family heirloom confederate calvary sabre

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#1
Greetings all. I am new to this group. My husband recently was given his great great grandfather's Calvary sabre and scabbard. The family is from South Carolina and his parents actually have a large painted portrait of his GG grandfather in their home in his uniform which is very cool. The scabbard is in really bad shape. The tip and bottom 6 inches are missing, and the rest is quite dry and very cracked. it was kept by a wood fireplace in the scabbard for as long as my husband can remember. Nothing has been done to it in at least 50 years if not more for fear of doing something wrong. No cleaning, no conditioning. Similarly with the blade. There is fine etching along the blade, but the sword itself looks somewhat black. I don't know if this is just patina, or rust. We want to know what to do to preserve the sword and scabbard in at least the condition it is in now so it does not further deteriorate. But it is hard to know what to do, and we desperately don't want to do the wrong thing. We know not to get anywhere near it with sandpaper or abrasives. We have no idea if the sword has any monetary value. Theoretically we would like to have it looked at by an expert but I don't know how to go about finding one. (edited to add the picture of the portrait. Name Henry A Gurkin)

IMG_1840.JPG
 
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#2
Welcome to the forum reidkrys.

Photographs of the sword would greatly help in responding to your questions. We need to actually see it so we can properly identify the manufacturer of the sword, to properly assess its condition so we can advise what steps to take to preserve it and to give you some idea of its worth.

Leather scabbard, etched blade, mostly like an officers sword.

Can you give us any more information about your husband's ancestor? Name, rank, unit? Any chance of posting a photo of the painting.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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#3
Welcome from the UK and from The First Bull Run/ Manassas Forum

As suggested pictures would help though I would post them in a seperate thread in the Weapons and Ammunition sub forum where our experts (and we do have some excellent sword experts) hang out. Without pictures I'm afraid that any advice is likely to be very generic.
 
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#7
Welcome from upstate South Carolina.
Please post a few photos of the cavalry saber, and I'll be able to get back to you with info and names of those who you might want to contact to conserve or partially restore your sword. It all depends what it actually is and how good or bad it is in its' present state.
 
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#9
Here is a picture of the portrait my mother in law was kind enough to take. She is writing up a bit about what she knows about him. I was wrong about it being him in uniform I had remembered the grey coat and thought it was his uniform coat. I will take some pictures of the sword tonight and post them.

IMG_1840.JPG
 
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#11
Here is a picture of the portrait my mother in law was kind enough to take. She is writing up a bit about what she knows about him. I was wrong about it being him in uniform I had remembered the grey coat and thought it was his uniform coat. I will take some pictures of the sword tonight and post them.

View attachment 298206
Certainly a uniform and I am leaning towards a frock, albeit either a Prussian type or post war reunion jacket due to the short length. Collar is either folded down or obscured by the cravat. A name will help with unit and uniform possibilities.
 
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#12
Here is the write up my mother law promised.

"His name was Henry A. Gurkin. He was my paternal great-grandfather. He was born in 1841 and died in 1885. The basics are that he mustered in as a first Sergeant which is a non-commissioned officer and thus he was issued the sword. I think this was in 1861, so early in the war. But like most Guirkins I have ever known, his health was bad and they discharged him after a few months. Then he re-enlisted as a private a couple of years later when the South wasn’t so picky about the physical condition of their soldiers. They needed bodies for canon fodder. One Gurkin I read about was eventually released as part of a prisoner exchange but I don’t remember if ol’ Henry was the one. The Gurkin resided in the northeastern corner of North Carolina and I think they may well have been blockade runners. His son, my grandfather, was born in 1869 so he was a teenager when his father died.

The sword was a pretty poorly manufactured instrument, as were so many of the weapons available to southern soldiers"
 

James N.

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#14
Welcome to the forums from the host of the Stonewall Jackson Forum - I would really like a look at the saber!
 
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#15
Quite possibly the artist painted either from a photograph and took some liberties, the more I look at it, it appears as if it were really a type III jacket that somehow grew length.
that's very interesting to me. I asked my MIL and she said it was highly likely. The painting was apparently commissioned by her oldest aunt in the early 1930s. Her father was the youngest of 4 and was quite a bit older than her mother. She was going to look at some of her old tintypes of the Gurkins that she has from that time and see if she by chance might have the one the painting was based off of, or another of Henry A.
 
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#17
Here is the write up my mother law promised.

"His name was Henry A. Gurkin. He was my paternal great-grandfather. He was born in 1841 and died in 1885. The basics are that he mustered in as a first Sergeant which is a non-commissioned officer and thus he was issued the sword. I think this was in 1861, so early in the war. But like most Guirkins I have ever known, his health was bad and they discharged him after a few months. Then he re-enlisted as a private a couple of years later when the South wasn’t so picky about the physical condition of their soldiers. They needed bodies for canon fodder. One Gurkin I read about was eventually released as part of a prisoner exchange but I don’t remember if ol’ Henry was the one. The Gurkin resided in the northeastern corner of North Carolina and I think they may well have been blockade runners. His son, my grandfather, was born in 1869 so he was a teenager when his father died.

The sword was a pretty poorly manufactured instrument, as were so many of the weapons available to southern soldiers"
Sounds like you probably have his Confederate service record, but if by chance you don't, I do. His record shows him with blue eyes, which you painting does as well.
 
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#18
Sounds like you probably have his Confederate service record, but if by chance you don't, I do. His record shows him with blue eyes, which you painting does as well.
I actually don't, that is amazing. I had no idea that could even be found. That was just the information handed down to my mother in law.
 

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