This is the 9,374th Model Colt 1851 .36 revolver ever produced and the first series following the introduction of the “squareback” triggerguard model.
It is in pure unmolested condition overall and exhibits strong period use—but has not been cleaned or tampered with in any manner. Weapons in this range are known to have been issued to the 13th Illinois Cavalry early in the Civil War but they were also sold directly for civilian use—many went South and also west during the Gold Rush years.
This particular weapon surfaced in an estate in Arkansas with another example in equal condition and age (see our other listings for details). Finding a first year production Colt of any pattern is nearly impossible, but finding TWO in the same old estate!
It could well have been used by Confederate forces as well—a letter from Colt may shed more light on where it went, although early records like that are sketchy at best.
This is a “keeper” grade weapon any way you look at it and a worthy investment for any collector.