In 1864, John William Glunt was capturing Confederate railroads as part of the Union Army’s 15th Regiment.
The Westmoreland County native served in the cavalry for eight months, fighting in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia until he was discharged at the end of the Civil War.
A century and a half later, his great-grandsons are trying to keep this piece of history alive.
During the weekend of July 25, Munhall resident Tim Glunt and his brother, Dan Glunt, of Webster, N.Y., will donate John Glunt’s Colt 44 revolver to the Civil War exhibit at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland.
The Colt 44 was passed down through generations until it came into Tim’s care in 1985. Since then, it has mostly collected dust in his closet.
“I enjoy reading about the Civil War, and I started thinking about it, and I said, ‘You know what? It’s time to put [the Colt] in a museum.’ And my brother concurred,” Tim said. “Then our grandkids, I can take them over there and go, ‘Hey, look, this is one of your relatives who was in the Union Army.’”
The Colt 44 was “pretty high-tech for its day,” said Michael Kraus, curator at Soldiers & Sailors. It’s accurate for up to 25 to 50 yards, making it a close quarters weapon.
It’s also a percussion weapon, which means that each cylinder has to be individually filled with powder and an elongated ball. It needs to be reloaded after every five or six shots.
The Glunts’ keepsake will be the museum’s first Colt 44 with a traceable history.
“You can collect Colts for condition or model numbers, but our interest is more in telling a story,” Mr. Kraus said. “[The Glunts’] pistol is identified to an ancestor who we can place at a certain place and time in the Civil War.”
Outside his home earlier this week, Tim, 59, turned the weathered black gun over in his hands, showing where the patent date was indicated with the phrase “Pat. Sept. 10th 1855” etched into the side of the 8-inch barrel. Although the gun last saw battle when John left the Army in May 1865, Tim said his family fired the weapon for recreation into the 1970s.
“When you shot it, it threw your hands back,” Tim said.
He became interested in Civil War history during his teenage years, when his dad used to tell him about his family’s involvement in the conflict.
“We’d take the gun out and shoot it, and he told us a little bit of the history,” Tim said. “I didn’t pay attention when I was in high school. I didn’t care. Now, I wish I would have.”
As he pulled out a book that illustrates the photographic history of the war in Pennsylvania, Tim said he’s particularly interested in photography from the Civil War era.
“You see these stories about these guys, and it blows you away,” he said. “It’s just so amazing.”
His desire for other people to share in those narratives led him to the decision to donate his family’s Colt.
“Why not let other people see it? It’s part of our history,” he said. “If people have mementos from World War II or World War I or Vietnam and they’re not doing anything with them, either, I hope that they would think about donating them.”
More information about Soldiers & Sailors is available at www.soldiersandsailorshall.org.
Marisa Iati; firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1891 or on Twitter @marisa_iati.