family heirloom confederate calvary sabre

Joined
Mar 18, 2019
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18
#41
Your sword appears to be an early Eagle Head officer's sword, possibly 1812 or slightly later. It would have been appropriate for an 1861 sergeant to have such a sword, especially if it had a family connection, but the sword would have soon been retired after issue of arms at a camp of instruction/muster site because a musket was far more practical. This book has some good info: The American Sword, 1775-1945 By Harold Leslie Peterson.

I recommend you check this thread on eagle head swords and also the google drive of Glen_C.
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/eagle-head-swords.116192/
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9AOFMA8y3ODNllwS21ja1FuVmM
Thank you very much for the resource
 

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Glen_C

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#42
As noted in several posts above the sword is incorrect for both the Civil War and the cavalry - HOWEVER as also noted that made little if any difference to the soldiers of '61; the commanding general of the Confederate army outside Richmond in May, 1862 was wearing his father's sword from the War of 1812 and also his pistols in holsters on his saddle when he was seriously wounded.
All the could haves still don't add up to the quoted family history of someone being issued a sword. I shouldn't need to repeat my exact wording in my first reply to convey that without further provenance (though please do re-read my first reply), no amount of whistling Dixie makes it a sword used by the family during the ACW. Kept above or near a fireplace, cool. Where? For how many generations? In how many homes? Photographs over the years? Other notes and diaries?

There are any number of opportunities for the sword to have ended up with the family. So far, we have no real evidence of how and when (let alone who but least likely the pow). A war time bring back? Who knows? Not us. Nor, apparently the original poster.

Cordially
GC
 
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#43
All the could haves still don't add up to the quoted family history of someone being issued a sword. I shouldn't need to repeat my exact wording in my first reply to convey that without further provenance (though please do re-read my first reply), no amount of whistling Dixie makes it a sword used by the family during the ACW. Kept above or near a fireplace, cool. Where? For how many generations? In how many homes? Photographs over the years? Other notes and diaries?

There are any number of opportunities for the sword to have ended up with the family. So far, we have no real evidence of how and when (let alone who but least likely the pow). A war time bring back? Who knows? Not us. Nor, apparently the original poster.

Cordially
GC
I don’t think it’s uncommon to not know some of these things. I said it has been over my In laws fireplace. My husband received the sword from his mother who received it from her father who received it from his sister when he purchased his first big house. Aunt Mary Gurkin was the oldest child and was much older than him. Their father was Henry A’s son and My MIL’s aunt Mary is the one who insisted the sword was Henry A’s. Pre the internet being what it is now my in laws tried to do a little research on the sword but didn’t know much or where to even start. It was always treated as a neat family heirloom but never as if it has any particular value. My husband is a social studies teacher and as a gift for him I decided to try and find out some of the history of the sword. As well as try to figure out how to preserve it and store it properly
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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#44
May I apologise for the tone of one of our members.

Admittedly on the one hand he is correct. There is nothing specifically to link the sword and the painting. Indeed there are certain suggestions that they may not be linked (that he was infantry). On the other hand he could have carried it. In all likelihood we will never know.

As to family traditions my grandmother (his niece) was convinced that the man in my avatar lied about his age so he could join up and died just before his eighteenth birthday. Research shows that he was something like twenty five when he volunteered.
 

Glen_C

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#45
May I apologise for the tone of one of our members.

Admittedly on the one hand he is correct. There is nothing specifically to link the sword and the painting. Indeed there are certain suggestions that they may not be linked (that he was infantry). On the other hand he could have carried it. In all likelihood we will never know.

As to family traditions my grandmother (his niece) was convinced that the man in my avatar lied about his age so he could join up and died just before his eighteenth birthday. Research shows that he was something like twenty five when he volunteered.
Sorry but I refuse to be vilified for posting what have been quite cordial truths. :smile: While I fully accept the possibilities the sword was in the family for those generations preceding the ACW, my prompts have simply been to ask any not to build on speculations (which several have been wont to do so).

Conservation might be best affected by displaying it in a sealed case outside of the scabbard, clean and dry. As somewhat mentioned, the fitting is both upside down and backwards.

If I seem curt, I only apologize that I have been short because it is just another sword to me. The heritage is always laudable and more provenance can only help.

