GEORGE W. MOWERS, 21st PA CAVALRY, IDENTIFIED GROUPING: 1860 COLT ARMY WITH BELT, HOLSTER, STENCIL, DISCHARGE, REUNION RIBBON, PHOTOGRAPHS AND PA ADJUTANT GENERAL’S CERTIFICATE

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Item Code: G3990

This is part of a large archive of material from George W. Mowers (1844-1895,) who served in the 21st PA Cavalry and 87th PA Infantry. Please see our other offerings from this grouping. Mowers brought back pieces from his own service, but also collected Gettysburg relics and at least one Antietam piece.  The entire archive was preserved by his family after his death in 1895 and only recently made available to us directly from them.

Mowers lived just west of Gettysburg along the Chambersburg Pike in the small town of Fayetteville, where his father owned a small farm and ran a wagon-making business in which George was employed and which he later took over. In June 1863 as Lee pushed north this area was the destination of Jubal Early’s division, which camped at neighboring Greenwood from June 24 to June 26, and it was directly in the path of Confederate forces approaching Gettysburg from Chambersburg on July 1, 1863, the first day of the battle. If Mowers had no other motive for enlisting, it may have been the substantial “requisitioning” of horses and supplies done by the Confederate army all along this route.

Whatever his reasons, Mowers enlisted in the 21st PA Cavalry on July 11 in Harrisburg and mustered into Co. D as a private on July 15. The regiment was recruited to serve six months as part of the response to Lee’s invasion and mustered in by company starting in late June. It was finally completed in early August, though some early recruits were involved in preliminary skirmishing with the Confederate advance around Gettysburg, one of the men actually being killed on the Baltimore Pike on June 26. After training at Chambersburg, the regiment was divided for service, Mowers’ company being one of several sent to Harpers Ferry in August. The regiment reunited at Chambersburg in February 1864 for muster out, as Mowers did, but was reconstituted as a three-year regiment that went on to further service. Mowers himself went on to serve in the 87th PA Infantry as a sergeant in 1865, seeing action at Petersburg and Sailors Creek in the pursuit of Lee.

This portion of the archive concerns Mowers’ cavalry service and includes his February 1864 discharge from the 21st PA Cavalry dated February 20, 1864 by reason of, “expiration of term of service,” and lists him as 18 years of age, 5 foot 6 ½ inches tall and a wagon maker by profession. With this is an official certificate with seal from the state Adjutant General’s Office dated Oct. 24, 1918, testifying to that service, obviously presented to the family, and a reunion ribbon for the sixth annual reunion of the regiment. Included in the group are also two photos of Mowers. One of this is a family portrait tintype (a full plate, approx. 6 ½” x 8 ½” ?) showing Mowers with his wife and four children (ca. 1885,) identified on the reverse by the family. The second is an outdoor photo on a card mount (ca. 1892) showing Mowers outside the buildings of his wagon making operation (labeled wheelwright and blacksmith building in one pension document.) All the figures are identified on the reverse in old ink. Mowers cradles a carpenter’s saw while two of his children stand at center. Four other identified men are probably employees.

The core of this group is Mowers’ cavalry belt, holster and Colt Army revolver. The belt is a regulation issue, early-to-mid war saber belt in buff leather, originally black and now oxidized to brown. Mowers removed both saber slings and the billets securing the D-rings and square ring, but the stitching lines are still evident. The belt was made without rivets, as is correct for an early-to-mid-war belt, and is the narrow style using the early war saber belt plate with a three-piece wreath. The plate and keeper fit well and have been together forever, though the plate bears a bench number and the hasp does not, a pretty frequent occurrence when buckles are taken off for cleaning. The holster is a regulation army holster for a .44 revolver, having a full-flap with latch tab and belt loop firmly in place. The latch tab is secured by stitching and rivet, which came in in early 1863. The toe plug came out during its period of use and Mowers simply sewed the sides of the bottom together, flat, to close it up. The leather is in very good condition, flexible, and with just average crazing, scuffs and minor finish loss from use.

The pistol is a standard Colt Army .44 Caliber revolver, but with varnished grips and no military inspection marks, indicating it was intended for the civilian market. This might have been obtained by Mowers at any time, but it is worth noting that in supplying the emergency regiments some corners were cut. Bell’s Company of Adams County Cavalry, which became Company B of he 21st Pa. Cavalry, for instance, received arms from the state in Harrisburg, but had to supply its own horses when they first enlisted. The serial number of the pistol, 138309, gives it an 1863 date of manufacture, which would fit with use by Mower. In any case, the gun is in excellent condition. The metal is smooth, retains crisp markings on the barrel, frame and cylinder, along with 75 percent or better of thin blue, shading toward plum brown a bit on the underside, and showing nice cylinder color, muted case on the frame, and even some blue on the top and the bottom side of the buttstrap. Screwheads have a lot of thin blue as well. The brass triggerguard has some traces of silver.

The cylinder patent and maker marks are crisp, the cylinder scene is very sharp, and there is even some darker color around the rebated rear portion, just at the step down. The only anomaly is that the cylinder never had a serial number stamped on it, which could be a factory error, but more likely indicates a Colt-supplied replacement cylinder. It fully matches the condition of the pistol. The grips are excellent and fit the frame tightly. The varnish is about 60 percent, with light wear from handling. There are minor scratches and wear marks, but no chips, dings or cracks. The bore is good. The nipples are not battered. The action is crisp. This is a very nice pistol.

We also include in this grouping George W. Mowers’ stencil. This is not unit marked, but is typical of the period and was with his effects. Groupings like this seldom show up any more directly from families. We are were happy to obtain it and think you will be too.  [SR]

Accompanied by military & pension records from the National Archives.

DISCLAIMER: All firearms are sold as collector's items only - we do not accept responsibility as to the shooting safety or reliability of any antique firearm. All firearms are described as accurately as possible, given the restraints of a catalog listing length. We want satisfied customers & often "under" describe the weapons. Any city or state regulations regarding owning antique firearms are the responsibility of the purchaser. All firearms are "mechanically perfect" unless noted, but again, are NOT warranted as safe to fire!

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