POTD: Civil War Coston Signaling – 1861 Percussion Signal Pistol

   09.30.21

POTD: Civil War Coston Signaling – 1861 Percussion Signal Pistol

Welcome to today’s Photo of the Day! Besides this Civil War-era signal pistol just looking interesting as heck I also thought this would be a great opportunity to talk briefly about Coston Signals and how they worked. So this Signal pistol worked like a flare gun, but instead of launching a flare into the air, the light would remain in the muzzle of the gun. This sort of worked like a percussion-activated flashlight. Different colored Coston signals would be prepared and each color would be a designated number that would be correlated with some form of code or command for troops on the ground so to speak. If it was being used in the dark you would see a flash and stable light of green for a few seconds and then red and then green again for example and troops on the battlefield would have to command their troops accordingly.

“This is one of the estimated 500 Army Model 1861 Signal Pistols manufactured by William Marston of New York. All brass construction except for the small parts. It is made up of two halves that are held together with two screws. The pistol used the Coston Light System which did not propel the flare into the air. The flare burned while affixed to the pistol, which acted as the igniter and receptacle for it. “U.S. ARMY SIGNAL PISTOL/A.J.M 1861” is stamped ahead of the trigger and the number “33” is stamped behind the trigger.”

Lot 3103: Rare Civil War U.S. Army Model 1861 Percussion Signal Pistol. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/56/3103/rare-civil-war-us-army-model-1861-percussion-signal-pistol.

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