Sam Colt crossed paths with many politicians in his day. One in particular played a role in the development of an interesting accessory for his 1851 Navy revolvers. When someone says “Jefferson Davis,” many things come to mind. President of the Confederate States of America, United States Senator, Secretary of War, and even Regent of the Smithsonian Institution can be used to describe Davis. Inventor isn’t usually one of the descriptors his name conjures – but it should.
Davis was no stranger to firearms innovation. When most troops went into the Mexican-American War of the 1840s armed with flintlocks, Colonel Davis armed his Mississippi regiment with the latest percussion guns. Davis and his men are responsible for the rise of the term “Mississippi rifle.”
Colt and Davis teamed up to create this special feature for 1851 Navies. Attached to the grip of the revolver is a shoulder stock equipped with a metal liner to turn it into a canteen. When Colt patented the canteen stock on January 18, 1859, he also credited Davis with the invention.
Sam Colt was well known for creating and presenting engraved revolvers to various important people of his day. In keeping with this tradition, Colt presented Davis with an engraved revolver fitted with an equally engraved shoulder stock. The pistol now resides in the the American Civil War Museum’s collection in Richmond, Virginia, but the canteen stock sold in December 2016 through Rock Island Auction for $37,375.
Incredibly rare accessories for a Colt revolver, only a very small number of these canteen shoulder stocks were ever produced. Any soldier who was able to get his hands on one was very lucky. When filled with water, it could prove to be a lifesaver during the heat of battle. Or, if filled with a spirit of some kind, it could provide the courage necessary to plunge headfirst into the carnage that was so common of battle during the Civil War.