A while back I posted a thread on The German Navy's First Repeating Pistol
But it was the German Navy's first repeating pistol, not the Navy's first pistol. That honor goes to an earlier pistol.
The modern German navy dates its founding to 14 June 1848, the date the Frankfurt Parliament voted to establish the first all German Navy.
Since its creation in 1815 the German Confederation, while fielding formidable land armies, had no need for an independent Navy. Instead, it could rely on the large naval forces of three members: The King of the Netherlands commanded the Royal Dutch Navy, the Duke of Holstein was commander of the Danish Navy, and most powerful of all was the King of Hanover, William IV.
As he was also the King of the United Kingdom he commanded the British Royal Navy.
But this arrangement fell apart as first the King of the Netherlands left the Confederation. Then, when William died in 1837 his successor Queen Victoria could not replace him in Hanover since the succession laws prevented a female from inheriting his title. Finally, Denmark and Germany fell out over a territorial dispute that turned into the First Schleswig War in early 1848 and the Danish Navy blockaded all German trade in the North Sea and Baltic. At the same time the fires of revolution in France were spreading into the German states, where local uprisings lead to the establishment of the democratically elected Frankfurt Parliament. A month later, on 12 June 1848, the Diet of the German Confederation turned its budget over to the parliament. Two days later the German Navy was born with the decision to spend six million Reichsthaler on a new Navy. The new Reichsflotte grew to consist of two sail and three steam frigates, one sail and six steam corvettes and twenty-seven gunboats and was the first Navy to operate under the Black-Red-Gold flag of Germany. Here are the Ensign and Jack of the new navy.
Today, historians seem to have settled on Reichsflotte as the name of this first German Navy, although it was also referred to as the Bundesflotte, Bundesmarine or Kriegsmarine at one time or another.
And, thanks to Wikipedia Commons, 1849 paintings of the fleet and the first two frigates.
Reichsflotte des Deutschen Bundes 1849.jpg SMS Eckernförde (left), & SMS Deutschland (right) in 1849.jpg
In addition to ships, the fledgling navy was also in need of small arms. From December 1848 to February 1849 the Marine Commission was hastily accumulating samples of sabers, cutlasses, muskets and pistols, with a goal to obtain at least 1,200 muskets and 1,000 pistols. At the time, Europe was still in the midst of changing from flintlock to percussion weapons. The Prussian government plants were all devoted to the conversions, while simultaneously trying to finalize the design of what would become their 1850 pistol. The Marine Commission turned to the German commercial arms manufacturers of Suhl, who had ample capacity to meet the Navy's requirements. Negotiations with the Suhl manufacturers started on 10 March 1849 and resulted in a sample pistol being delivered by Spangenberg & Co. in only four weeks. Based on the sample a contract was signed for the production of 1,000 pistols on 19 May 1849 with three companies: Spangenberg & Co. (S&C), Valentin Christoph Schilling (V.C.S.) and Gottlieb Haenel (G.H.).
The resulting M1849 Marine Pistole has a lock mechanism similar to, but smaller than, the Prussian M1839 Infantrie Gewehr. The steel barrel is 236mm (~ 9 5/16") long with a 15mm (0.59") bore. The furniture (trigger guard, butt cap and left sideplate are brass) while the stock is European walnut. The loading rod is permanently attached via a jointed swivel, while the left side had a belt hook. The pistols were originally browned, although the finish is long gone except in a few protected areas on virtually all examples. Since the new Navy had no inspectors of its own, the pistols were inspected by the existing Prussian Army inspectors, resulting in several Crown/letter inspector's stamps on various parts. Those stamps do not imply Prussian ownership of any individual pistol. The pistols are identified as Navy property by the Reichsflotte's double-headed eagle, the same one that appears on the Navy Jack, on the lock, the top of the barrel and on the stock. This is not the same as the Austrian or Russian eagle. On the lockplate the Eagle appears over SUHL, the maker's mark and an Anchor.
M1849.JPG Lock.JPG Mark.JPG
The Reichsflotte had a short life due to ongoing political upheaval in Germany. In April of 1852, the newly appointed Bundestag decided to eliminate the fleet with two frigates to be turned over to Prussia and the remaining ships to be sold commercially. On 31 March 1853 the Reichsflotte officially ceased to exist. It is generally accepted that the two frigates were turned over to Prussia with all their associated weapons, while the arms of the other ships went into a Federal fortress in Mainz where they remained until they were finally sold on 2 January 1861. Since they were no longer intended for use at sea, it is generally assumed that the pistols in Mainz had their belt hooks cut off, thus explaining why the ones with belt hooks are seldom found today. Although there is no supporting physical evidence, it is likely that the pistols, like many of the muskets, found their way to the US around the beginning of the Civil War. Muskets are frequently found with US markings, and a number of pistols have turned up in the US as well. I found mine in Texas.
The remaining M1849 pistols continued on in the service of the Prussian Königliche Marine, where they were later joined by the Colt Revolvers of my previous thread.
I hope you find this article interesting, albeit somewhat off topic in the Luger forum. I'm doggedly searching for the pistol I need for the next installment. Stay tuned.