Louis Maurer. Buffalo Bill is hunting buffalo
The opinion of those in power can be formed in the same way as the opinion of the last drunkard. The only difference is that for the former you need to try and lay out the money, and the latter will have enough vodka for the eyes. That is, a good PR - everything is in the head. Including in the field of distribution of certain types weapons...
The buffalo hunters have done more in the past two years to address the Indian problem than the entire regular army has done in the past 30 years. They are destroying the material base of the Indians. Send them gunpowder and lead if you like, and let them kill, skin, and sell them until they kill all the buffalo!
(General Philip Sheridan)
History weapons. And it so happened that the youngest son of Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, was captivated by American exoticism and decided to hunt buffalo on the prairies of the United States. He was a man in all respects worthy: he had an athletic physique, he obviously went to daddy by force, but he still possessed “infinite charm”, as the head of the palace chancery A. Mosolov wrote about him, about the Grand Duke.
A man in the Empire, he was well, very significant, there is nowhere to go: the fourth son of Emperor Alexander II, brother of Alexander III, uncle of Nicholas II. And he was also an admiral general, that is, the main "chief" of the Russian naval fleet, but he did not shy away from art either - he was the chairman of the Imperial Society of Ballet Patrons, that is, he was a gifted and versatile person. I understood both in ships and in ballerinas, but then I decided to have some fun at the state expense and went on an official visit to the United States. Well, it is clear that the Grand Duke had only to wish that such a hunt was immediately included in the program of his stay. Later, the prince said more than once that this visit to him across the ocean, in his opinion, was the best episode in his life - let alone something, but he could not complain about his grand-ducal life.
Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich. Photos of those years
However, there were different rumors among the people about the purpose of Alexei Romanov's visit to the United States. It is clear that no one canceled the official part of it, but they also said that the young prince the Tsar-Father simply decided to get rid of the actresses.
Comanche leggings. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
The visit began on November 20, 1871, when the frigate "Svetlana" delivered the Grand Duke to New York, and ended on February 23, 1872, that is, it would not be an exaggeration to say that our prince in America was somewhat ... "stuck." However, he had very good reasons for that. The fact is that then in American society they looked at Russia as the most devoted friend, again, we freed the peasants, just like they did the slaves, so now nothing prevented republican America from being friends with monarchist Russia. The prince met and had a conversation with President Ulysses Grant, talked with senators and generals, commanded a Broadway parade specially organized for him, visited West Point, and was shown the latest American torpedoes at the Brooklyn shipyard. This was the end of the official part of the visit, but ... then the prince was taken across the country.
Aleksey Aleksandrovich. Miniature of those years
He visited 34 cities in the United States, and everywhere in his honor, ceremonies, balls and banquets were held, and he made a particularly strong impression on American ladies. Well, yes, still: a blond, blue-eyed handsome man who perfectly holds himself in the saddle and wears such beautiful uniforms - ah and ah! With how many ladies of "light" and "half-light" he slept during this time, history is silent, but it is clear that he did not stay in the monastic rank and did not deny himself carnal pleasures.
Ulysses Grant is the 18th President of the United States. Photo from the archives of the Library of Congress
However, he also wanted to hunt for buffalo, which he so bluntly told General Sheridan, and he did not fail to report the guest's desire to Grant himself. And he, being the Supreme Commander of the US Army (and a renowned Civil War general, besides!), Immediately dispatched the entire Western Division of the US War Department to conduct the "hunting fun", and entrusted Sheridan with carrying out this "operation".
General Sheridan. Photo from the archives of the Library of Congress
The headquarters of the safari for the Grand Duke was located in North Plata, and Sheridan, for the sake of complete success, hired the most famous local resident, the former scout scout William Cody, nicknamed Buffalo Bill. True, at that time he was only 25 years old, but in America no one looked at his age, the main thing was how much a person succeeds in his business, and in everything that was associated with the extermination of buffalo, Cody succeeded to the maximum!
