Griswold and Gunnison Confederate Percussion Revolver, serial no. 2651

Manufacturer Griswold and Gunnison American
Based on designs by Samuel Colt American

Not on view

This pistol was made in 1864 by enslaved laborers in the Griswold and Gunnison pistol factory located in Griswoldville, GA, about ten miles south of Macon, for use by Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War (1861–65). In 1862, when the Griswoldville factory began manufacturing pistols, its twenty-two machines were operated by twenty-four people, twenty-two of whom were enslaved. Over the course of the war, from 1862 until 1864, when the factory was destroyed in Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s (1820–1891) March to the Sea, it produced approximately 3,700 revolvers—more than any other Confederate firearm factory. Its importance to the Confederate war effort was acknowledged by a visit from the President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis (1808–1889) in 1863, an event described in contemporary newspapers:

“The President at Griswoldville. – At Griswoldville, on the Central Railroad, where the President arrived between eight and nine o’clock on Friday night, about forty negroes, laborers in Mr. Griswold’s pistol shops at that place, had collected and manifested great anxiety to see Mr. Davis. Being told of it he got off the car and went the rounds, taking each one by the hand and giving him a pleasant word.” (The Macon Telegraph, Macon, GA, Monday, Nov. 2, 1863, p. 2).

Based on the Colt Model 1851 revolver, the design of the Griswold and Gunnison revolver differed from the Colt in several respects, most noticeably the grip’s rearward tilt and in the materials from which the revolver was made. The Griswold and Gunnison revolver featured a brass frame and iron components, instead of steel. The scarcity of raw materials in the South during the Civil War necessitated that the metals required for firearms production be sourced and recycled from unconventional sources, including brass church bells, which were melted down to make pistol frames of Griswold and Gunnison revolvers as well as those of other Confederate manufacturers.

The Griswold and Gunnison factory was owned by Samuel Griswold (1790–1867). Originally of Burlington, CT, Griswold moved to Georgia in the 1820s, eventually establishing the town of Griswoldville on four thousand acres of land he purchased. His factory manufactured cotton gins before the War, becoming one of the largest producers of the machines in the nation. In 1862 it ceased its manufacture of cotton gins to make pikes. Later that year, the factory switched its production to pistols. The serial number on the Museum’s revolver indicates it was manufactured soon before the factory was destroyed.

Griswold and Gunnison Confederate Percussion Revolver, serial no. 2651, Griswold and Gunnison (American, 19th century), Steel, brass, wood, American, Griswoldville, Georgia

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.