At the beginning of the Civil War the majority of soldiers who remained loyal to the North were armed with smoothbore and rifled muskets, shotguns, Colt revolvers, and various single-shot pistols that had been developed and in use by the U.S. military since the 1840s and early 1850s. The predominant military sidearm was the .36 caliber Colt’s Model 1851 Navy revolver. Larger caliber arms were older .44 caliber Colt Dragoons: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Models. Outside of the new Colt Model 1860 Army, which was not readily available until well into 1861, most Federal troops were armed with weapons more than a decade old. Thus with the outbreak of war, any U.S. troops in the Southern States who remained loyal to the Confederacy had the same complement of weapons at their disposal. Southern volunteers brought the arms they had at home — for many that was little more than an old shotgun and a single shot belt pistol.
The shotgun had a storied history in the South, having been one of the principal weapons used by the defenders of the Alamo in 1836. During the Civil War, shotguns were carried by infantry and cavalry alike—the latter often being armed with shorter barreled models better suited to use on horseback. The so-called cavalry shotgun could have been any make available, but one of the most desirable were the long- and short-barreled London-made Baker double-hammer guns with single, non-selective trigger. These were mainly used by Confederate Cavalry but the Union had them as well since shotguns, both domestically made and imported from England, had been carried by U.S. troops as far back as the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842.¹ Pictured in a book published during the Civil War is a photograph taken at an armory in Tennessee showing three different shotguns then in use, one of which was a Baker identified by the author as follows, “…middle is a true ‘sawed off’ shotgun by Ezekiel Baker, having heavy 10-inch barrel bored for shot or ball. Piece has single non selective trigger, made in 1850!”
The British Baker shotgun (not to be confused with the American Baker shotguns manufactured by W. H. Baker & Co., and L.C. Smith circa 1878-1884; L.C. Smith circa 1886-1950²) was manufactured in England in the shops of Ezekiel Baker, a master gunsmith from Whitechapel, London, who became known for his design of the Baker military rifle in 1800. Baker also produced sporting rifles and shotguns (fowlers) with the double-barrel percussion lock Baker shotgun dating back to the 1820s. One of the finest ever manufactured, c. 1854, can be seen on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.