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Colt Army, Spencer Carbine and Saber named to Sgt. Armstrong 1st NYMR

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This group consists of three weapons (carbine, pistol, and sword) that date to the war service of Sgt. William H. Armstrong of Troop B, the 1st NY Mounted Rifles (NYMR). The 1st NYMR was in service during the entire war from July 1861 to July 1865. The Regiment fought in 116 actions. William Armstrong enlisted as a Pvt in Troop B on Oct 1, 1861 in New York City. He served the entire war, being promoted through the ranks from private to 2nd Lieutenant. He mustered out in July 1865 in Richmond, Virginia. At the end of the war soldiers were given the opportunity to purchase their weapons. Many members of the GAR had their weapons nickel plated to be worn during parades. Both the Spencer carbine and Colt Army pistol have engraved German silver plaques applied to the pieces indicating ownership and service details. The engraving on the German silver plaques appears to date to just after the Civil War to commemorate Armstrong’s service. All three items have an extremely old coating of dull nickel plating that is beginning to darken with age. The combination of the nickel coating and German silver plaques suggest that the items have been together a long time. The model 1860 4 screw Colt .44 caliber Army percussion pistol has the barrel near the muzzle worn down from years of holster wear. There is an approx. 3” long German silver plaque inset and tacked into left grip that reads “Sergeant W. H. Armstrong / 1st N.Y.M.R. ’61-65”. The group’s Model 1860 Light Cavalry saber is maker marked by “Emerson & Silver / Trenton, NJ”. Blade is “US” surcharged with inspector’s stamp “J.M.”. No date can be seen, but the original leather washer is present and is hiding the date. “J.M.” inspector mark is also present on the sword’s hilt capstan. Scabbard is old gray nickel with selected darkening and light rust. The Model 1860 Spencer carbine, SN 57xxx, is a late war carbine. Government documentation shows that the 1st NYMR were issued the Spencer carbine right near the end of the unit’s service replacing their Sharps carbines. This carbine has been nickel-plated with all exterior plating having turned a pleasing dark rust patina. Carbine’s federal inspector marks (two sets near the ring bar) are showing and can be seen, but are beginning to fade. Rear sight appears to have been missing for some time. On the carbine’s left side of the stock is inset a German silver plaque engraved “Sergeant W. H. Armstrong / 1st N.Y.M.R. ’61-65”. This is a very unique, fully identified weapons grouping to a single soldier that served in the mounted service through the entire war. Here also are two drawings of Armstrong by David Cronin who was a Major in the Mounted Rifles. The portrait of Armstrong was drawn during the war the other drawing of Armstrong was done after the war by Major Cronin from a photograph of Armstrong in his GAR uniform holding the sword in the group and wearing his GAR and Valor medals.

Also included with the group are a First New York Mounted Rifles medallion named to Armstrong, his GAR medal and a hand made silver valor medal named to Armstrong and dated 1880. The reverse is inscribed “Darbytown Road Oct. 7, 1864.” David E. Cronin’s autobiography “The Evolution of a Life, described in the Memoirs of Major Seth Eyland late of the Mounted Rifles,” (Seth Eyland was the pen name of Major David Cronin) relates his experiences as a Major in the First New York Mounted Rifles during the Civil War 1861-1865. He describes Armstrong’s deed of valor at the Battle of Darbytown Road. Cronin also served as a staff artist for Harper's Weekly under the pseudonym Seth Eyland.

“During the battle of Darbytown Road on the 7th of October…the Confederates were between us and our camp and others closely advancing to our front. In military phrase we were outflanked. We halted and dismounted under heavy fire…occupying deserted rifle pits…Our chief duty was to prevent our men from exhausting their ammunition…continually firing a breech loading rifle being irresistible. The bullets came like swarms of bees over our heads. We were almost out of ammunition and Sergeant Armstrong of Troop B faced almost certain death in going to procure a supply. It was an anxious puzzle to guess how we could ever rise and leave the rifle-pits without being annihilated.”

Also included with the group is a photograph of Armstrong wearing his GAR and Valor medals.

The GAR medal is not the medal that came with the group. My grandkids were looking/playing with my medals and put some in the wrong Riker mounts.
















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Really enjoyed looking at this group and especially enjoyed seeing the unusual valor medal with the story behind it. Great group!


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Brian Dentino

Another gem from the collection Dick.  Thanks for sharing it with us here.  Very nice to have the art work and photo to go with this awesome documented grouping.  Super cool.

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  • 6 months later...

Concur with the others-- an amazing grouping!


Thanks for sharing such a complete weapons grouping to a heroic soldier.



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