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Mad Harry’s Seven-Shooter


by NRA Staff

July 15, 1861, was a tumultuous day near our nation’s capital. The Confederate army was drawing close and the first major land campaign of the American Civil War was about to begin.

In the midst of all the confusion, a Union officer received the gift of a new revolver at the Fairfax Courthouse, a short distance east from where two armies would meet at Manassas. Sometimes known as “Mad Harry,” Lt. Colonel H.D. Townsend, of the 1st Cavalry, was given this Smith & Wesson No. 1, First Issue .22 revolver. The first U.S. metallic cartridge revolver, these small handguns from Smith & Wesson were popular with soldiers for personal protection. But who gave Mad Harry his seven-shot revolver? As shown on the base of the grip—the secret rests with “Charlotte.”

Today, just a mile from the Fairfax Courthouse where Townsend received the revolver, the National Firearms Museum tells the story of Americans and their guns—interpreting history and revealing insights of our nation’s heritage.

Visitors can view thousands of guns daily at no charge in the National Firearms Museum’s extensive galleries. For more information, e-mail or call (703) 2670-1600. Visit the museum’s new web channel at