A fine and historic Civil War sword presented Major General Ambrose E. Burnisde
Lot 5191
An important and historic figural hilt presentation sword given to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside by the United States Sanitary Commission
Sold for US$ 271,000 inc. premium
Auction Details
A fine and historic Civil War sword presented Major General Ambrose E. Burnisde
Lot Details
An important and historic figural hilt presentation sword given to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside by the United States Sanitary Commission
New York Metropolitan Fair, April 22, 1864
Straight 33 1/2 inch fullered blade, the 21 inch gilt lower section with etched and engraved panels in-the-white; one side with scrollwork and panoplies of arms and banners flanking an extensive battle scene; the other with scrollwork and panoplies, U.S. and Federal eagle with E Pluribus Unum riband. Gilt spine etched with meander and marked Iron Proof. Ricasso marked Clauberg with his mark on one side and Schuyler, Hartley/& Graham/New York on the reverse. Gilt bronze hilt comprising: large, downcurving shell finely molded with a wharf scene featuring a brick lighthouse, sailing ships and a steam ship, all above an E Pluribus Unum riband and laurel wreath and enclosed at the sides by sheafs and above with an anchor and two dolphins in full relief, reverse of shell engraved F. Delacour & Backes/a Paris; quillon block molded with foliage, the front with vacant escutcheon surmounted by an embattled tower, the back with escutcheon engraved with the General's monogram AEB; knucklebow with the central figure of a merbaby, the lower section entwined by his bifurcated tail, the upper section with rope; pommel molded with scrolls, the front with Federal shield, the whole surmounted by an embattled tower; figural hilt, an allegorical group of three maidens in neo-classical dress, one holding a caduceus, the second a sheaf of wheat and the third with a dolphin to one side and a tiller or oar to the other; at their feet a dolphin. Silvered scabbard, the pierced, gilt brass mounts molded with scrollwork and panoplies of arms a la antique and engraved with presentation panel Presented to/Major Genl A.E. Burnside/by his friends through the/Metropoliton (sic) Fair/in aid of the/United States Sanitary Commission/New York, April 22nd 1864/'By Courage and Faith'."
Condition: Excellent. Blade showing some scattered minor spotting and light wear to gilding at ricasso. Hilt and scabbard mounts excellent and retaining much of the gilt finish, the quillon missing.
See Illustration

Footnotes

  • Provenance: By direct family descent from Colonel Robert Hale Ives Goddard, who served as an aide-de-camp with General Burnside. Ives, from a prominent Rhode Island family, had served as a private in the 1st Rhode Island Militia in Burnside's brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. His brothers William and Francis were both officers with the same regiment and Burnside was clearly a family friend. In an unpublished letter from Burnside to either William or Francis Goddard dated August of 1861 and kindly furnished by the Rhode Island Historical Society, Burnside refers to Captain Goddard when he writes He has always been a favorite of mine but he far excels in point of efficiency my affections-I regard him as our - finest staff officer I am sure... Col. Ives gave the eulogy at the General's funeral and the sword was probably bequeathed to him in Burnside's will. A contemporary description of the funeral describes his coffin as having two swords on it, with an American flag, and describes the swords fully enough to identify this as one of them.
    Note: The United Stated Sanitary Commission was a private relief agency created in 1861 for the support of sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Volunteers numbered in the thousands and raised an estimated five million dollars in cash and some fifteen million in donated supplies. Much of the fund raising was done through the organization's Metropolitan Fairs held around the country. The USSC presented a number of swords during the 1864 New York Metropolitan Fair to army and navy heroes and to prominent officers such as Burnside and U.S. Grant. For two examples see Civil War Army Swords by John H. Thillmann, pages 489-91 for the sword presented to General Absalom Baird and page 521 for the Tiffany sword presented to General U.S. Grant.
    Thanks to the Rhode Island Historical Society for their assistance.
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