this and made out Of brass the rear sight is actually this Groove cut in the top strap which has a Matching little cutout in the hammer There this isn’t so much a sight as a Matching groove so that you can see the Actual rear sight which is that groove Not very good sights but typical of this Time period finally an interesting and Kind of unexplained detail of the Spiller member is the barrel length Which varies between about six and seven Inches without any apparent rhyme or Reason so some are low longer some are Little shorter that’s more variation Than you would normally expect even for Production at this time period and There’s not really any good reason for It it just is or rather maybe there is a Good reason but we don’t know what it is Anymore no they did have game twist Rifling which was also kind of common at The time Colt revolvers did as well well Thanks for watching guys I hope you

Enjoyed the video I find it interesting To look at these Confederate revolvers You know it’s this neat get getting this Behind-the-scenes glimpse In a way of what was going on in the South while they were desperately trying To maintain supply lines and keep their Troops armed during the Civil War well If you have a collection of Confederate Guns or other Confederate memorabilia And you’d like to add this one to it or If you’d like to start a collection be a Fantastic way to start go ahead and take A look at the link in the description Text below that will take you to the Julia auction houses catalog page on it Where you can see their high-res Pictures and read their complete Description and if you’d like it come to A pure domain and participate in the Auction live or place a bid online Thanks for watching You

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