LISBON - Lisbon Historical Society President Gene Krotky felt like a child on Christmas morning when Sonny Reynolds approached her two years ago with something he wanted to donate to the organization.
"My jaw nearly dropped open," she said.
The gift was an antique revolver Reynolds' grandfather found near West Point along the path where Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his troops surrendered to his Union pursuers on July 26, 1863.
Sonny Reynolds displays the Confederate handgun his grandfather found near where Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his troops surrendered. (Submitted photo)
Reynolds, whose real name is Bernard, said his grandfather purchased a farm along state Route 518 near West Point in 1928 and later found the five-shot revolver while looking for coal along a coal seam just off the road, a common practice during the Depression. The farm was in the vicinity of Morgan's Monument, which marks the location where Morgan surrendered.
Historical Society member Ken Everett, who knows something about guns, examined the revolver and found that it looked somewhat like a Navy Colt firearm carried by Union soldiers, but there were key differences. They also knew Confederate soldiers were armed with "knock off" Colt firearms made in Europe.
Krotky said they spent the past two years trying to find an expert to authenticate the revolver. "The fact it was found along 518 brings it into the realm of was this dropped by one of Morgan's Raiders? We were not going to make any claims that it belonged to Morgan's Raiders just because it was found along 518," she said.
The historical society was referred to Doug Babyak, a member of the Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable, who examined the revolver and determined it had the markings and appearance of a German-made Colt knock off similar to sidearms used by Confederate troops.
Krotky said they still needed a more definitive answer and tried to get someone from the "Antique's Roadshow" to examine the revolver but were unsuccessful. Then they learned about the 2013 Ohio Civil War Collectors Show being held in Mansfield on May 5 and took the weapon there in the hope of finding a firearms expert.
The group was directed to Vin Caponi, an expert in historical antiques, and Everett said Caponi confirmed the revolver was a .35-caliber Colt knock-off made by a Belgium company during the Civil War era. Caponi also said there was at least a 75 percent probability it was the style of revolver common among Confederate soldiers.
Reynolds recalls seeing the revolver when he visited his grandfather's farm, where it was kept disassembled and preserved in a tobacco can filled with oil. His grandfather later gave it to him and he kept in a can until he decided to donate it to the historical society.
"I didn't want to sell it, and this way it will mean something," Reynolds said.
The historical society intends to make the revolver part of the Morgan display at its museum in the old train depot in town. Krotky said they make no claims as to whether this was carried by one of Morgan's men, which is a nearly impossible task.
"We can't prove this was dropped by any of Morgan's men or thrown away. We do have information from letters and diaries that when they surrendered they were relieved of their weapons and stacked," she said.
"If someone could say they found Morgan's fingerprints on this, that would be great, but that's not going to happen," Krotky added.