What started out as a 500-lot, one-day auction of Civil War, Firearms & Militaria at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery – a sale that would have been impressive at that – has swollen to an 800+-lot colossus that will span the weekend of Aug. 15-16, starting at 11 a.m. both days. “Two private collections were recently acquired,” said John Fontaine, “so we added a second day to accommodate these quality additional items in what will be an outstanding and historic auction.”
The auction will feature not one, but two 19th-century Gatling Guns, one of which is in truly spectacular condition and could fetch as much as $250,000; vintage rifles, muskets, revolvers and guns; cannons and cannon accessories; swords; drums; frocks, coats and uniforms; and an array of other items, to include a Confederate belt with buckle, tintypes and cartes de visites and many other items.
The undisputed centerpiece of the sale – as it was before the second day was added – will be the lifetime collection of the late George J. Bisacca, whose mainly Civil War collection was housed in the Eastover Resort complex in Lenox, Mass., scheduled to close in November. The aforementioned Gatling Gun is Mr. Bisacca’s, and the cannons and hundreds of firearms in his collection are no less impressive.
The Gatling Gun – a Colt M 1883 model – was named after the man who invented it (Richard J. Gatling) and is a precursor to the machine gun. This example (est. $150,000-$250,000) was made in 1883 and has 10 rotating .45 caliber barrels encased in a bronze jacket. It is fully operational and has been fired in showings at Eastover. The second Gatling Gun is a Colt Model 1874 (est. $100-$150,000).
Expected top lots among the rifles are a Confederate Fayetteville .58 caliber muzzle loader armory rifle, stamped 1864 (est. $20,000-$25,000); a Hudson Bay club butt flintlock muzzle loader fowling rifle (est. $4,000-$6,000); a U.S. 1840 flintlock .58 caliber rifle by W. Starr & Son ($3,000-$5,000); and a Winchester model 1873 lever-action saddle ring 44-40 carbine rifle (est. $2,500-$3,500).
Other rifles include a Model 1841 U.S. Harper’s Ferry percussion rifle, also known as a Mississippi rifle, .54 caliber (est. $2,500-$3,500); a W. Parker half-stock percussion target rifle, .50 caliber (est. $2,500-$3,500); a Parker Brothers DH grade double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun (est. $2,500-$3,500); and a .38-caliber percussion target rifle by A.P. Wood of New York City (est. $2,500-$3,500).
Ever dreamed of owning a cannon? There will be many in this auction, to include a Model 1861 Confederate ordinance rifle cannon (est. $50,000-$75,000); a Mann experimental breech loading cannon, one of only two Mann cannons built (est. $40,000-$60,000); the other Mann, a prototype smooth-bore cannon (est. $30,000-$50,000); and an 1837 12-pound cannon on iron carriage (est. $30,000-$50,000).
Other cannons will include a British 12-pound cannon, circa 1812, mounted on a post-Civil War naval carriage (est. $30,000-$50,000); a 3-inch 1861 Union ordinance rifle cannon with carriage mount (est. $30,000-$50,000); a Confederate coehorn mortar cannon mounted on wood block (est. $30,000-$40,000); and a Hotchkiss mountain rifle with 2-inch bore cannon, dated 1891 (est. $30,000-$40,000).
Cannon parts and accessories will include a beautiful artillery carriage without tube, 80 inches from hub to hub (est. $10,000-$15,000); a massive wood lathe for turning forms to cast Confederate cannon barrels (est. $10,000-$15,000); a burst artillery (tube only), circa 1840, with 3-5/8-inch bore (est. $5,000-$6,000); and a Frankford Arsenal 1859 star gauge used in making cannons (est. $4,000-$6,000).
From the swords category: a massive, original 16th-century Landsknecht double-handled sword from northern Europe (est. $8,000-$12,000); a single lot comprising an English percussion rifle made by Robert Adams of London, an unmarked sword with brass guard and a military letter dated 1763 (est. $3,000-$5,000); and an Ames Model 1832 short sword with scabbard frog and belt (est. $3,000-$4,000).
One of the sale’s most interesting lots is the Civil War collection of Henry B. Walker, of the 121st Volunteer Infantry New York regiment. The selected group of items came directly out of the attic of his descendants and includes his .22 caliber single-shot rolling block pistol, his six-shot Colt revolver, a daguerreotype of Mr. Walker, his personal Bible, his handwritten will and more (est. $10,000-$15,000).
Frocks, coats and uniforms include a U.S. New York regiment militia frock overcoat, circa 1860 (est. $10,000-$15,000); a 3-piece junior officer’s Civil war uniform worn by Union Cavalry Capt. John Berry (est. $5,000-$7,000); a New York State 71st regiment swallow-tailed full-dress coat, Civil War-era (est. $4,000-$6,000); and a U.S. Civil War-era Louisville Legion-style frock coat (est. $2,500-$3,500).
Tops among pistols and guns are a massive .70 caliber percussion swivel gun with a 37-inch barrel (est. $6,000-$8,000); a huge .82 caliber percussion rampart gun, 7 feet 4 inches long and weighing 50-60 pounds (est. $5,000-$7,500); a magnificent engraved and gold-filled Colt 1860 Army revolver (est. $4,000-$6,000); and a matched pair of flintlock sea service pistols, circa 1812 (est. $3,000-$5,000).
You want muskets? This sale’s got ’em! A few examples include a British Revolutionary War sea service musket with 26-inch long .75 caliber barrel (est. $3,000-$5,000); a Waterford Model 1861 U.S. Percussion rifle-musket, with Union and some Confederate parts, suggesting it fought on both sides (est. $2,500-$3,500); and a Colt Model 1861 .50 caliber special musket, marked 1864 (est. $2,500-$3,500).
Other military-related lots include a rare artillery limber with a heavy ammunition chest (est. $10,000-$15,000); a black and white painted portrait of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan by Thomas Nast, based on a photo taken by Matthew Brady, circa 1864 (est. $7,500-$10,000); a single lot comprising a Civil War drum from Ohio and a photo of the drummer, Corp, Henry Lawrence Smith (est. $5,000-$7,000).
Also: an early Annin & Co. 13-star U.S. Flag on a shield (est. $3,000-$5,000); a Confederate belt with buckle and hand-made cartridge box (est. $3,000-$4,000); a colorful Queens metal-bodied lancer drum (est. $3,000-$5,000); a small tintype portrait of the famous Gen. George A. Custer (est. $2,500-$3,500); and one lot comprising a metal Spencer cartridge box and a carrying strap (est. $4,500-$5,500).
Previews will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 12, from 10-5; Thursday, Aug. 13, from 10-5; Friday, Aug. 14, from 10-5; Saturday, Aug. 15, from 8-11 a.m.; and Sunday Aug. 16, from 8-11 a.m. A packed house is expected on the days of sale. Online bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com and Proxibid.com, and directly through the Fontaine’s website (which will feature live online streaming, both audio and video). Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted.
Fontaine’s Auction Gallery is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. The firm is actively seeking quality lots for its fall auction series. Wanted are clocks, watches, barometers, antique lamps and lighting. To consign a single item, an estate or an entire collection, you may call them directly, at (413) 448-8922; or, you can send them an e-mail at [email protected].
To learn more about Fontaine’s Auction Gallery and its calendar of upcoming events, please log on to www.fontainesauction.net. To order a color catalog for the Aug. 15-16 sale, call (413) 448-8922.