|A Manhattan Story
“A Manhattan Story”
Inscribed Manhattan First Model .22 Revolver
To me, every gun in my collection has a story. Some short, some long, but all have a memory that together is the “story” of my
collection. A Manhattan that comes with a great story, or currently belongs to someone really special, can become a special
part of my life. Those who know me personally know that my interest in Manhattan Firearms started because of my love for
American history. I was always with the history nuts at the gun shows instead of with the gun nuts. (…note that we are all nuts!
Haha!) Recently, one of these special Manhattans jumped up and hit me square in the face. A short note came to me from my
website that said…
name = Terry
email = joyride@ZZZZ.com
comments = I have one of these,,,,Model: First Model Cartridge, Fourth Variation
Caliber: .22 Caliber
Barrel Length(s): 3"
Serial Number Range: approx. 7,000+ to 9,000+
Features: 7-shot, Round frame, copy of S&W First Model
.22, Iron Frame, Barrel latch shortened.
Manufacturing date: around 1860 to 1861
Pretty much exact as the one in your picture only it is engraved on the back of the handle or butt. It says. J.J.Garrish Esq. to
Capt.Wm.M.Shaw Thanks, Terry
Inscribed backstrap of Manhattan .22 caliber revolver Serial # 5572
(Note: this is a Third Variation revolver, not a Fourth Variation as was assumed by Terry)
Wow! An inscribed Manhattan. With not just one, but two names inscribed!! I have never seen another Manhattan with two
inscriptions. Who are these people? What is their place in American history? I need photos, and I need them now! It is a good
day to be a Manhattan lover. As I replied to Terry, inscribed Manhattans are 10 times rarer than inscribed Colts. Where did
Terry get this gun? How long has he had it? Maybe he can adopt me and leave it to me in his will? The whole thing to me comes
down to a nutshell…what is this Manhattan’s “story”?
So I wrote Terry and asked for his story. We wrote emails to each other several times a day for the next two months. We talked
about our lives, our family, our love lives, places we have been and seen, and how Manhattans played a role in our lives. For
Terry, it was all about his dad. Terry bought the Manhattan at an antique shop many years ago for little money because he
thought it would look good hanging on his wall. (I have a few hanging on the wall; I understand the feeling.) Terry’s dad died at
the young age of 56. In his words, he never knew his dad as an adult. As Terry and I both approach his dad’s age, you have a
tendency to reflect on these things. Both of our dads were in the service, and that means a lot to both of us. Terry is so proud
of his dad and cherishes the few items he has of his dad’s military life. So Terry decides one day that Captain Wm M. Shaw’s
family should have his Manhattan back. In his own way, he thinks of this as a thing to do in honor of his dad. Maybe more, he
sees this as a way to honor all of our country’s veterans. Terry has brought this Manhattan’s “story” alive to me. This revolver
has become a symbol of both history and honor to fathers. This “story” needs to be told.
But now what? A quick internet search shows a dozen Wm. Shaws in the Civil War. Even if you could find the right one, there
have been maybe 5 or 6 generations since then. Shaw’s descendants could number in the thousands. I know Terry’s interest is
in the serviceman inscribed, but what about J.J. Garrish? Maybe his descendents should have the Manhattan. This adds even
more to think about. I assume that the kinfolk of Shaw sold the gun at one point because they didn’t want it. Who the heck are
these two guys??
We sent emails to other historians, and Terry went looking for the antique shop owner. Of course, the antique store had closed
long ago. Research results were getting nowhere. Terry offered to let me purchase the gun. We talked a long time about this. I
wanted him to think about the situation, as this gun meant so much to him. I told him that I would put the gun on my website and
share his story with other Manhattan collectors. Meanwhile, we would continue to research this gun and tell its tale.
After I received this gun from Terry, it became an obsession of mine to know, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.” (Our
kids need to look up who Paul Harvey was!) Research on William Shaw is going nowhere. I have spent months looking for these
two guys. I am convinced one out of every ten soldiers in the Civil War was named William Shaw, not counting the Bill Shaws,
the Billy Shaws, and even the Confederates had to have had a few “Billy Bob” Shaws. Heck, everyone in America must have an
Uncle Bill Shaw that served in the Civil War in their family tree. The smallest thing can be the key sometimes. Finally two things
stood out to me. Under a magnifying glass, I realized that Terry had made a mistake in his emails to me. It was not inscribed “J.
J. Garrish”. It was “J.J. Gerrish”. We were searching for the wrong guy. Also, while looking at the gun, I focused on the “Esq.” I
assumed this abbreviation was for Esquire, which I knew was either a title of some unknown meaning to me or the name of a
magazine. Or it probably was an answer to some crossword puzzle clue. I searched for the term “Esquire” and found out that,
today, it is typically used as a title by a lawyer. Then I got to thinking, what did Esquire mean in Civil War times?? I found that
Esquire came from the medieval “Squires” who assisted the Knights. Later, Esquire became a title of British nobility, a
distinction between upper and lower gentry (Esquires and Gentlemen respectively). So, now the search moves on to J.J.
