"Had a thunderbolt fallen from the clear blue sky, the Captain could not have been more astonished." The sword belonging to Capt. John Sands McDowell (F/77PA), which had been captured at Chickamauga in September 1863, was returned to him 37 years later, by a man who was not even born at the time of the battle. McDowell had for years, since the close of the war, tried in vain to locate his prized saber. After 37 years, he had all but given up hope of ever seeing it again.
On the night of September 19, 1863, Captain McDowell was captured while reconnoitering in front of the lines at Chickamauga and his sword was confiscated. It was no ordinary sword. A few months prior to the Battle of Chickamauga, the boys of Company F 77th Pennsylvania had purchased the valuable saber with their own hard-earned money and presented it to McDowell for meritorious service on the battlefield April 1, 1863 and as a token of their admiration for him as an officer and a gentleman.
According to McDowell, Lieut. N. Q. Adams of Co A 27th Mississippi took possession of the sword that night, promising if possible to take care of the sword and return it when the war was over. Captain McDowell took down the address of Lieut. Adams and planned to retrieve the sword after the war ended. McDowell held onto that slip of paper throughout his captivity and, when the war closed, he wrote to Lieut. Adams, requesting the return of his sword. Unfortunately, Adams explained, he had turned the sword over to his brigade commander and no further trace of it could be found.
Then, 37 years later, on May 3, 1900, this letter appeared in the New York Journal:
April 30, 1900
W.R. Hearst, Editor The Journal:
I have a sword given to me by my father, which was presented to Captain John S. McDowell, a gallant hero of the Seventy-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, by the members of Company F of that regiment, for meritorious services upon the battlefield, April 1, 1863. This sword was picked up on the camp field near this city [Jackson, GA] in November 1864 after that regiment decamped on their way to Savannah. It was afterwards purchased by my father.
Though I prize very highly this sword given to the brave Pennsylvania Captain by the members of his company for gallant services midst shot and shell, yet if Capt. McDowell is still living it will afford me great pleasure, as one of the youngest Mayors in the Empire State of the South, to return to him or his family, this sword of honor and bravery, to keep as a priceless souvenir of his brave deeds in the bloody war between the states.
The hatred that once existed between the two sections involved in that terrible war is now dead; we are reunited again, and all stand ready as a unit to defend the glorious Stars and Stripes from any foe that may seek to destroy the Union. This regiment destroyed considerable property belonging to my grandparents and other relatives in this county, yet "all is fair in war;" therefore, we have no malice or hatred in our hearts against this Captain or any member of the Seventy-seventh [Pennsylvania] regiment, for we are now as one family, defenders of the same flag.
The following is the inscription on the scabbard of the sword: "Presented to Captain John S. McDowell by the members of Company F, Seventy-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, as a mark of esteem and reward for meritorious services, April 1, 1863." I trust the New York Journal and the press of Pennsylvania will assist me in finding Captain McDowell, the gallant hero of the Seventy-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, or any member of the family so I can return the sword to the rightful owner, the priceless gift from his brave men.
Charles O. Beauchamp,
Mayor of Jackson Georgia
At that time, Beauchamp was 26 years old and the youngest Mayor in the State of Georgia. McDowell was a 60 year old dealer in General Merchandise and livestock in Smith Center, Kansas, serving on the Board of Regents at Kansas State Agricultural College. Captain McDowell wrote immediately, and arrangements were made for the return of the sword. By 1900, only a few members of Company F were yet alive to know the joy McDowell must have felt when he received, from the hands of a stranger, their token of esteem from 37 earlier.
Obituary from 1915; portrait circa 1905.
- "An Old Sword," The Jackson Argus. (Jackson, Ga.), May 11, 1900, page 4, column 3.
- Obituary "Captain McDowell," The Fulton County News. (McConnellsburg, Pa.), April 29, 1915, page 1, column 2.
- "After Thirty-seven Years - Captain McDowell's Sword Taken From Him at Chickamauga, Found," The Industrialist, Volume 26, pp. 472-474. https://books.google.com/books?id=_AQTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA466&lpg=PA466&dq=captain+"John+S+McDowell"&source=bl&ots=wLiiXyLGmC&sig=ACfU3U2vJ79OIeeyekc0HhgEdtbfJiLbJA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6_o6MqdbiAhWQTd8KHcPNDLsQ6AEwA3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=captain "John S McDowell"&f=false
- Find-A-Grave Memorial Charles Oliver Beauchamp https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79282509/charles-oliver-beauchamp
- Find-A-Grave Memorial John Sands McDowell https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13976879/john-sands-mcdowell
- 1905 McDowell Portrait Ebay https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/John-S-McDowell-Kansas-State-Agricultural-College/153412982421?hash=item23b8205695:g:IrIAAOSwn3VarPqn&frcectupt=true
- 1900 Beauchamp Portrait, The Jackson Argus, Butts County GaArchives http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/butts/photos/beaucham25101ph.txt