Buffalo Bill in 1875. George Eastman Collection
It is clear that local flavor was indispensable, and such, of course, were the Indians. And Sheridan ordered Buffalo Bill to find a Sioux chief named Spotted Tail and negotiate with him about the participation of his people in the "crowd." And Buffalo Bill made an agreement, promising the chief ... a thousand pounds of tobacco. But this was not enough, and another hero of the North American States, 32-year-old General George Custer, was urgently summoned from Kentucky to personally lead the royal hunt in the role of Grand Marshal.
Haida Moccasins, 1880, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
They set up a camp on the prairie, which they flatteringly called "Alexey." The soldiers of the Western Division worked hard, but cleared one and a half hectares of snow from the snow, set up spacious tents for the prince and his retinue, and carpets, furniture, and bed linen were brought to the prairie from Chicago! Then they built a camp of four dozen tents (!) For their retinue - adjutants, orderlies and servants. Just in case, two medical tents were also equipped, flagpoles for banners were driven into the ground, and pits for latrines were dug or, better to say, cut down in the frozen ground, firewood and brushwood were prepared for heating - in a word, in a matter of days, a truly huge work that cost a lot of money. But to strengthen friendship between Russia and the United States, the Americans were ready for anything and - did not disappoint!
The prince rode across the snow-covered prairie on a letter train personally prepared for him, consisting of five luxurious Pullman cars. Well, to meet him at the station, probably almost the entire population of this town went, and with Buffalo Bill at the head - a man of six feet in a colorful leather suit, a fur coat up to the feet, boots with spurs and a black hat with soft brim sample. The cortege stretched out for a considerable distance, and it was not surprising, because more than five hundred people and more than a hundred carriages followed along with the prince, as well as many carts with provisions for such a mass of people, of which three were carrying only alcohol! They were accompanied by a whole battalion of cavalrymen, a military band playing their marches and several Indians in picturesque headdresses.
Indian saddle. Belonged to the Hopi Indians. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
Wooden stirrups of the Indians. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
It took about 8 hours to get to the camp, so far from the "civilization" it was. The prince was greeted in a purely princely manner - with the performance of the hymn "God Save the Tsar" and a festive dinner with champagne. And this was only the beginning of the celebrations, because the next day, February 14, the prince had his birthday, and he was literally inundated with gifts, including ... samples of American weapons of excellent manufacture and from various companies. However, the prince dreamed of hunting, and God sent him a buffalo hunt! Buffalo Bill, who went on a reconnaissance mission, managed to find a herd of buffalo only twenty miles from the camp, and so everyone went to him, drinking champagne at breakfast again for the health of the Grand Duke.
At first, however, the prince was not at all lucky: either the hand was trembling after abundant libations, or the excitement was too great: after all, to see a herd of buffalo rushing close up is not for the faint of heart, a habit is needed here. The main thing is that he missed all the time. Then Buffalo Bill gave him his gun, and with him the prince finally killed his first buffalo, and not just a buffalo, but the leader of the herd himself! Alexey Alexandrovich's delight simply knew no bounds, and he immediately ordered all the participants in the hunt to bring champagne.
Kiowa Indian drawing. Kiowa on the warpath. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
And upon returning to the camp, another surprise awaited him: the Sioux Indians of the Spotted Tail tribe who arrived there greeted him with a loud battle cry - well, everything is just exactly according to the novels of Mine Reed and Fenimore Cooper! Well, the next day the hunt was repeated, only now the Indians were hunting them, and the whites were watching them. And they had something to see, because the Indians shot at the buffalo with bows, coming close to them almost closely, and deftly controlled their horses with their legs. And then the Grand Duke himself joined them - he managed to shoot eight buffalo, so the success of the hunt exceeded all his expectations. And besides, in the evening in the camp the Indians gave him a real show with military dances and recitations, which were immediately translated to the prince by an Indian who spoke English well.
Blackfoot Tomahawk. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
The prince was delighted and ... presented gifts to all the participants in this action - 38 revolvers and knives with ivory handles, which cost the Russian treasury a lot of money. But as a return gift, Spotted Tail handed him ... a real tepee and a bow and arrow. The prince will then bring all these souvenirs to Petersburg, and the young offspring of the Romanovs' house will play with them for a long time to come.
