We Wish They Could Talk - And Sometimes They Do – Part 2 By Scott Duff

Records of some serial numbered older US weapons from the Civil War through the early 20th century are more prevalent in the National Archives than are World War II arms.  If you have the time and money and live near the Archives it can be a gold mine for ID’d small arms.  Many years ago Frank Mallory began a business named Springfield Research Services (SRS) that conducted exactly that type of research.  Frank compiled his research at the National Archives into a series of books listing small arms by model, serial number and document citation.  After Frank passed away the research into serial number records slowed.  I have been fortunate to have once owned a few Colt percussion revolvers, a Sharps carbine, a Spencer rifle, Trapdoor rifles, Krag rifles and M1903 rifles for which Frank had been able to provide detailed documentation.

Another way one may identify “Who” and “Where” is with pistols of the Civil War.  Many exist that were given as gift to a soldier as he went off to war and are engraved with that person’s name and sometimes his home town or unit identification.  So that is the “Who.”  To learn more about that soldier and the “Where”, The Horse Soldier shop of Gettysburg, PA offers a Research Service for individual soldiers from the Revolutionary War through the Spanish American War/Philippine Insurrection.  For a very reasonable fee they will search the National Archives and provide a soldier’s detailed service and medical records.  I have used their services a number of times and have always been very pleased with the document file they provide.

I of course have owned ID’d M1 Garands and other WW II arms for which Mr. Mallory had no data.  My collection is much smaller today than it was ten or fifteen years ago as I have thinned it out as I aged and wanted to retire.  So what do you think my favorite remaining ID’d piece in my collection may be?  If you guessed an M1 Garand, you would be incorrect.  Due to my long interest in combat used firearms and a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, my ID’d “Grail Gun” is of course one used in the battle of Gettysburg!  A few years ago I was able to acquire a Colt M1849 Pocket Revolver.  The brass backstrap is engraved Geo. W. Little Pittsburgh, Pa.  In Internet search revealed that George Little’s name is on the bronze plaque of the Pennsylvania Monument located on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Through my own research I discovered that Private George W. Little of Pittsburgh, PA served in the Independent Battery F Light Artillery (Hampton’s).  And that on July 2, 1863 Battery F had taken up a position in the Peach Orchard armed with six 3-inch Ordnance rifles in support of Sickles’ 3rd Corps.  I contracted The Horse Soldier to fill in the details with photocopies of records on Mr. Little form the National Archives.

The files reveal that George W. Little was born in 1841 in Pittsburgh, PA and at the time of his enlistment he lived in in Lawrenceville, which is located in the eastern area of Pittsburgh.  He was 5’ 7” in height, had gray eyes and light colored hair and was employed as clerk.  He enlisted on August 7, 1862 in Pittsburgh.  He was mustered out of service on May 31, 1865.  He passed away on February 16, 1906 at the age of 64.

The Horse Soldier document file provides a great deal of information about Private George W. Little activities during the Civil War from his enlistment through his mustering out along with a regimental history of Independent Battery F Light Artillery (Hampton’s) in which he served. 

A battle of Gettysburg used pistol and this depth of information that I have on Private Little is why this Colt percussion revolver is my favorite ID’d firearm.  For this lifelong Pennsylvania resident and collector of US martial arms, it will be tough to top this one!