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LeMat Pinfire Revolver
Although invented in America, these pistols were manufactured in Liege, Belgium, as well as in Paris and London. The LeMat design offered enhanced firepower that was especially effective in close combat situations. In addition to a rifled upper barrel, these single-action percussion revolvers were also fitted with a separately-fired smoothbore lower barrel that contained a buckshot load. Either barrel could be selected by manually pivoting a special striker that was incorporated into the hammer.
One of the most colorful - certainly the most unusual - of
Confederate arms is the Le Mat revolver, produced in France under
contract for the Confederacy. They were smuggled into the South by
blockade-running ships. Few arms carried a more lethal potential
than did this 9-shot revolver, with its extra shotgun barrel. On
Oct. 21, 1856, Dr. Jean Alexandre Francois Le Mat, a physician of
French extraction living in New Orleans, secured U. S. patent
#15925. Reduced to a few words, his application provided for "A
revolver having an upper and an under barrel, the lower one going
back to the recoil shield and serving as an axle upon which the
cylinder revolves. The chambers of the cylinder fire through the
top barrel. The nose of the hammer being adjustable, the one hammer
fires both bullets of the chambers through the top barrel and also
the charge of shot or buckshot from the lower gun barrel."
Dr. Le Mat, with Col P.G.T. Beauregard as partner, endeavored to get the "Grapeshot Revolver" (a name given to it at the time) adopted by the U. S. Army. Gen Sterling Price appointed a Board of Officers, and in 1859 the Le Mat revolver was highly recommended, but it was never adopted. Beauregard sold his interest in the C. Girard, and when the South seceded he resigned from U. S. Army and became a general in the Confederate Army. It was he who led the firing on Fort Sumpter on Apr. 12, 1861.
After the outbreak of hostilities, Le Mat, concerned with questionable wartime production in this country and with a signed contract in his pocket, went to France aboard the English mail ship Trent. He narrowly escaped capture when the vessel was stopped and searched by officers of a Federal gun boat. Once in France Col. Le Mat - he had been an honorary colonel on staff of the Governor of Louisiana - lost no time in arranging with the firm of C. Girard & Co. of Paris for the production of his unique revolver. His first contract with the Confederacy called for 5,000 arms. The actual production of his percussion arms, however, is believed to have been slightly more than half that number.