American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

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 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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Norman Smith, M.D. Colt Dragoon Pistol

Dr. Norman Smith of the Mass. 6th Regiment

(The following are the personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)

2012 Rock Island auction listing of the same Smith Colt Dragoon

In 2012, the Colt Dragoon pistol shown above was listed for sale by Rock Island Auctions.  This is the second such auction we have seen for this pistol, the first having been in 1979 at the Bourne auction of May 9, 1979 in Hyannis, Mass.  (Catalog page from 1979 listing shown below.)   In the 1979 auction it is described as "complete and original throughout with the exception of the loading lever screw, which appears to be an old replacement."  No mention was made of the wood case, nor of it's contents or power flask, which is prominently displayed in the Rock Island listing.  The question arises: Did someone add the case and flask in the 2012 auction?

1979 auction listing of the Smith Colt Dragoon attributed to Dr. Smith

The Rock Island auction documentation in 2012, some of which was 'borrowed' from this website, is on display here for purposes of viewing what is purported to be the pistol owned by Dr. Smith.  In the description, it is noted there was a tag indicating the pistol was on loan, but no mention was made to whom or where.  In the 1979 listing, the descripition says the pistol was purchased from Mrs. Norman Smith.   Please note in the Rock Island description of the pistol that the serial numbers on the pistol have been 'professionally' remarked and part of the power flask has been replaced.   We'll leave the authentication of the pistol to the Colt experts. 

We do not know if the pistol was sold or not in 2012, but in the final Rock Island tally of lots sold for this auction, the Colt's lot number is not shown and it is presumed it was not sold or did not meet the reserve, however the lot description shows it to have been SOLD.  We do not know to whom it was sold or for how much anymore than we know that information for 1979.

There has been one other auction of material dedicated to Dr. Smith by an auction house in the middle Atlantic region, and after careful study, it was determined the medical chest in question was not in fact original, that it was a fake and was withdrawn from the auction by the auction house and subsequently disappeared.

The surgery set used by Dr. Smith during the Civil War to perform the first amputation of the War is shown in great detail with documentation on this web site.  (See links below.)

A 'rolled' engraving of the 'Texas Ranger fighting an Indian' on the cartridge cylinder


The Rock Island Auction catalog listing for this lot with description of the history of Dr. Norman Smith and discussion of the pistol and case.


Serial #:









44 percussion

Catalog Page:


Barrel Length:

7 1/2 inch









Condition Rating:

Very fine.


This is a very fine example of a Colt U.S. Contract Second Model Dragoon revolver that was manufactured in 1851. This revolver was one of the Second Model Dragoon revolvers issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Ordnance Department in the early 1850s and is stamped with the Massachusetts "MS" property mark on the underside of the trigger guard between the trigger guard bow and screw.

This revolver was the property of Dr. Norman Smith of Lowell, Massachusetts. Dr. Smith was appointed as the regimental surgeon of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Regiment when it mustered into federal service on April 15, 1861, three days after the attack on Ft. Sumpter, South Carolina.

 On April 16, 1861, the 6th Massachusetts was ordered to Washington, D.C., to garrison the capital. When the regiment de-trained in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 19, the troops of the 6th Massachusetts were assaulted by a pro-secession mob. In the riot that followed, four soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts and twelve civilians were killed. The 6th Massachusetts then proceeded to Washington and was stationed in the capitol defenses until it mustered out of federal service in August 1861.

Dr. Smith treated the Massachusetts soldiers wounded in the Baltimore riots and had the dubious distinction of performing the first amputation of the Civil War when he removed the foot of a soldier who accidentally shot himself in the ankle. The amputation was performed in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building.

Dr. Smith mustered out of federal service with the rest of the 6th Massachusetts Militia on August 2, 1861.

This revolver has the distinctive combination of square-back brass trigger guard and cylinder with rectangular stops that identify the 2700 Second Model Dragoon revolvers manufactured in 1850-51. The barrel and cylinder have the Colt military blue finish.

The loading lever, frame and hammer have the dove-gray casehardened finish peculiar to Colt Dragoon revolvers. The trigger guard and hammer are bass and the one-piece, walnut grip has an oil finish.

The cylinder is roll-engraved with the Ranger and Indian fight scene and "MODEL U.S.M.R./COLT'S PATENT". The top of the barrel lug is roll-stamped "-ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-" reading toward the breech. "COLT'S/PATENT/U.S." is roll-stamped on the left side of the frame.

