Original U.S. Civil War Era French Model 1854/55 Devisme Percussion Revolver with Belgian Proofs – Serial 1043
Original Item: Only One Available. Here we have a very rare example of a French Model 1854/55 Percussion revolver, produced by the legendary French maker, Louis-François Devisme. Born in 1806, Louis François-Devisme (pronounced (“De-Veme”) began his gunsmithing career in 1834 when he opened a shop on 36 Boulevarde des Italiens in Paris. Quickly establishing himself as a purveyor of high-grade goods, his business took off and, in relatively short order, he became one of the most renowned French makers of the mid-19th century.
Devisme wares were prized by the aristocracy, military officers and the bourgeoisie. General Robert E. Lee himself owned a magnificent sword by Devisme, which had been presented to him by an anonymous donor. This was the sword he wore to Appomattox, Virginia, during the Surrender to Union Forces. He was not the only Confederate general to have arms produced by Devisme, a name which was synonymous with high end quality and style. Jefferson Davis owned a pistol by Devisme, which fired unique exploding bullets.
However, Devisme did produce more utilitarian items for use by less prestigious owners, which constituted a good deal of the firms output. While always of the highest quality, they lacked the luxury appointments of the more upmarket items. They also were often made at least in part by contractors, such as Belgian maker Auguste
During the early 1850s, Colt percussion revolvers dominated the British and European market. However after Robert Adams designed the substantial Model 1851 Double Action percussion revolver, which convinced Devisme that there was room in that market for expansion. The design and action that resulted is truly elegant, with a lot of well thought out features unlike those seen on any other revolver of the period. While at first glance it may appear a bit delicate, it is a very robust design, while also being extremely comfortable. It also utilized a unique loading system borrowed from the French Military, also seen in other countries.
A lever on the left side of the revolver unlocks the barrel from the cylinder arbor pin, allowing removal of the barrel and cylinder. The cylinder chambers of the Devisme M1854/55 each have a “tige” (French for “rod”) in the center, which is very similar to the “Pillar Breech” idea used in percussion firearms. The powder is poured around this, and a bullet placed on top. Then a unique loading tool in the butt of the pistol is used with a wooden hammer to cause the bullet bottom to expand around the rod, forming a better gas seal, and allowing it to engage the rifling more effectively. After this the revolver is reassembled, and the tool threads back into the butt, where it doubles as a lanyard ring. A truly ingenious design.
The example that we have here is typical of those imported and used by Confederate officers during the Civil War, and looks to have seen long service, possibly even after the war. It still has the original markings on the right side of the barrel assembly:
The revolver is in very good condition, with a lovely patina of age. The metalwork has faded to a dark gray peppery look in many areas, as typical of percussion revolvers due to the corrosive nature of the primers and black powder. The elegant wooden grips still retain much of the original checkering, while also showing wear and age. There is a crack in the left grip, running from the lower securing screw escutcheon.
The revolver does function, however wear to the hand and cylinder ratchet now requires that the cylinder be rotated by hand often. There is also overall slop around the cylinder due to wear and powder oxidation. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, with a partly bright finish showing oxidation and powder fouling, as well as wear. The cap nipples vary in condition, with some intact, while others are broken or crushed.
This is a very nice Model 1854/55 Devisme Revolver as used by Confederate officers during the U.S. Civil War. A wonderful acquisition for any collection. In wonderful condition and ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: circa 1855
Ammunition Type: Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 6 3/8 inches
Overall Length: 12 3/4 inches
Action: Single Action Percussion
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
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