During the late 1850s, while tensions mounted between the North and South that would soon lead to the American Civil War, Colt continued to do business with longstanding customers in Southern states. However, when war was finally declared on April 12, 1861, he turned his focus almost exclusively to supplying the Union army. He also outfitted the 1st Regiment Connecticut Rifles, a volunteer regiment from his company’s home state. Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company operated at full capacity and employed over 1,000 people in its Hartford factory. By that time, Samuel Colt had become one of the wealthiest men in America and owned a Connecticut mansion called Armsmear.
The strain of supplying the war effort eventually took its toll on Colt. Suffering from chronic rheumatism, the 47-year-old gun manufacturer died at his home on January 10, 1862, leaving behind an estate worth millions. The company, which manufactured more than 400,000 firearms during Colt’s lifetime, was left to its founder’s wife, Elizabeth, and Root was appointed president. In 1901, the Colt family sold the company to a group of investors.