Tale of a Mass. Captain's Sword is Now Complete.


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bobinwmass

Private
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Messages
33
A bit more than 2 years ago I bought an identified Foot Officer's sword from a dealer off the internet. The sword is in near excellent condition, was made by Collins & Co, and retailed by James P Fitch of New York. Engraved on the top scabbard mount is "Presented to Capt. F. C. Cook, Co H, 46th Ms. Inf., Oct. 15th, 1862". Sadly, there was no indication on who presented this fine weapon to Cook, but it did come with an extensive amount of information from Cook's military service and pensions records from the National Parks Service. I purchased the sword because the 46th Massachusetts was a 9-month regiment formed from the various towns around where I live. Cook was listed as a 28-year-old merchant when he enlisted 9/10/1862 in the company of men from Palmer, Massachusetts. He was soon elected as captain of the company by the other men. The regiment was organized and trained at Camp Banks in Springfield, Massachusetts. Cook was formally mustered in as Captain of Company H on 10/15/1862. I will not go into the details of the regiment's service history as that information can be easily found elsewhere, but they did serve in the New Bern, North Carolina area, with a brief detour on their way home to help in the pursuit of Lee and the Confederate forces when they withdrew from Gettysburg. The Regiment mustered out on 7/29/1863 at Hampden Park, Springfield Massachusetts. But Cook did not stay out of service long. On 3/11/1864 he enlisted in the 16th Mass. Light Artillery, again as a private. He was soon promoted to corporal. I suspect that Cook was likely not well versed in Military knowledge, but apparently his organizational, clerical, recording keeping, and written skills that he developed in his business pursuits were recognized and put to use in his Civil War service, as his service records often show him as detailed away from his regiment under special order, for example serving as clerk in the Commissary Department. He is also shown as being detached to attend "military school" in Philadelphia, and on 11/25/1864 was discharged from the 16th Mass. Light Artillery to transfer 11/26/1864 into the 8th U. S. Colored Troop Heavy Artillery as a 2nd Lieutenant. During his service with this unit he was again detached from his Regiment to serve on special duty at Headquarters of the Central District Texas to serve as "Road Master of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad". He mustered out with his regiment on 2/10/1866. After the Civil War, Cook was a member of GAR post #16 (E. K. Wilcox). He died on November 11th, 1901.
I like to find out as much as I can about the man behind any identified item I come across, and this time the NPS records provided a ton. Besides the above info, I learned the name of Cook's wife, the names and birthdates of his children, where he was married, and who performed and witnessed the ceremony, etc. But I was curious about what type of merchant Cook was in Palmer, so went to the Palmer Public Library to review microfilm from the town newspaper at the time of the Civil War. I knew from reviewing newspapers of the era they were usually full of ads for the local stores and services, so I started looking at each issue starting about a year before Cook's initial enlistment, finding nothing until a one line article in the October 11th, 1862 edition of the Palmer Journal caught my eye: "SWORD PRESENTATION - The people of Palmer have presented Capt. F. C. Cook, of the Palmer company at Camp Banks, with a beautiful sword." Well, I actually jumped out of my chair and almost yelled in a library. I had never expected to actually learn this information more than 150 years after the fact. But two weeks later in the 10/25/1862 edition it got even better: "THANKS: Capt. F. C. Cook, of Co. H, 46th regiment, thanks the people of this town, in a card, for the presentation of a sword, sash, and belt." And on the next page: "A CARD, Camp Banks, Oct, 20 1862. To the donors of the beautiful sword, sash, and belt, presented to me by sergeant Anson A. Dorman: Gentlemen - Allow me to return to you my most heartfelt thanks for your generous and beautiful present. I shall feel proud to bear this token of your kind regards with me to the battlefield, and should it be my fate never to return, may this sword be returned to you be some comrade who can tell that my last act was with it to defend our liberties against the traitors of our country. Yours truly, F. C Cook, Commanding Co. H, 46th Regt., M.V." I never did find out what type of merchant Cook was, but I am much more pleased with what I did find.
Fast forward 2 years to early spring of this year. Every few years I join Ancestry.com for a month to do some research on any identified items I have picked up since my previous membership. I want to have more than one soldier to look up as it can be pretty hit or miss. While researching Cook, I again found almost all the information from the NPS records, but there was one link to a government records page that interested me "Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1861-1904", and there, in the middle of the page "Cook, Francis C, Capt Co H 46 Mass Inf, Cemetery: Oak Grove, Spfld Mass". This was less than 25 miles from my house! I was pleasantly surprised that my email to the cemetery was replied to within an hour, with the confirmation that the attendant walked down to verify that the military and family headstones were still present and upright, and the response included a map with the location of the grave marked and the route to it highlighted. I immediately decided that I had to visit the grave on Memorial Day this year and bring the sword with me. Memorial Day was bright and beautiful. It only took a few minutes to find the gravesite, since the veterans' graves were decorated with small flags for the holiday. His was the third flag marked grave I looked at. The grave is an older section of the cemetery, and while I could here the sounds of children playing in the swing area, and see people visiting other graves in the distance, I had this section to myself. I don't think anyone else even noticed me, but tt was with a great sense of peace and completion that I put an old fashioned bouquet of lilacs (probably the first flowers that adorned that grave in over a hundred years), a picture of Cook in GAR uniform, and finally his sword, on his gravesite, and then just knelt there for about 10 minutes. You know the feeling - it was just like the one I get each time I visit Gettysburg. People that I have shown the photos to have also remarked about the feelings elicited in them, a tingle, goosebumps. I know I will have to visit the grave again, and bring along some of my younger relatives. So maybe the tale of the Mass. Captain's sword really isn't complete after all.

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Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,045
Looks like a very fine artifact!

Mind if I ask what an item like this sells for?
 

bobinwmass

Private
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Messages
33
Let's just say it was neither a bargain basement price or overly exorbitant. I thought it was a fair retail price and in line with what the other major dealers ask for similar weapons. If it were not from a local soldier then I would not have bought it. But glad I did as I have enjoyed the search.
 

John Winn

Captain
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Messages
6,598
Location
State of Jefferson
That's a great story, indeed, and nice photos. I admit, though, that one of the first things that I thought of was that I wanted to re-set his military stone (cemetery preservation being one of my passions).

Thanks for sharing.
 

MORESMOKE

Cadet
Joined
Apr 11, 2019
Messages
2
Wonderful history. We all love this history but your connection to the past and a specific family from the past is extra special. Good stuff.
 

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