British Single Shot Pin Fire Pistol (1091)
Europeans were more than a decade ahead of American
armsmakers. French gunmaker Casimir Lefaucheux’s 1843 design for the pinfire,
which used a small brass pin protruding from the cartridge to ignite an
internal primer cap, was so well-received throughout Europe that by the late
1840s, armsmakers were manufacturing revolvers, rifles, and even shotguns to
work with a variety of Lefaucheux pinfire ammunition. The pinfire was an
ingenious design, since spent cartridges could be reloaded. By December 1861,
it was clear to both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis that the Union and the
Confederacy would need to import firearms from Europe in order to equip the
tens of thousands of volunteers fighting on both sides of the Mason-Dixon. Interestingly,
payments for guns bought in England by the Confederacy were often made in trade
for cotton because Confederate currency had little value outside of the
Southern States and cotton was a desperately needed commodity in Great Britain.
The guns imported from England, Belgium and France, both before and during the
war, played a significant role in arming both the Confederacy and the Union.