Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 153: Tiffany & Co. Silver Civil War Officers Sword of General Halleck

Auction Date: September 11, 2020

Recently Discovered, Historic, Documented Tiffany & Co. Silver Civil War Officer's Sword with Columbia Figural Hilt and Scabbard Inscribed to Major General Henry W. Halleck Just Five Months Before He was Promoted by Lincoln to General-in-Chief of All of the Union Armies

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $35,000 - $55,000

Recently Discovered, Historic, Documented Tiffany & Co. Silver Civil War Officer's Sword with Columbia Figural Hilt and Scabbard Inscribed to Major General Henry W. Halleck Just Five Months Before He was Promoted by Lincoln to General-in-Chief of All of the Union Armies

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Catalog Page: 149
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This incredible officer's sword from Tiffany & Co. of New York was presented to Union Major General Henry Wager Halleck (1815-1872). The presentation inscription on the scabbard between the suspension bands reads: "Presented/to/Major Genl. H. W. Halleck./by the/Ladies of St. Louis. Mo./March 1862." The reverses of the scabbard has "TIFFANY & CO." in a banner over "QUALITY/925.1000" (sterling silver). The scabbard ornamentation primarily consists of floral patterns along with a classical "green man" mask on both sides of the upper band. The langet has Hercules strangling the Nemean lion. The finial is a ram's head. The knuckle bow is decorated with knotted snakes surrounding Medusa's severed head (known as a gorgoneion, a classic apotropaic emblem). The grip has a classical design of a stand of arms over a helmeted soldier's head and wreath on the right side and a winged horn with stars over the goddess Pheme/Fama (goddess/personification of fame and renown) on the left. The pommel is a bust of Freedom/Columbia. The blade is 32 3/4 inches long, has fullers at the tip, "U.S." among the etching on the left, "WARRANTED TO CUT/WROUGHT IRON" on the left ricasso, a patriotic eagle and "E PLURIBUS UNUM" motif among the etching on the right, and "TIFFANY & CO./NEW YORK" on the right ricasso. It is illustrated and documented in "Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America Volume 2" from 1868 by Benson John Lossing. "The women of St. Louis, desirous of testifying their admiration of General Halleck, in whose Department and by whose troops these victories had been achieved [referencing Union victories in the Western Theater of the war, particularly the fall of Fort Donelson] (and because of his energy in suppressing secession in Missouri), ordered an elegant sword to be made by Tiffany & Co., of New York, to be presented to him in their name. This was done in the parlor of the Planters' Hotel in St. Louis, on the evening of the 17th of March, 1862, by Mrs. Helen Budd, who spoke on behalf of the donors. In his brief reply, General Halleck assured the women of St. Louis that it should be 'used in the defense of their happiness, their rights, and their honor, and solely in behalf of justice.' The weapon was an elegant one, richly decorated with classical designs." It can be seen worn by Halleck in a period portrait available through the Library of Congress as well a similar carte de visite. It was presented the same month President Abraham Lincoln gave Halleck command of all Union forces between the Missouri River and Knoxville, Tennessee, (Department of the Mississippi) and just five months before Halleck was promoted to general-in-chief of all of the Union armies. The location of the presentation, the Planter's House Hotel, was significant. The hotel hosted many illustrious guests in the period and was also the sight of a failed attempt by Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson on June 11, 1861, to partition the state between the Unionists and Secessionists that resulted in the internal civil war between Missourians early in the war. It is also recorded in the German language Westliche Post of St. Louis on March 18, 1862, which confirms it was presented by Helen W. Budd and lists it as valued at $400. She was born in 1844 and was the daughter of George Knight Budd (1802-1875), a wealthy businessman originally from Philadelphia who came to St. Louis in 1835. Unfortunately little is known about her, but her father was well-connected and involved in local politics and financial institutions, including the Boatmen’s Savings Institution which he helped form to aid the working class in St. Louis and counted Ulysses S. Grant among their depositors. During the war, Budd purchased and sold Union war bonds to support the war effort. Another Tiffany & Co. officer's sword was presented by Halleck to William Tecumseh Sherman for his success at the Battle of Shiloh and resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (accession number: 59388). Halleck, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1839, was among the U.S.'s greatest military minds in the antebellum and Civil War eras. Ulysses S. Grant, originally one of Halleck's subordinates, called him "one of the greatest men of the age," and Sherman called him the "directing genius." He was an officer in the Engineer Corps and assistant professor