Cheyenne: Cowrie embroidered women's dress. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
Dakota Indian smoking pipe. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
Interestingly, on this hunt, the Grand Duke became so friends with George Custer that he offered to accompany him on a further trip around the country, visit Kentucky and even sail down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Then they corresponded for a few more years, until an Indian bullet ended Caster's life in the fateful battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
Lead Sioux Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Bison Hunter. Photos of those years
Here it is necessary to get a little distracted from this hunt itself, and from the very visit of our Grand Duke to the United States and notice that it has always been and will be so: while the "higher" are drinking and having fun, while also doing important "state affairs" The “lower ones” do exactly everything without which the state cannot exist. So while the Grand Duke Alexei rode around the States, our military specialists were there since 1867: Colonel Alexander Petrovich Gorlov and Captain Karl Ivanovich Gunius. Through their efforts, the Russian army adopted the rifle of Hiram Berdan, modified by them - "Berdan No. 1" (model 1868) with a folding bolt, produced in an amount of about 37 thousand copies. At the same time, the important issue of arming the imperial army with a revolver was also being resolved in Russia, since before that it was armed with a single-shot primer pistol.
Buffalo hide Comanche shield. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington
However, it cannot be said that there were no revolvers in the Russian army at all. Back in the fall of 1854, Nicholas I received the famous Samuel Colt at his Winter Palace and received from him three completely luxuriously finished revolvers: a dragoon, a naval and a pocket model. The tsar liked the revolvers, and he ordered to make such 400 pieces at the Tula arms factory and equip officers of the guards naval crew and the rifle regiment of the imperial family with them, which was done in just a year.
What man's heart will not flinch from such a gift? This revolver of the Dragoon model is paired with the revolver donated by Colt to Tsar Nicholas I, and both of them are rightly ranked among the masterpieces of weaponry. It is part of a set of three pairs of gold-encrusted revolvers that Colt took with him to Europe in 1854. This year, the Crimean War broke out, in which Russia clashed with Turkey and its allies, Britain and France, and Colt actively sold weapons to both sides. In November 1854, he presented the Russian Tsar Nicholas I with three gold-inlaid revolvers, one from each pair. Of these, the third - the "dragoon model" with serial number 12407, is now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The gift clearly demonstrated both the technical and artistic merit of his products, as well as his patriotism, which is present in the design of this revolver. After all, it depicts a portrait of George Washington and the coat of arms of the United States, and on the pistol presented to the king - a view of the Capitol building in Washington. The cost of such gift colts reached $ 400, and this despite the fact that the cost of the serial was 12 ... (Metropolitan Museum, New York)
However, for a regular army of many thousands, revolvers required not hundreds, but many thousands, and the most modern in time, while the famous "Colts" in the early 70s were no longer such. And again, none other than Colonel Gorlov, together with Colonel Yuryev, proposed to adopt a Smith & Wesson revolver. The firm was asked to make a number of changes to both the revolver and the cartridge - it was then that the gift sample of this revolver was tested by shooting by Grand Duke Alexei during his glorious hunt. One of the requirements for the new weapon was that its bullet would kill a horse from 50 meters. It turned out, however, that not only a horse, but also a bison could be killed from the new revolver, so the question of its lethality was immediately removed.
At the suggestion of the Grand Duke, the trigger guard was equipped with a concave "spur" for ease of shooting, so that he could even act as a "designer" of a new weapon for the Russian army. And ... his word eventually became the main thing in the decision to arm the imperial army with these revolvers or not.
Revolver "Smith and Wesson" chambered for the "Russian cartridge" of 10,67 mm. The third model, moreover, a soldier's, is not self-cocking. (Photo of the Royal Arsenal in Leeds)
Well, for the company "Smith & Wesson" the consequences of Alexei Alexandrovich's hunting became truly fateful. After all, the company produced for Russia more than 250 thousand of its revolvers of three models, which were successively replacing each other - in 1871, 1872 and 1880. (slightly different in details). The German company Ludwig Loewe & Co also made money on the Russian order, where about 90 thousand of them were manufactured, well, a lot of them were made in Tula at the Imperial Tula Arms Factory, which produced Smith and Wesson revolvers from 1886 to 1897! And who knows what kind of revolver the Russian army would have armed with in the last quarter of the XNUMXth century, if not for ... the successful hunt of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, which he will remember for the rest of his life!