The Swamp Angel

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In August 1863, a massive eight-inch Parrott cannon nicknamed the "Swamp Angel" fired a series of incendiary shells into the city of Charleston, S.C., from a nearby island. For two days, fiery shells fell upon Charleston, wreaking massive damage and forcing a partial evacuation of the city. But on the 36th shot, the eight-ton Swamp Angel exploded, ending its offensive capability forever.

One Civil War officer, Henry C. Wadsworth, decided in 1871 that the legendary Union cannon deserved to be remembered in a slightly different fashion. As part of Forehand & Wadsworth, an armsmaking firm located in Worcester, Mass., the Swamp Angel was quickly brought back to life - this time as a much smaller-scale repeater for personal protection.

Forehand & Wadsworth's Swamp Angel was a spur-trigger revolver chambered for the stubby .41 rimfire cartridge. Short-barreled and fitted with a bird's-head shaped butt, the small revolvers were potent pocket powerhouses. This five-shot, gold-plated example, engraved and fitted with bone grips, is one of the more ornate Swamp Angels known to exist.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, August 2006.