FWIW, one more correction for Patrick. The grip is bone and not ivory but I might as well go all in and be truly crucified for being correct :smile:

With that, I'll crawl back under my rock :wink:

Cheers
GC (Grumpy Cat aka Glen Cleeton)
 
Last edited:
Joined
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Messages
18
#46
A few things become apparent in seeing the sword images. The sword is of the first two decades of the century. It would never have been issued to an NCO and the sword was not of poor manufacture. Rather, it is the remains of a fancy sword that would have been the delight of a fairly well to do officer, decades before the ACW.

Unless there is an ancestor of the family that was an officer of the 1812 War period, or shortly after, it is a sword that came into the family at some point that needs a better provenance explained if it is to be associated with the ACW at all.

The remaining fitting on the scabbard is on backwards.

Old swords are often paired up with family histories with what may seem to be the best explanations but the note quoted doesn't fit the sword, nor make sense being listed as a cavalry sword (not that someone may not have been carried one on horseback).
Cheers
GC
You say it is the remains of a fancy sword. What does that mean? Is it missing pieces? Is it just in really bad shape?
 
Joined
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Messages
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#47
May I apologise for the tone of one of our members.

Admittedly on the one hand he is correct. There is nothing specifically to link the sword and the painting. Indeed there are certain suggestions that they may not be linked (that he was infantry). On the other hand he could have carried it. In all likelihood we will never know.

As to family traditions my grandmother (his niece) was convinced that the man in my avatar lied about his age so he could join up and died just before his eighteenth birthday. Research shows that he was something like twenty five when he volunteered.
It’s true family oral history is often rife with stories that only have a link to the truth. In my own family there were a couple folk tales that turned out to be quite different once actually investigated. But one has to start somewhere.
 
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#48
Can someone familiar with eagle head swords point out to me some clues from the sword to pursue further? It has been said it is an infantry sword, how do we know that? I have heard that it wa common in the ACW for officers to arm themselves as the confederacy was more concerned with issuing guns and ammunition, is this true? Are there clues on the sword to pin it more closely to a potential maker and or smaller range of years in which it might have been made?
 

Glen_C

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#49
You say it is the remains of a fancy sword. What does that mean? Is it missing pieces? Is it just in really bad shape?
Yes, condition. Both missing parts of the scabbard and finish of the sword itself. There had been a felt piece that seated the blade and that is why there is a gap.

The guard on this particular word is a less common casting but shared with more than one type of eagle. Earlier in the thread, someone linked one of my clipboards of images. Within those folders are thousands of images showing swords with more or less of the remains. Your sword once had brilliant blue&gilt on the blade etchings.

Very careful cleaning (I would suggest you don't touch it) would show that the very dark nature of the sword fittings themselves actually have a silver wash, vs a gold finish to the hilt.

Here is one I recently removed the dirt from and you will see the remains of the silver finish
qh5QqYJ.jpg

xSURDmW.jpg

8FKmVMJ.jpg


That sword is more complete but one that never had blue&gilt etching on the blade.

I do note one example of your type in my files. I will try to attach it. That example also has a "tired" blade finish lacking the original finish.

$(KGrHqYOKpsE0VI84yu4BN,tCiKshg~~_3.JPG


Compare to how this example remains

Eagle 1.jpg


This older sword shows the remains of that piece of textile missing on so many swords of those centuries.
British, American revolution period.
spadroon 004.jpg


So, if grading your sword, I would place it as "fair". Mostly complete but "tired" with remains of finish and partial scabbard.

Anyway, I would not start scrubbing at the sword's fittings but cleaning it would be a judgement call. I don't have your sword in hand but from the pictures it does look like a silver wash that has gone dark, just as old silver plate would but the silver finish on the brass hilts wears off fairly easily. What remains under the dirt on your's may reveal more or less silver. Go very gently. In the example of before and after above, I used only a soft brush lifting dirt without polishes or even a cloth at that point.

Here is another of mine that was in progress. Burnt in a fire with soot but brilliant gilt underneath.

DSCN2762.JPG
032611 008.jpg


I would honestly suggest you not try to clean or restore your sword but use one of the sword cases one will find via a simple search ("sword case") and show it with the scabbard remains below (flip and reverse the fitting).

Good luck and persevere with the entire genealogy of the family back to the early 19th century looking for affluent officers in the past during the period of the war of 1812 and a decade on either side to be thorough.

Cheers
GC
 
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James N.

