G. T. Beauregard's Revolver
Original Author: Unknown
Created: ca. 1861
Medium: LeMat revolver
Publisher: The Museum of the Confederacy

G. T. Beauregard’s Revolver

A LeMat grapeshot revolver that belonged to Confederate general G. T. Beauregard during the Civil War features a grip made of checkered walnut and engraved floral scrollwork on the trigger guard, frame, and cylinder. The LeMat revolver boasted a unique design: it had two barrels, one above the other—the top barrel for a 9-shot cylinder pistol and the lower barrel for firing buckshot. By rotating a pivoting striker, the owner could use the weapon as either a revolver or a shotgun. The double-barreled design allowed for a burst of nine bullets that could be punctuated by a shotgun blast.

This handsomely decorated gun, which bears the serial number 427, was presented to Beauregard by Dr. Jean Alexandre Le Mat, the man who designed and patented the revolver in 1856. While stationed in New Orleans as a major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Beauregard formed a partnership with Le Mat in 1859 to manufacture and promote the revolver. That same year a board of U.S. military and political figures—including General Winfield Scott and Beauregard himself—gave the gun high marks and recommended its use for "cavalry acting against Indians or when charging on a square of infantry," as it would give the cavalryman the ability to "pour 10 shots into their very faces … " Despite the good report, there is no evidence that the U.S. Army ever gave the pistol a formal trial.

During the Civil War, however, the Confederate War Department ordered 5,000 LeMat revolvers at the rate of $35 per gun in Confederate notes (the rate would later rise as Confederate money fell precipitously in value). Because of the shortage of manufacturing facilities and materials in the South, the gun order was placed with a manufacturer in Paris, France. From 1856 to 1865 only several thousand weapons were actually produced as manufacturing difficulties plagued the revolver. In addition, it was not the most practical weapon, with one young Confederate midshipman describing it as "a horrible contraption … which when fired would almost tear the arm off a man with its recoil." Nonetheless, some high-ranking Confederate officers, including Beauregard and J. E. B. Stuart, owned LeMats.