Leech & Rigdon

Leech & Rigdon, Confederate Arms Manufacturers

Courtesy of James Julia Auction Company, presented in conjunction with the sale of Leech & Rigdon percussion revolver made in Greensboro, Georgia, SN 836 (p4A item # D9737741)

Thomas Leech first comes to notice in the Memphis City directory in the mid-1850s, as a cotton broker, and is also listed under “Guns, Pistols, Leech, Thomas, of Leech, T & Co.” Leech was probably an agent for a gun manufacturer, rather than a manufacturer at that time. Charles Rigdon, meanwhile, was listed in the St. Louis City directory as “C. H. Rigdon, Engineer”. It is believed that Rigdon and Abel Shawk were close friends, and that Rigdon rented his machinery to Shawk & McLanahan for their production of the Shawk & McLanahan percussion revolver.

Next, we find Rigdon moving to Memphis, several blocks away from Thomas Leech’s Memphis Novelty Works, which he had established, and which was busily engaged in the manufacture of military cutlery and brass castings of all kinds: such items as cavalry sabres, infantry swords, artillery swords and Bowie knives of every description. Rigdon and his machinery had obviously joined up with Thomas Leech, and together they formed a partnership, still under the name and style of Memphis Novelty Works.

In March of 1862, they bought 1.25 Acres of land in the heart of Columbus, Mississippi, and still advertising in the Memphis Appeal, “Swords! Swords! Swords!,….Large lot just received from our manufactory in Columbus, Mississippi, for sale at Novelty Works, (dropping the ‘Memphis’, for the first time). A later ad in May of 1862 in the Memphis Appeal: “Notice! Swords! Swords! … for sale cheap if application is made today …. we are going to start for Columbus, Mississippi, Friday morning … Leech & Rigdon Novelty Works” (the first time Rigdon appears in the company name). There was a very small production of revolvers at the Columbus location, one gun being found with “Leech Rigdon, Novelty Works, CSA”, which was a standard Leech & Rigdon made at Columbus.

Late in 1862, with Columbus, Mississippi being threatened by the Union Army, Leech & Rigdon moved to Greensboro, Georgia, and shortly thereafter, submitted a brace of Colt-type revolvers, which had been made at Columbus, to the Confederate Government, for the purpose of obtaining a manufacturing contract.

In March of 1863, about a month after purchasing the Old Greensboro Steam Factory, Leech & Rigdon contracted with the Confederate Government for the furnishing of 1500 Colt type revolvers. They apparently ceased the manufacture of edged weapons at this time, and making revolvers was the major activity at Greensboro. Mid-December of 1863 saw the dissolution of the Leech & Rigdon partnership, with Rigdon taking his gun making machinery and moving on to Augusta, Georgia, where, operating with a new partner, Jesse Ansley, under the firm name of Rigdon & Ansley, completed the Leech & Rigdon contract, and went on to manufacture the Rigdon & Ansley revolver.

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