Small "B" Ordnance Sub-Inspection marks are stamped on the loading lever, barrel lug, cylinder, left side of the frame, left side of the hammer, bottom of the trigger guard bow, top of the back strap and the bottom of the left side of the grip.

The full serial number, "10646" is stamped on the bottom of the barrel lug, frame, trigger guard, back strap and the side of the cylinder. The partial serial number "0646" is stamped on the loading lever. All of the visible serial numbers match.

The lower left side of the of the grip is stamped with the script initials of the Ordnance Sub-Inspector "JCB" enclosed in a rectangle with rounded ends. The script "WAT" initials of the Ordnance Final Inspector enclosed in an oval are stamped on the lower right side of the grip.

The mahogany case is lined with purple felt and has five compartments. The case is complete with a key, assortment of .44 caliber bullets and round balls, blued L-shaped screw-driver with blades at either end and copper Dragoon-style powder flask with plunger top.

The flask has two triangular strap rings on the sides and a ball compartment on the top of the flask. One side of the flask is embossed with a stand of colors, a cannon and military trophies above two crossed revolving rifles and two crossed revolvers with "COLTS PATENT" in a ribbon at the bottom of the flask. The embossed stand of colors is slightly different from most Colt Dragoon flasks and the crossed revolvers are distinctly different from the revolvers on typical Colt Dragoon flasks.

The lid of the ball compartment lacks the "COLTS/PATENT" markings found on Colt Dragoon and Walker flasks.

A very old, hand-written tag in the case is inscribed "Revolver of/Surgeon Norman Smith/Loaned by/Norman K. Smith". The revolver is accompanied by copies of a number of documents that detail Surgeon Smith's military service and the history of the 6th Massachusetts Militia, and a hand written note from a Jennie Smith advising that she was sending a newspaper that the family had kept through the years. The original newspaper also accompanies the revolver. The article was in the Lowell Courier Citizen dated April 19, 1909 and relates to Lowell's part in "stirring" the events at opening of the Civil War, the Baltimore riot on April 19, 1861. The article details Company B of the 6th Regiments part in the Baltimore riot and there is a photo of Dr. Norman Smith.


Very fine. The barrel retains about 75% of the original military blue finish; most of the wear concentrated on the sides of the barrel. The professionally renumbered cylinder has at least 85% of the original blue finish on the remaining areas; all of the roll-engraved Ranger and Indian fight scene including the delicate "W.L. Ormsby" markings remains visible.

All of the cylinder safety pins are intact and the percussion nipples and rear face of the cylinder show only light flash pitting. The loading lever, frame and hammer retain more than 85% of the dove-gray casehardened finish. Wear is limited to some silvering on contact points and some flash pitting on the sides of the hammer.

The brass trigger guard and back strap have an attractive mellow, aged mustard yellow patina. The frame and grip screws are in very fine condition with most of the original niter blue finish remaining.

The correct, original oil-finished walnut grip is in excellent condition with minimal handling wear. The Ordnance Final Inspection and Sub-Inspection marks are extremely crisp and in near perfect condition. The barrel and frame markings, serial numbers, Sub-Inspection stamps and "MS" property mark are all crisp.

The action is tight and functions perfectly. The exterior of the mahogany case has been revarnished; wear is limited to several minor scratches. The purple velvet lining is in very good condition with no significant tears or other damage. Wear is limited to some compression marks from contact with the revolver.

The flask body has a dark aged patina and has a few barely noticeable dents. The top charging portion of the flask is a professionally made replacement that has been artificially aged.

The screwdriver is in very good condition with about 70% of the military blue finish.

This is an outstanding example of a scarce U.S. Contract Second Model Colt Dragoon revolver with rarely encountered "MS" markings. Military contract Dragoon revolvers are seldom found with any amount of the blue and casehardened finish. Identified U.S. Contract Dragoon revolvers are very rare.

This is a historic, documented, Civil War Colt Dragoon revolver associated with an officer who was present in the first encounters of the war.



Additional information related to Dr. Norman Smith:

Documentation of the amputation performed by Norman Smith, M.D. in Washington, D.C. after the Baltimore Riot

Moses S Herrick Dr. Norman Smith's amputation patient 1861

Norman Smith Biography

Documentation regarding the uniform worn by Dr. Smith in the document photos

Norman Smith's Colt Dragoon pistol

Additional information on Dr. Norman Smith in his uniform

Return to the display of the Norman Smith surgical set

Documentation regarding the uniform worn by Dr. Smith in the photos

6th Mass. Vol. Militia and the Pratt Street (Baltimore) Riot at the start of the Civil War

Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols



Civil War Medical Collections 


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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016