If you've ever spent any time poring over congressional reports, then you have experienced the literary equivalent of breaking rocks in a prison yard.
I really feel for those nineteenth century typesetters in the government printing office, assembling yawn after yawn from individual letters. It's a job Sisyphus would consider unrewarding.
But sometimes you come across a nugget of pure gold...and it makes it all worthwhile.
Below are some excerpts from a report to the United States Senate by Senator Thomas Jefferson Rusk of Texas (formerly Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas) regarding the reliability and efficacy of the Colt revolver during the late Mexican War.
Imagining a Texas Ranger without his Colt is like imagining a samurai without his sword, and these excerpts illustrate the high regard the Texas Rangers had for the new-fangled weapon.
The Rusk report was instrumental in overcoming the last resistance of the government to fully adopting the Colt revolver. By 1853, Samuel Colt was one of the largest manufacturers in the world, when just seven years earlier he himself had been the entire firm.
Probably the most amazing thing about the excerpts you are about to read is that they don't appear to have been reprinted or even quoted in the last 160 years. So, here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Quotes from the Rusk Report
on the Colt Revolver - 1849
General Joseph Lane: "I think I can say as much for and about this formidable weapon as anyone now living, except Col. Jack Hays, of Texas. I have seen them tested in several severe and bloody conflicts, when a few men, armed with Colt's revolver, were equal to five, and in several instances to ten times their numbers. No weapon is equal to it. In close quarters one man is always equal to three or more. I know the use of it well, and would recommend that all mounted forces be armed with them."
Colonel Jack Hays, Texas Rangers: "I have had a good opportunity of testing the utility of Colt's pistols during the late Mexican War, and feel no hesitation in saying they are superior (in my opinion) to any other now known for cavalry. The danger of accidental explosion has been obviated by the late improvement. They go off clear. The cylinders revolve with great rapidity, and the distance they carry a ball (I mean the conical ball) is indeed surprising. Soldiers should be practiced in the use of them. They soon become easy to the hand; the aim you wish to draw can be easily caught; and when placed in the hands of those who understand the proper use of them, they are unquestionably the most formidable weapon ever used in battle. I therefore concur fully in the opinion that they can be used with the same advantage by the regular as volunteer forces."
Captain G. H. Tobin, Texas Rangers: "As to the objection raised by persons who have had no experience in the use of these arms, that they may not stand exposure, I would relate the following fact: Major Ben McCullough with 16 men, in returning to Texas, after the capture of Monterrey, in an encounter with the Comanche Indians, lost one of these pistols, after having discharged three chambers. Three months afterwards, he and I, and some others traveling over the same ground, found the pistol, where it had lain exposed to the storms of the whole season, and putting new caps on the two loaded chambers, they were discharged as though they had been loaded but the day before."
Commodore E. W. Moore, late of the Texas Navy: "I take pleasure in stating that, while in command of the Texas Navy, I had an excellent opportunity of testing the efficiency and durability of these arms. The Texas volunteers of war were armed with Colt's pistols and carbines, which were on very frequent occasions exposed in boats and bad weather, and I unhesitatingly assert that they are as little injured by exposure to the weather as the common musket or ship's pistol. Of their efficiency, I think it useless to say anything. The Colt's pistols, used by the Texas Rangers before annexation, were all supplied from the navy, after they had been in constant use in that arm of the service upwards of four years; and I know some of these arms that have been in constant use for nine years, and are still good. I have seen the recently improved model which has several alterations or rather improvements, which make it a better arm than those I had in use in the Texas Navy, which were among the first manufactured by the inventor."
The report also noted that:
Major Ben McCullough of the Texas Rangers, recommends that they be adopted to a certain extent among the regular ordnance materiel of our service; considers them as preferable to all others for mounted light troops in Mexico. Says they have been in use among the Texan rangers for ten years, and that their efficacy has been fairly tested. Has at this time in his possession one that has been used for ten years without being repaired.
Captain Samuel H. Walker, Texas Rangers, considers the revolver as the only good improvement he has seen; instances the defeat of eighty Comanches by Colonel Hays and fifteen men, as a particularly striking incident to show their value, in which fight forty-two Indians were killed.
Finally, there are the words of Major G. W. Kendall, Aid to General Winfield Scott:
"Colt's heavy pistol is the very best ever invented, for use on horseback. No Texan ranger considers himself equipped without one of them."