By Jessica Dow
Jessica here, coming to you from the curatorial department of Historic Huguenot Street Collections! I would like to tell you about this tiny Civil War pistol. It’s a 41 caliber single-shot pistol, used during the Civil War Era, dated to around 1860. It has a 3 inch octagonal barrel in brass with a dark patina and a wooden handle with a lovely dark finish. It came to be in our collections through a donation from Mrs. Myra Wilkins.
This type of pistol is called a pocket pistol, recognizable by the curve of the body, with the handle and barrel integrated into one swooping form. Originating from the 17th century “coat pistol” or “Queen Anne Pistol” (after the reigning English monarch at the time), pocket pistols were ideal for when a weapon needed to be concealed on one’s person, or easily stored. Since this pistol lacks a rotating barrel, it can only shoot once before needing to be reloaded. Not terribly useful in combat, but probably good for emergencies and self-defense. Modern-day pocket pistols are still made: think movie protagonists pulling tiny guns out of their purses.