Confederate Navy Lieutenant's Colt pistol could blast to £15,000

An historic Colt 1862 Revolver which belonged to Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair of the Confederate States Navy is estimated to sell for £10,000-15,000 at Bonhams sale of Antique Arms and Armour on July 28.

Arthur Sinclair (1837-1925, born in Norfolk, Virginia) served aboard the CSS Alabama (1862-1864), the famous 1050-ton screw steam Civil War raider which was built at Birkenhead, England, for the Confederate Navy.

Sinclair first saw service from the age of 13, spending four years under his father in the US Navy. During that time he served on both the Mediterranean and Brazilian stations, as well as on Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan between 1852 and 1855.

After serving with gallantry aboard a number of fighting ships over the next few years, he joined the brand new Alabama (commissioned on August 24, 1862) which then proceeded to cruise as a commerce raider, attacking northern merchantmen throughout the Atlantic and eventually sailing south to Cape Town for a refit in July 1863.

The CSS Alabama caused almost $6m worth of damage and disruption in its
two-year career 

From there she sailed for the East Indies, destroying seven more ships over the next six months, before returning round the Cape of Good Hope en route to dry-dock in France, arriving at Cherbourg on June 11, 1864.

However, the USS Kearsage was in pursuit, arriving three days later and taking up station outside the harbour, where she was joined by the USS St Louis.

Captain Semmes chose to fight, issuing a challenge to the captain of the Kearsage via diplomatic channels.

On June 19, Semmes sailed out of port, and locked with his opponent in a series of circular turns in an attempt to deliver a full broadside.

In just over an hour the Alabama was reduced to a sinking wreck, and Semmes was forced to surrender.

The majority of the crew were captured by the Kearsage but 41, including Semmes and Sinclair, were rescued by the private yacht Deerhound of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which had stood off watching the battle. (The yacht's owner, John Lancaster, had taken a tour of the Alabama only the day before.)

The gun owned by the Alabama's Fifth Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair

At this time Sinclair, who had held the post of Fifth Lieutenant, was granted leave of absence to recuperate. Just before the Confederate surrender he was posted to the CSS Texas which was being completed on the Clyde, but never saw action.

It has been suggested that this revolver was gifted by Sinclair to John Lancaster after the battle in thanks for his rescue, but no reference to confirm this has been found.

After the end of the war, Sinclair returned to America and became a merchant in Baltimore. He published a book about his experiences, entitled Two Years on the Alabama, in 1895, and later died in Baltimore in 1925.

During its two years in action - during which she never laid anchor in a Southern port - the Alabama caused almost $6m worth of damage and disruption, prompting the United States to sue the British government for damages, which it eventually won.


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