In 1861 as the Confederacy attempted to arm itself. Several armories and factories were created in the South to help meet these needs. One such factory which was created, at the suggestion of the Confederate government, was the Spiller & Burr factory in Richmond, Virginia. It was a joint effort Edward N. Spiller and David J. Burr plus small arms expert Lt. Col. James H. Burton.
The Confederate Chief of Ordnance granted, the private manufacturing firm of Spiller & Burr, a contract to manufacture 15,000 revolvers over two and one half years for the Confederate cavalry. The contract called for a .36 caliber Navy revolver, Colt's model. Colt's Navy revolver had been adopted by the Confederate government as a standard revolver, but Lt. Col. Burton felt another type of revolver was superior to Colt's.
Burton selected the Second model Whitney revolver as a model arm for Spiller & Burr.
Burton based his decision on the merits of the Whitney performance, stability, design, and ease of construction. This model was in production at the Whitneyville factory outside of New Haven, Connecticut in 1861. Burton adapted this pattern in its entirety except for a few minor substitutions.
Due to material shortages, the Southern Whitney differed in two ways. Brass was to be substituted for iron in the fabrication of the lock frame, and iron was to be substituted for steel in the fabrication of the cylinder. Strength was added to the iron cylinders by heating and then twisting the round bars of iron. This process prevented any single chamber from being in parallel alignment with any fault lines in the bar iron.
Shortly after getting started the Spiller & Burr factory moved from Richmond to Atlanta, Georgia. In Atlanta, the company encountered difficulty producing the revolvers in quantity due to a shortage of labor and problems with raw materials and the factory was sold to the Confederate government and moved to the Confederate States Armory in Macon, Georgia.
By war's end slightly more than 1,500 revolvers fabricated, fulfilling only one tenth the number called for in the original contract.
The Spiller & Burr had a solid brass frame, an octagonal barrel, which was rounded off at the muzzle, was screwed into the frame. The loading lever was held adjacent to the barrel with a spring and ball type catch. The rammer entered the frame, which had been angle cut to allow insertion of powder and ball. The grip straps were integral with the frame. An oval capping groove was cut out of the right recoil shield.
|A thumb bolt was located on the left side, which when turned properly would allow the removal of the cylinder axis-pin.|
|A rear sight groove was cut in the top strap.|