Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3083: Historic Dual Presentation War of 1812 British HMS Guerriere Swo

Auction Date: December 6, 2015

Historic Dual Presentation War of 1812 British HMS Guerriere Sword Surrendered Aboard The U.S.S Constitution "Old Iron Sides" and Later Presented and Inscribed to Edward Z.C. Judson A.K.A. Famed Wild West Dime Novelist Ned Buntline and Formerly Displayed at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $45,000 - $75,000

Historic Dual Presentation War of 1812 British HMS Guerriere Sword Surrendered Aboard The U.S.S Constitution "Old Iron Sides" and Later Presented and Inscribed to Edward Z.C. Judson A.K.A. Famed Wild West Dime Novelist Ned Buntline and Formerly Displayed at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 6501
Catalog Page: 42
Class: Other

This British sword was a war trophy from the battle between the HMS Guerriere and U.S.S. Constitution during the War of 1812. The overall length of the sword is 29 inches, and the straight, undecorated blade with broad upper fuller running the entire length is 24 3/4 x 3/4 inches. A letter from author and sword expert Richard Bezdek of The Swordsman states that the sword is a circa 1805 Patten Naval Officer's Sword designed for the use of captains, commanders, and commodores only and that the use of a wooden grip suggests it was for the rank of captain. He also note the incredible rarity of any swords of this pattern and states "A Sword captured from the captain of the H.M.S. Guerrier by an officer of the U.S.S. Constitution during this famous sea battel of the War of 1812, which was later presented to a U.S. Naval officer must be considered one of the most important and desirable swords in the history of the United States Navy. . .There is no other maritime artifact that would equal this sword in value. . ." The sword has a stirrup hilt, out-curved and deeply grooved gilded knucklebow. The quillon terminates in a decorative scroll with leaf pattern. The langets on each side display high relief anchor below a floral blossom. It has a lion head pommel grasping small round ring. The white and brown bone grip is checkered and wrapped with twisted brass wire. The black leather scabbard is 25 inches long with brass throat and brass floral decorated hook. The throat has an inscription: "Taken at the capture of the/British Frigate Guerriere in 1812/by an officer of the U.S./Frigate Constitution" and "From Commodore Morris USN/to/Edward Z.C. Judson". Included with the sword are a display case, an artifact analysis by the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, articles on the Constitution, a copy of a letter from Judson to the Secretary of the Navy upon receiving his appointment as a midshipman, and a letter of provenance from William Tennet Stockton III, the decedent of William T. Stockton who received the sword from Judson. The U.S.S. Constitution is the most famous of all U.S. Navy ships and was named by President George Washington and launched in 1797. She was one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. Within a year of her completion, the Constitution was involved in the naval battles while protecting American merchant vessels from French harassment in the Quasi-War. At the very beginning of the 19th century, the Constitution was the key arm of American naval power in the First Barbary War. The ship is most famous for her actions during the War of 1812; “Old Iron Sides” captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships: HMS Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant. The battle with HMS Guerriere earned the Constitution her famous nickname and the public adoration that has kept her afloat ever since. The HMS Guerrier was first sighted roughly 600 miles east of Boston on August 12, 1812. Upon confrontation with the Constitution, the Guerriere opened fire on the Constitution but did little damage. The British cannon balls literally bounced off the sides of the Constitution’s hull. One of the American sailors reportedly called out, "Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” After several exchanges of cannon fire, the Constitution was able to get into position just 25 yards from her opponent. After another exchange the Guerriere’s mizzenmast was tappled, the two ships collided, and then became entangled. The Constitution continued to fire broadsides into the largely crippled Guerrier while the two ships rotated. Upon separation, the Guerriere's foremast collapsed followed by the mainmast. With one third of her crew wounded or killed, the Guerriere’s captain surrendered the disabled ship. The Guerriere was then burned, and her remaining crew was taken back to Boston as prisoners. Upon his arrival, Captain Hull found that he, his men, and the USS Constitution were recognized as national heroes. The Constitution's victory turned the tide of the naval theater of the war and was an impressive defeat by the young United States over the world's most dominant naval power. The Constitution remained an important symbol for the U.S. Navy well into the 19th century. She was retire from active service in 1881 and then designated a museum ship in 1907. She has since completed several tours to celebrate various anniversaries including one in August 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her victory over the HMS Guerriere. The sword was reportedly first presented by Captain Darces of the Guerriere to Captain Hull during the surrender proceedings, but Hull instead requested Darces’ hat. The sword was then passed to another officer and finally given to First Lieutenant Charles Morris who had been badly wounded in the battle for his bravery. Morris survived his wounds and was given the command of the USS John Adams and the USS Congress and was later the commandant of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Boston Navy Yard, and was also on the Board of Navy Commissioners from 1823 to 1827 and 1832 to 1841. The sword was later given to Midshipman Z.C. Judson, USN (1823-1886) shortly after he jumped into the East River to rescue multiple people who had been thrown overboard during a ferry accident. Judson served on multiple vessels including the sloop Boston in the West Indies and the schooner Otsego in Florida during the Second Seminole War. He is best known for writing dime novels under the pseudonym Ned Buntline. A “buntline” is a line for restraining the loose center of a sail while it is furled. His earliest works were inspired by his navy experiences such as "The King of the Sea: A Tale of the Fearless and Free" and "The Red Revenger or the Pirate King of the Florida's". He is most famous for his Wild West dime novels that showcased "Wild Bill" Hickock and "Buffalo Bill" Cody. The sword was passed on to William Tennent Stockton who had likely met Judson in Florida. Like Judson, he also served during the Second Seminole War. He settled in Quincy, Florida, where he ran a stagecoach line and served several terms as mayor. According to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum artifact survey, "Midshipman Judson may have traded the sword for goods or services or lost it in a card game. In any event, the sword was passed down beginning in 1869 to its current owner through three additional generations of William Tennent Stockton's." It was previously on display at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

Rating Definition:

Very good. The blade shows a mottled gray patina with some very scattered light pitting. The grip is missing a minor chip and a section of twisted wire. The hilt and scabbard hardware retain 80% original gilt. The scabbard is good with age cracking and an area of flaking on the leather. The custom case is fine as revarnished.

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