Act of Kindness: Sword of Capt. John S McDowell 77th Pennsylvania

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lelliott19

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"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:

Jackson, Georgia​
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.
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Obituary from 1915; portrait circa 1905.

Sources:
 
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lelliott19

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I like to check facts on these Act of Kindness stories. You know, just to make sure there really was a guy N Q Adams who was a Lieut. in the 27th Mississsippi. Turns our there was. Here's a quick bio on Lieut. N. Q. Adams, the man who captured Captain McDowell, took possession of the sword, and turned it over to his brigade commander:
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Reverend Nonimus Quincy “Non” Adams
<Yep. Non Q. Adams was apparently the name he went by :D>
b. 22 January 1839 in Rutherford County, NC
d. 7 May 1922 in Chester, MS
Enlisted June 8, 1861 at Whitfield, MS into Captain E. Orville Huntley's Company, which was called the Oktibbeha Rifles and became Company A, 27th Mississippi Infantry (Walthall's Brigade.) Lieut. Adams was wounded in the arm July 28, 1864 <at Ezra Church?>, necessitating amputation. In 1870, he became a pastor in the Missionary Baptist Church, serving rural Mississippi districts. He served in the State Senate in 1896 and was elected to the House of Representatives November 5, 1907. He died May 7, 1922 at the age of 83 and was buried in Sturgis, Oktibbeha County, MS. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35605502/nonimus-quincy-adams
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JPK Huson 1863

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" If we ever fight again, and I pray we do not, we will fight under the same flag....the glorious old Stars and Stripes " Another vet said that, rest of which is has been the signature on my profile here since forever. McKinley, at Atlanta's Exposition. There was a Blue and Gray reunion. We have first hand accounts because my great grandmother's sister, a delegate sent from N.Y. was there. We get cautioned about being too ' romantic ' over how vets felt about each other, how much animosity remained. OK, I get that but these stories , a Georgia mayor's outreach and what's recorded about many of these reunions reflect genuine sentiments too.

Another thought provoking, hopeful story, thanks very much @lelliott19 .
 

lelliott19

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Package4

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Captain McDowell's obituary from the Fulton County News includes brief mention of the sword.
View attachment 311157
View attachment 311152
The Fulton County News. (McConnellsburg, Pa.), May 27, 1915, page 1, column 1.

James N. @Package4 @Richard E. Schenk @Lanyard Puller @Glen_C @ucvrelics @redbob @johan_steele @Jobe Holiday do any of you know where this sword is today or who has it? I couldn't find any modern mention of it via internet and would be interested in seeing a picture of it.
I am not aware of the piece, but no doubt it is in a family or other collection.
 

Package4

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View attachment 311093
"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:

Jackson, Georgia​
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.
View attachment 311092View attachment 311094
Obituary from 1915; portrait circa 1905.

Sources:
What a great story, I love these......I do find it peculiar that "by 1900, only a few members of Company F were yet alive", even given attrition through war (25 from F out of 212), the men of Company F would be in their late 50s or early 60s...…...
 
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lelliott19

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I do find it peculiar that "by 1900, only a few members of Company F were yet alive", even given attrition through war (25 from F out of 212), the men of Company F would be in their late 50s or early 60s...…...
Probably more than a "few" then. Course people did die younger back then. Glad our life expectancy is a bit longer now days!

What do you make of the discrepancy between the two stories? Beauchamp said the sword was found on the camp field near Jackson GA and purchased by his father and handed down to him. McDowell said the sword was handed over to N Q Adams and then passed along to his brigade commander after McDowell was captured. How do you think the sword got to Jackson, GA?
 

OldSarge79

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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.
Awesome story. Thanks for posting it.
It's amazing how those involved in that brutal war soon forgave and joined together for a better future for their country. As Lincoln said, "With malice toward none...."
If only we could be the same about the Civil War today!
 
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