The O'Neill Colt is a replica of a 1847 Colt Walker model, Black Powder, 44 Caliber, pistol weighing 4lbs, 9oz, manufactured by the Colt Firearms Company located in Hartford, Connecticut. It was presented to Governor William A. O'Neill, by the Commandant, of the First Company Governor's Foot Guard, then-Major Justin DiNino, (1979 - 1983), as a token of appreciation for his 10 years of service as Connecticut's Chief Executive and our Captain General.
Several years into retirement, Governor William A. O'Neill approached Major John L. O'Connell, (1999 -2003), then Commandant of the First Company Governor's Foot Guard, and requested to return the pistol to the command with one caveat: "that it be displayed or used in a manner which would enhance the symbolism of our colonial heritage in Connecticut".
The First and Second Companies Governor's Foot Guard were chartered in 1771 and 1775 respectively to attend upon and guard the Governor and General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut. In that era, the seat of government was split between Hartford and New Haven. The Governor and General Assembly would transfer between the two cities, each serving as Connecticut's Capitol, and during the transfer the Governor's Guards as they were known would provide for their safe passage.
A proposal was presented to Governor O'Neill to have guardianship of the pistol, which would be known as the "O'Neill Colt", split between the First and Second Companies. Because the two Companies met for a combined drill in Hartford and New Haven every six months, it seemed only fitting to carry the pistol to the site of each future combined drill. In this manner the tradition of attending upon and guarding the Governor and General Assembly while traveling between the two Capitols would be continued. The guardian company would proudly display and secure this symbol within its Armory. Governor O'Neill warmly accepted the proposal.
In March 2001 at the combined drill in Hartford, Connecticut in the First Company Governor's Foot Guard Armory with Governor O'Neill attending, the first ceremony with the "O'Neill Colt" initiated this new tradition.
LTC John O'Connell