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#50
Can someone familiar with eagle head swords point out to me some clues from the sword to pursue further? It has been said it is an infantry sword, how do we know that? I have heard that it wa common in the ACW for officers to arm themselves as the confederacy was more concerned with issuing guns and ammunition, is this true? Are there clues on the sword to pin it more closely to a potential maker and or smaller range of years in which it might have been made?
When it was originally made ca. 1810 - 1830 this length and style was more or less regulation for infantry officers who walked alongside their men rather than riding horses. (Usually captains and lieutenants) The more or less because officers were never issued anything but were instead required to BUY all their own uniforms and equipment, so there was often a lot of leeway allowed them.

More importantly, the Regular Army was tiny and most military officers (and men as well) were members of various State militia units that weren't bound by regular army regulations, though they usually conformed to them to one degree or another. Around ca. 1821 U. S. Regulations called for a straight-bladed sword with silvered metal parts for infantry officers and gilded for artillery officers, but as usual, militia officers continued to wear what they pleased. Mounted officers also continued to carry longer curved bladed sabers in leather or sometimes brass scabbards that were usually suspended from waist belts by narrow straps that attached to rings on the scabbard that are missing on yours - and were never there, another indication that this is an infantry sword.

Throw all the above out the window once the Civil War began as volunteers from both sides rushed to join new units and antiques like this were often put back into service. Of course they weren't regulation at all for anybody, but as I've already noted that didn't bother or keep Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston from wearing his family heirlooms on the battlefield at Seven Pines.
 
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Glen_C

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#51
Can someone familiar with eagle head swords point out to me some clues from the sword to pursue further? It has been said it is an infantry sword, how do we know that? I have heard that it wa common in the ACW for officers to arm themselves as the confederacy was more concerned with issuing guns and ammunition, is this true? Are there clues on the sword to pin it more closely to a potential maker and or smaller range of years in which it might have been made?
As mentioned in my first reply, the sword belongs to the first two decades of the 19th century. The definitive old testament for the early eaglehead pommel swords was penned by E.Andrew Mowbray
https://gunandswordcollector.com/product/eagle-pommel-sword/

A very good flash card reference from Norm Flayderman and Mowbray the younger
https://gunandswordcollector.com/product/american-swords-philip-medicus/

Peterson, referenced earlier, is the old testament and a must for American sword buffs but near useless as far as the eagle lore goes. The eagle pommel old testament the true bible on them but I may be due to publish. The reason I don't is not wanting to stand on the shoulders of others that have already done the work. There are half a dozen more titles that are similarly useful but no one will truly trace the the true origin of this sword aside from assembled in Birmingham England and imported during the early 19th century.

As far as use during the ACW, yes, of course. Anything made before the war "may" have seen use. In one of these threads I show how I can prove my great uncle Napoleon Cleeton carried an eagle pommel sword. It would be a lie but closer that what you have with a portrait and a sword, After all, I have a war time photo with the sword. Also a photo of him after the war and the sword itself :smile: Entirely a fabrication :smile:

Photos of eagle pommels during the war are scarce and some of those are studio props. I have two fairly certain images of wear vs props. On the other hand, other old swords of many types not at all uncommonly shown in militia stores going to war and bringing what one had in hand. Still, one needs more than a story. Diaries and correspondence. Newspaper clippings, etc.

The pommel type of your sword is regarded as a Ketland type and some will list your sword as just a Ketland. That is a superficial ID. Ketland was an arms wholesaler, retailer sourcing many shops. The sword itself likely the product of several shops. The foundries for the castings. Forges for the blades. Artisans doing the needle etched blue&gilt blade decorations. A shop making scabbards and other leather work. Birmingham was a city of industry. US industry was just beginning. I actually see a few other examples of yours in my folder listed as OrigKetFrm. That link has been previously posted. My latest 2.0 clipboard has more images yet
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1R7gCmCnldPjOKBdprrlNpu-3FaL-GPzd

Cheers
GC
 
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#52
I think Glen has covered all the main points. Mowbray's book "American Eagle Pommel Swords" is the primary reference for swords like yours. His section on Ketland eagles has a couple with hilts quite similar to yours which he dates to c.1810, but your blade decoration is more like some illustrated Ketland examples which he dates to 1805. One thing no one has commented on is the ribband near the base of the blade with writing on it. Often these just have the word "WARRENTED", but they also frequently have the name of the maker or retailer, especially on earlier examples. I can't make out the lettering on your sword, although it doesn't seem to be "WARRENTED". Can you make it out? If you can, or can at least make out a number of the letters, it may be possible to identify the maker/retailer and thus help further nail down the date range for this sword. In any case, I suspect it dates to the period 1805-1810.
 