Gerrish. I just need to find a J.J. that is English upper gentry.
You can see in this photo that Gerrish is spelled with an “e”
(Almost all Manhattan 1st model .22’s have a copper patch somewhere on the backstrap.
This is a patch for a flaw from the casting mold.)
As there are not near as many Gerrishs as Shaws, we might stand a chance to find a Gerrish that fits the “bill” (pun intended)
and that has a tie to Capt. “Bill” Shaw. So, back to the internet search engines. I then find a J.J. Gerrish that could fit the Esq.
John Jordan Gerrish
Cumberland County, Maine
Biographical Review Publishing Company
John Jordan Gerrish, of Portland, Me., founder of the well-known mercantile firm of J. J. Gerrish & Co., dealers in railroad
supplies, was born in Durham, Androscoggin County, December 21, 1821.
His parents were James and Mary (Sylvester) Gerrish, both being of old Colonial families. Captain William Gerrish, the earliest
known progenitor of the Gerrish family in the United States, born in Bristol, Somersetshire, England, in 1617, came to New
England in 1639……
……John J., the subject of this sketch. …father died June 8, 1824. The mother lived until August 20, 1859. She was of French
ancestry, the Sylvester family dating back to 1062. Richard Sylvester, the first one of the name who came to America, settled in
Massachusetts in 1633.
John J. Gerrish, after completing his school education at the Bath High School, went to help construct the Atlantic & St.
Lawrence Railroad. A month prior to this the ground had been broken near his present home. After the road was completed he
took charge of a section for a few years; and later he became conductor, running on what is now the Grand Trunk Railroad,
from Portland to Island Pond, Vt., for a period of ten years. During the construction of the Portland Street Railway he served
that company, and he subsequently became its superintendent for five years. Mr. Gerrish then engaged in the mercantile
business, handling railroad supplies, which he followed for twenty years; and the firm still continues under the old name.
In politics Mr. Gerrish affiliates with the Republican Party. He was elected a member of the Common Council in 1866, which
position he retained several years;
and in 1875 he became an Alderman, remaining on that Board several years. For eleven years he has been one of the Board
of Trustees of Evergreen Cemetery. Since 1862 he has been a member of Portland Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and Greenleaf
Chapter. The Widows' Wood Society, the Provident Society, and the Associated Charities all claim the attention of Mr. Gerrish.
At one time he served the town as Overseer of the Poor for three years.
His wife, Susan R. Small, was a daughter of Thomas Small, of Lisbon. She was born in Lisbon, May 1, 1822; and they were
married on December 21, 1848. They reared six children, as follows: Ella Susan, wife of S. A. Haynes, of Westboro, Mass.;
Mary Ida, wife of Harvey W. Merrill, of West Medford, Mass., formerly residing in Auburn, Me. John Herbert, who also lives at
West Medford; George Lester, of this city; Hattie Small Gerrish, who lives at home; and Elmer Grenville, who carries on the
business. Mrs. Susan R. Gerrish died March 13, 1896. The family attends the St. Lawrence Street Congregational Church, of
which they are members. Mr. Gerrish's fine house, at 47 Eastern Promenade, overlooks
the entrance of the bay and the islands, commanding a beautiful and extensive view. While sitting at his dining table he can see
ocean steamships passing, probably not more than a thousand feet away.
So….John Jordan Gerrish came from an English upper gentry’s family. The name of his firm was J.J. Gerrish & Co.; thus, we
know he commonly went by J.J. The time frame fits, as he was alive during the Civil War era. He owned a mercantile, which
historically carried and sold items such as Manhattan pistols. This is sounding like our man!! Now all we have to do is tie him to
one of the hundreds of potential Shaws.
Capt. Wm. M. Shaw Inscription
One thing that bothered me was that this First Model Manhattan .22 revolver was made in 1860, before the start of the war. So
this gun, if presented while new, would have been given to a regular officer already in service. So we are looking for a Wm
Shaw that was already in the service before the Civil War. Since J.J. was from Portland, Maine, I assumed Shaw was also from
Portland. So, I started searching for Capt. Wm Shaw from Maine regiments. After months of searching to find the right Gerrish, I
found Capt. Shaw right away on the very next computer search.
