With all the media attention on banning handguns these days, I was interested in a recent article that said at the beginning of the War every well-armed Union soldier had a handgun on his person. However as the war progressed, most found sidearms to be of little use and to add unwanted weight. As a result, a great many sidearms were given away, sold, sent home or tossed aside.
Southern cavalrymen preferred them during the close quarters of a full cavalry attack because they were lightweight and extremely accurate at short range. But as with many other things, the South could not make or acquire enough of them to meet the demand. The solution was to take from the Infantry and give to the Calvary! (too bad they couldn't get the ones the Union guys discarded).
The handguns used to arm Confederate soldiers came from a multitude of sources, including Southern manufacturers, seized arsenals, fallen soldiers on the battlefield, foreign manufacturers, and private donations from Confederate citizens.
Over the course of the war, thousands of guns were purchased from the London Armoury Company, and were smuggled past the Northern blockades. A good sidearm set back the average soldier about $ 20.00 at the beginning of the war.