Joined
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Messages
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#54
Yes, condition. Both missing parts of the scabbard and finish of the sword itself. There had been a felt piece that seated the blade and that is why there is a gap.

The guard on this particular word is a less common casting but shared with more than one type of eagle. Earlier in the thread, someone linked one of my clipboards of images. Within those folders are thousands of images showing swords with more or less of the remains. Your sword once had brilliant blue&gilt on the blade etchings.

Very careful cleaning (I would suggest you don't touch it) would show that the very dark nature of the sword fittings themselves actually have a silver wash, vs a gold finish to the hilt.

Here is one I recently removed the dirt from and you will see the remains of the silver finish
View attachment 298563
View attachment 298564
View attachment 298565

That sword is more complete but one that never had blue&gilt etching on the blade.

I do note one example of your type in my files. I will try to attach it. That example also has a "tired" blade finish lacking the original finish.

View attachment 298548

Compare to how this example remains

View attachment 298549

This older sword shows the remains of that piece of textile missing on so many swords of those centuries.
British, American revolution period.
View attachment 298551

So, if grading your sword, I would place it as "fair". Mostly complete but "tired" with remains of finish and partial scabbard.

Anyway, I would not start scrubbing at the sword's fittings but cleaning it would be a judgement call. I don't have your sword in hand but from the pictures it does look like a silver wash that has gone dark, just as old silver plate would but the silver finish on the brass hilts wears off fairly easily. What remains under the dirt on your's may reveal more or less silver. Go very gently. In the example of before and after above, I used only a soft brush lifting dirt without polishes or even a cloth at that point.

Here is another of mine that was in progress. Burnt in a fire with soot but brilliant gilt underneath.

View attachment 298561 View attachment 298562

I would honestly suggest you not try to clean or restore your sword but use one of the sword cases one will find via a simple search ("sword case") and show it with the scabbard remains below (flip and reverse the fitting).

Good luck and persevere with the entire genealogy of the family back to the early 19th century looking for affluent officers in the past during the period of the war of 1812 and a decade on either side to be thorough.

Cheers
GC
Thank you
 

Glen_C

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#55
Sooo, what I am finding in the stacks per Bazelon, Bezdek and Hartzler titles is John Carter of Virginia. Bezdek lists him from 1790-1811. Hartzler mentions him only in passing re engraving a sword, which Bazelon lists as the O Bannon presentation sword circa 1812.

I cannot be sure of what I see there on this blade but it would seem to fit the timeline and what I see of the name Carter&Co ? Or not. This may be false hope though. In the older Hartzler/Lattimer silver swords book, Carter is listed as a bladesmith (which would not fit) but Bezdek uses the same timeline 1790-1811. Bazelon, in his directory mentions the O Bannon sword, which the other two don't but the recent Hartzler book mentions it only as a sword done for Virginia without the O Bannon. That presentation sword wholly differrent and an American made sword.
http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs...y-neville-obabbib-and-the-marine-corps-sword/

(regressing to another thread, Tuite does show all the helmet, Indian Princess and Athena swords)

Just some more wag and Richard may be able to better get a read on it.

Cheers
GC

I meant to add another PS for Richard, in my files is an example of this hilt, with a federal shield and panoply like others of these but also has a mixed white etch panel job with the blue&gilt. As such, more consideration on that type of blade decoration and timeline. It also had once been silver wash on the brass scabbard and hilt fittings. Maybe the John Carter silversmith annotation makes sense? The whole image set for that one and a handful of others with this guard are in that folder OrigKetFrm.
68-20019.jpg
 
Last edited:
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285
Location
Northern Virginia
#57
Sooo, what I am finding in the stacks per Bazelon, Bezdek and Hartzler titles is John Carter of Virginia. Bezdek lists him from 1790-1811. Hartzler mentions him only in passing re engraving a sword, which Bazelon lists as the O Bannon presentation sword circa 1812.