Prior to the start of the Civil War, William M. Shaw was the Captain of the Portland Rifle Guards, founded in 1856. When the
war broke out, the members of the Portland Rifle Guards became Company E of the 1st Maine Volunteer Regiment. The history
of the 1st Maine is as follows:
President Lincoln called for 75,000 three months' volunteers on 15 April 1861. Ten days later, the State Legislature authorized
the organization of the 1st Maine Volunteers, and on 28 April 1861, the Regiment was organized for active duty and mustered
into the United States Service for three months by Capt J. W. T. Gardner, of the Second United States Dragoons, 3 May 1861
at Portland. They numbered seven hundred and seventy-nine men.
It went into camp on 8 May, in a field across the cove from the Marine Hospital in Portland. Being quarantined for measles, the
regiment was delayed until June 3 when it left for Washington D. C. and camped at Meridan Hill near 14th Street. It performed
guard duty, and received some training till August 1, 1861 when it was returned to Portland and mustered out on August 5,
1861. This regiment was raised at a time when the National capitol was in great danger, when Baltimore was in insurrections,
when general gloom pervaded the North, and when everyone who enlisted expected to be called into immediate service, and be
assigned posts of danger. Not a man enlisted who did not regard this as inevitable The regiment had enlisted in the service of
the State for two years but as they could not be moved outside the limits of the State after their term of three months' muster-in
had expired, and the Governor did not claim their services longer, they were disbanded. The regiment furnished many officers
and from the non-commissioned officers and privates of the different companies, many other officers for every regiment that
was raised in the State during the Civil War.
When the three months muster was up, most of the other members of the 1st Maine reenlisted in the new 10th Maine Volunteer
Regiment. Captain Shaw was offered the rank of Major and joined the new 11th Maine Volunteer Regiment. Major Shaw was
with the 11th Maine for the rest of the War and was promoted to Lt. Colonel just before the unit mustered out. Since our
Manhattan was inscribed to Captain Shaw (not Major or Lt. Col.), this information leads us to know that he was given this gun
before or at the very start of the War. J.J. Gerrish must have been proud of his friend for being among the first to go to war.
Photo of Major Wm. M. Shaw
(Courtesy of old-picture.com)
The 11th Maine served a very long time in the war. They mustered in at Augusta, Maine, on November 12, 1861. They suffered
359 casualties during the Civil War. The 11th Maine Infantry was involved in the following engagements during the Civil War:
• Yorktown, VA – April 5 – May 4, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• Williamsburg, VA – May 4, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• Seven Pines, VA – May 31, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• Bottom’s Bridge, VA – June 27-28, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• White Oak Swamp, VA – June 30, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• Malvern Hill, VA – July 2, 1862 (Peninsular Campaign)
• Gloucester Court House, VA – December 12, 1862
• In North Carolina – January – June 1863
• Fernandina, FL – July – October 1863
• At Morris Island, SC – October – December 1863
• At Black Island, SC – January – April 1864
• Chester Station, VA – May 7, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Bermuda Hundred, VA – May 17 – June 14, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Deep Bottom, VA – August 13-20, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• New Market Heights, VA – September 28-30, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Petersburg Siege, VA – June 1864 – May 1865 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Darbytown Road, VA – October 13, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Hatchers Run, VA – December 8-9, 1864 (Petersburg Campaign)
• Fort Gregg, VA – April 2, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign)
• Fort Baldwin, VA – April 2, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign)
• Appomattox, VA – April 9, 1865 (Appomattox Campaign)
Most notably to me is that Capt./Major Shaw was among the first to volunteer, and five years later, he was at Appomattox Court
House to witness personally the end of the Civil War. After Appomattox, the 11th Maine stayed in Fredericksburg, Virginia, until
they mustered out at City Point, Virginia, on February 2, 1866.
J.J. Gerrish chose to honor his friend Wm M. Shaw with this pistol long before he proved himself time and again on the Civil War
battlefield. He chose wisely to befriend Major Shaw, one of Maines' most distinguished heroes.
Barrel marking from Captain Shaw’s .22 caliber
Manhattan Revolver Serial # 5572
I wrote this long story, figuring only Terry and I would read it through to the end, but this story is to honor my friend Terry’s dad,
an honorable man who served his country. Terry's dad was Major Carl H. Leo. Major Leo like Major Shaw enlisted several
years before the start of a major war. World War II was approaching with Major Leo going to Air Corp training and becoming a
fighter pilot for our country. His career spanned from getting shot down in the English Channel in WWII, serving with the Cold
War Air Force, ending in 1970 after a tour in Vietnam. In a real way to me, Terry and his dad need to have their names added
to this Manhattan as they have also become part of this revolver's "story"... “A Manhattan Story” that honors our servicemen,
our country’s history, and our fathers.
Major Carl H. Leo Commander 416th Fighter Bomber Squadron
Chambley Air Base France in 1955 (with Family)
PS: If anyone can shed more light on the relationship of J.J. Gerrish and Capt. Wm Shaw, please email me at
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