The Union armed its troops with Colt M1860 revolvers. A gun like this one would be used as a sidearm. A sidearm is a weapon that is kept close to the body for easy access. Soldiers usually used these guns as back-ups for their rifles. They were expensive and highly-valued weapons at the time. John C. Breckinridge, the Confederate Secretary of War, carried this gun.
This resource is part of the A State Divided: Exploring the Civil War Through Images collection.