LeMat Percussion Revolver
|This appears to be a LeMat variation. Note the moveable striker to select either to fire the top (cartridges) or the bottom (shotshell) barrel|
|Capacity||9 cartridges (cylinder), 1 shotshell (second barrel)|
|Caliber||.42 (cylinder), .63 smoothbore (second barrel)|
|Country of Origin||France|
The versatile LeMat revolver was one of the most important guns of the Civil War. The fortunate possessor of this percussion handgun could fire an impressive nine .42 caliber shots from its revolving cylinder and then, using the pivoted striker on the hammer, fire a load of shot from its second smoothbore barrel.
The most distinctive feature of the LeMat—one that earned it the nickname, the ‘Grapeshot’ revolver—was its unique ability to discharge the tenth buckshot from its second smoothbore barrel—a combination quite capable of clearing the pathway of any foe. Confederates who armed themselves with LeMats, including J.E.B Stuart, carried one of the war’s best multi-purpose percussion revolver. On October 21, 1856, inventor Dr. Jean Alexandre Francois LeMat, a New Orleans surgeon, secured U.S Patent #15925 for his design of a revolver with an upper and lower barrel. The single hammer had a moveable striker, which offered the capability of selecting either to fire bullets through the top barrel or a shot charge through the lower barrel. This lower barrel also formed the axis of the rotating cylinder. LeMat saw the potential for such an adaptable revolver for the use by dragoons and other mounted troops. He entered into a partnership with then Major P.G.T. Beauregard in the April of 1859 to market his handgun to the U.S. Army.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Confederate arms buyers quickly entered into contracts with LeMat for the production of five thousand revolvers. The plan was for these guns to be manufactured in LeMat’s plant (in Paris) and then be smuggled through the blockade to Southern ports. Ranking Confederates who used the LeMat included Generals Braxton Bragg and Patton Anderson. The infamous commandant of Andersonville prison, Major Henry Wirz, also chose a LeMat as a personal sidearm.
While the LeMat was a favorite of Confederate Calvary men like J.E.B. Stuart, most mounted troops of the time carried more than one percussion revolver to make up for the lengthy process of reloading. Despite its impressive firepower, the LeMat was no better than any other percussion revolver when empty.