I cannot be sure of what I see there on this blade but it would seem to fit the timeline and what I see of the name Carter&Co ? Or not. This may be false hope though. In the older Hartzler/Lattimer silver swords book, Carter is listed as a bladesmith (which would not fit) but Bezdek uses the same timeline 1790-1811. Bazelon, in his directory mentions the O Bannon sword, which the other two don't but the recent Hartzler book mentions it only as a sword done for Virginia without the O Bannon. That presentation sword wholly differrent and an American made sword.
http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs...y-neville-obabbib-and-the-marine-corps-sword/

(regressing to another thread, Tuite does show all the helmet, Indian Princess and Athena swords)

Just some more wag and Richard may be able to better get a read on it.

Cheers
GC

I meant to add another PS for Richard, in my files is an example of this hilt, with a federal shield and panoply like others of these but also has a mixed white etch panel job with the blue&gilt. As such, more consideration on that type of blade decoration and timeline. It also had once been silver wash on the brass scabbard and hilt fittings. Maybe the John Carter silversmith annotation makes sense? The whole image set for that one and a handful of others with this guard are in that folder OrigKetFrm.
View attachment 298613
I agree with your reading of the inscription as being "CARTER & CO". The sword with the B&G blade with white-etch panels show this hilt style continued in use in the post-1812 era. I'm still not too comfortable as to the date when this three-tone decoration was first used, but I generally identify such blades as 1820s or later. If we are right as to the Carter & Co inscription, however, it would still place this sword in the pre-1812 timeframe.
 
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Mississippi
#58
@reidkrys
Henry A Gurkins' grandfather was Harmon (Herman) Gurkin, a veteran of the War of 1812. There are a couple of documents showing him as serving with the 5th Company, Martin County Regiment, NC. He is listed in the Muster rolls of the soldiers of the War of 1812 : detached from the Militia of North Carolina in 1812 and 1814

This might explain how Henry Gurkin came to be in possession of the sword. I still find it very plausible for him to have carried the sword in 1861 when his regiment initially mustered until the unit received arms.
 
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#59
To all of our sword experts I want to say that the information given here is just amazing. That it is offered so generously doesn't surprise me at all, but the depth and detail of knowledge is truly impressive. I have learned some things in this thread!
 
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Messages
9,698
#60
Yes, condition. Both missing parts of the scabbard and finish of the sword itself. There had been a felt piece that seated the blade and that is why there is a gap.

The guard on this particular word is a less common casting but shared with more than one type of eagle. Earlier in the thread, someone linked one of my clipboards of images. Within those folders are thousands of images showing swords with more or less of the remains. Your sword once had brilliant blue&gilt on the blade etchings.

Very careful cleaning (I would suggest you don't touch it) would show that the very dark nature of the sword fittings themselves actually have a silver wash, vs a gold finish to the hilt.

Here is one I recently removed the dirt from and you will see the remains of the silver finish
View attachment 298563
View attachment 298564
View attachment 298565

That sword is more complete but one that never had blue&gilt etching on the blade.

I do note one example of your type in my files. I will try to attach it. That example also has a "tired" blade finish lacking the original finish.

View attachment 298548

Compare to how this example remains

View attachment 298549

This older sword shows the remains of that piece of textile missing on so many swords of those centuries.
British, American revolution period.
View attachment 298551

So, if grading your sword, I would place it as "fair". Mostly complete but "tired" with remains of finish and partial scabbard.

Anyway, I would not start scrubbing at the sword's fittings but cleaning it would be a judgement call. I don't have your sword in hand but from the pictures it does look like a silver wash that has gone dark, just as old silver plate would but the silver finish on the brass hilts wears off fairly easily. What remains under the dirt on your's may reveal more or less silver. Go very gently. In the example of before and after above, I used only a soft brush lifting dirt without polishes or even a cloth at that point.

Here is another of mine that was in progress. Burnt in a fire with soot but brilliant gilt underneath.

View attachment 298561 View attachment 298562

I would honestly suggest you not try to clean or restore your sword but use one of the sword cases one will find via a simple search ("sword case") and show it with the scabbard remains below (flip and reverse the fitting).

Good luck and persevere with the entire genealogy of the family back to the early 19th century looking for affluent officers in the past during the period of the war of 1812 and a decade on either side to be thorough.

Cheers
GC
This is interesting to me beyond my ability to express it!
 

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