Discussion How many swords would Lee or Grant have?

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NH Civil War Gal

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I just noticed in the pictures that were posted from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond a display with what looks like Lee's hat and sword. Then when I was at the Museum of the Confederacy at Appomatox, Lee had a very fancy sword that James N. took the most wonderful picture of. How many swords did these elite generals have?

A fellow CWT member and I toured the NH State House Hall of Flags last week - which is almost entirely Civil War Flags and we saw also the presentation sword and gilt spurs presented to Colonel Cross' family (because he died before they could be given to him), ordered from Tiffany's.

How much of this stuff is floating around out there in museums and private collections, etc?
 
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ucvrelics

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They both had several if not quit a few, as presentation engraved swords and engraved boxed pistol sets were common gifts for Generals. Most were given by very prominent folks, a town or associations. They weren't just for generals many a presentation sword was give the a Lieutenant by the towns folks or his men.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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How and what were the occasions to wear or use this stuff? For example, we’re the engraved pistols actually meant to be used or were they display pieces?

I can see different groups or individuals getting a wee bit upset if their chosen one wasn’t wearing “their” particular sword on a fancy occasion.

I never thought about any of these choices until seeing two different swords of Lee.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Yes, here's a Harper's illustration of the sword presented him by the city of Philadelphia. You can't imagine it was the only one given him.

andersons sword.JPG


I ' think ' those presentations were a huge, big formal deal? I won't post the whole article ( they printed all the speeches! ), this one from late July, 1863 was for Meade. This one was presented by the Pennsylvania Reserve Corp.

sword presentation to meade.JPG


@ucvrelics , were flags presented in the same, formal way please? Or just some of them?
 

NH Civil War Gal

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These presentation swords had to be jolly expensive back then, especially since it seems like a lot were being ordered from Tiffany's. Do you have any idea how much they were costing a group of officers or townspeople back then @ucvrelics ?
 
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Cavalry Charger

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he offered Gen Grant his finest sword which he was wearing.
I don't think Grant took the sword, but I honestly don't know.

@NH Civil War Gal you ask the most interesting questions, and thank you for asking this one!

I have a little story about one presented to U.S.Grant by his officers. I'll see if I can find it.
 

zburkett

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Fancy dress swords were for dress occasions and were carried in the supply trains. It is self evident that Lee had his best sword with him during that very difficult campaign from Petersburg to Appomattox. While I don't have a number of how many swords Lee or Grant had, I do remember seeing that George Washington had four at the time of his death.
 

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Well, here's a short article on the return of Lee's sword to the museum in Appomattox:

"It’s an enduring myth of the Civil War: Robert E. Lee surrendered his sword to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, and his Union counterpart refused the traditional gesture of surrender.

“Lee never offered it, and Grant never asked for it,” said Patrick Schroeder, historian at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

In an historical twist, though, Lee’s French-made ceremonial sword is returning to Appomattox, Va., 146 years later, leaving the Richmond museum where it has been displayed for nearly a century.

The Museum of the Confederacy in downtown Richmond is delivering one of its most-treasured pieces to Appomattox for a new museum being built less than a mile from where Lee met with Grant to sign the document of surrender on April 9, 1865. The Army of Northern Virginia’s formal surrender followed three days later, effectively drawing to a close the Civil War that left about 630,000 dead.

The sword, scabbard and the Confederate gray uniform Lee wore to his fateful meeting with Grant, are all destined to be displayed about 75 miles west of Richmond when the museum opens next spring."

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/may/10/lee-sword-returning-to-appomattox/

Wonder if Lee's sword is still being displayed there?
 
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James N.

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DSC05884.JPG

If that's the beautiful presentation sword they are talking about, I just saw it and James N. took the most beautiful picture of it with the uniform too. It is an amazing piece and beautifully displayed.
You were in Appomattox? Awesome! I hope James will post his pic here again for us :smile:
I'm glad you liked my photos, but they're actually a bit blurry - my camera doesn't do well under artificial lighting. Lee called this his Maryland sword because it has a presentation inscription engraved on it something like Presented by a marylander (small m); it came through the blockade, I believe in 1862 or possibly 1863. The uniform and gauntlets worn by Lee at Appomattox are below.

As for swords in general, this can be quite confusing. At West Point cadets had specific cadet swords that sometimes belonged to them personally, but after graduation were useless. Almost each of the separate branches of service had its own specific pattern: infantry, cavalry/dragoons, foot artillery, mounted artillery, engineers, topographical engineers, medical officers, and paymasters. If an officer transferred to a different branch - as Lee did when he became Lt. Col. of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry in the 1850's - he was required to buy the appropriate sword of the new branch. Presentation swords came in all varieties, depending solely on the purse of the donor(s); some were quite plain, almost Regulation models with a little engraving that might be carried in the field, while others were so elaborately figured and heavily gilded they were awkward in the extreme. In active service, officers often carried enlisted men's swords of the correct pattern, saving their own for dress purposes. During the war, officers of volunteers were usually under no such constraints and might carry anything they pleased.

DSC05895.JPG
 

James N.

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Would officers have worn their fanciest swords to balls for example? Can you dance or waltz with a sword?
Officers were technically obligated to be under arms at all times; on dress occasions like balls, they customarily wore them to the event, then unbuckled the sword belt and left it at the door.
 
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James N.

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Fancy dress swords were for dress occasions and were carried in the supply trains. It is self evident that Lee had his best sword with him during that very difficult campaign from Petersburg to Appomattox. While I don't have a number of how many swords Lee or Grant had, I do remember seeing that George Washington had four at the time of his death.
During Washington's lifetime, swords were supposed to be worn by every Gentleman; however, he should have specific swords for different occasions. In Washington's case, two of them were smallswords, light with relatively short, straight blades suspended by a cloth over-the-shoulder belt worn under the coat or waistcoat. One of those was very plain and what was called a mourning sword, to be worn at funerals and other somber occasions; the other, slightly more elaborate one was worn at State occasions like his inauguration as President. A short saber known as a hunting sword was lightly curved with a green-stained bone or ivory grip and it served as his service sword all throughout the Revolution. The fourth was a slightly heavier and slightly curved presentation saber, said to have been shipped to him by Frederick the Great of Prussia. In his will Washington was very specific exactly which of his swords went to four particular nephews.
 
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