of Engineering at West Point in the 1840s. His report, "The Means of National Defence" in 1843 was widely lauded and was published at the request of the Senate. He studied European fortifications in 1844, gave lectures on military tactics, and published his research as "Elements of Military Art and Science" which essentially became the textbook used by generals during the Civil War. His studies of fortifications and defensive actions led him to be a cautious commander more keen to hold his ground than chase the enemy. He was stationed in California during the Mexican-American War and drafted California's state constitution. He was offered a position at Harvard but declined and instead remained in the Engineer Corps but ultimately resigned in 1854 to pursue a more lucrative career in law and business, including as president of the Pacific and Atlantic Railroad and the Almaden Mining Company. He accepted the position as major general of California's militia in 1860 as war loomed on the horizon. When he rejoined the U.S. Army in 1861, he received the same rank, which placed him among the five highest ranking generals in the Army. That same year, he also published another book, "International Law, or Rules Regulating the Intercourse of States in Peace and War." Of particular note in relation to the presentation of this sword, Halleck was sent to St. Louis to replace John C. Fremont as commander of the Department of the Missouri and arrived in November. He immediately set to work weeding out corruption and set down harsh measures to end the bitter partisan violence in Missouri and succeeded in preventing the state from seceding outright and joining the Confederacy. Some of his measures, such as censoring the press, were undoubtedly unconstitutional but helped secure the state. While Union forces in the Eastern Theater suffered humiliating defeats early in the war. The Western Theater in the first two years saw more Union success on the battlefield, and Halleck and his officers, such as Ulysses S. Grant, led the Union in multiple victories and secured the western border states and the Mississippi River, including the surrender of Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862, to General Ulysses S. Grant which led to the loss of 13,846 Confederate troops, mostly captured or missing. The victory thrilled Union supporters and terrified the Confederate government and led to accolades for Grant and Halleck, his superior officer. These victories were important for the Union war effort and morale. In July of 1862, he was promoted to general-in-chief of all of the Union armies and held the position until replaced by General Ulysses S. Grant in March of 1864. Due to his calculating mind and well-known studies noted above, he was known as "Old Brains." The nickname was used derisively but was accepted by Halleck. In addition to his scholarly works, this moniker reflected his headstrong, cautious, and exacting nature. When Grant replaced him as general-in-chief, he became Grant's chief of staff, a role more suited to his personality and strategic mind, and ensured Grant's armies were supplied and able to finally defeat the Confederate armies. Though Lincoln had complaints about Halleck's cautious approach to the war, Halleck was one of Lincoln's pallbearers. Halleck remained in the service during Reconstruction, and, given he was an exceptional military administrator, he was made the commander of the Military Division of the South based in Louisville, Kentucky, and was working in that role when he died on January 9, 1872, after spending nearly his entire adult life in the service of our country. He left considerable wealth behind from his business and land speculation ventures to his wife, Elizabeth, a granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, and his only son, Henry Wager Halleck Jr. Halleck is arguably one of the most influential military strategists of the Civil War and held multiple top commands and remained influential through the war's end. Where the sword went after his death is not clear. His son died young, and his wife remarried and lived in New York. The sword was only recently rediscovered in the attic of a home in northwestern Indiana near Chicago and appears to have been essentially untouched for decades. How the previous family acquired it is unknown at this time.

Rating Definition:

Very fine in genuine "out of the attic" condition with dark, nearly black, patina on the vast majority of the external surfaces, crisp etching and only minor surface pitting on the very fine bright blade indicating it has rarely been removed from its scabbard over the last 158 years, and distinct designs on the hilt which has mild age and storage related wear. The scabbard is also mostly untouched aside from a few dents in the midsection, one of which has resulted in a slight hole, and displays the crisp historical inscription, multiple design elements, and the Tiffany & Co. banner. This sword is easily the most significant recently discovered Civil War officer's swords we have ever had the pleasure of bringing to auction. Halleck was one of just four generals-in-chief of the Union Armies, and one of the greatest military minds of his generation.

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