Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1143: Presentation Horstmann & Sons Model 1860 Cavalry Officer's Saber

Auction Date: December 5, 2020

Historic Documented Horstmann & Sons Model 1860 Cavalry Officer's Presentation Saber and Scabbard Presented to Lieutenant Heber S. Thompson of the 7th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry ("The Saber Regiment") with Books and Research

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $9,000 - $13,000

Historic Documented Horstmann & Sons Model 1860 Cavalry Officer's Presentation Saber and Scabbard Presented to Lieutenant Heber S. Thompson of the 7th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry ("The Saber Regiment") with Books and Research

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 928
Item Interest: Active
Catalog Page: 118
Class: Other

The saber has a 35 inch lightly curved blade decorated with floral and martial etching that includes WH HORSTMANN/& SONS/PHILADEL, PA." on the right above a Weyersberg maker's marks and "IRON PROOF" on the spine. The gilded brass hilt has scroll, patriotic eagle, and classical motifs including a Gorgoneion motif on the pommel and has a wire wrapped shagreen grip. The scabbard has a browned body and bright gilded brass furniture with an eagle, shield and "E PLURIBUS UNUM" banner engraved on the upper band, Columbia with a shield and sword leaning on a classical pillar with "LIBERTY" and "UNION" marked on it on the lower band, and Justice on the drag along with classical scroll and acanthus patterns and an acorn drag tip. The oval inscription panel reads: "Presented to /Lieut. Heber S. Thompson/by the Members of Co. F,/7th P.V. Cavalry, August 1st 1862." Heber Samuel Thompson (1840-1911) was a native of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Yale after receiving a ten day furlough to return to the college to take his final examinations in 1861. He initially served in the Washington Artillerists who arrived in Washington, D.C., on April 18, 1861, less than a week after the firing on Fort Sumter. Among the men was 65 year escaped former slave Nick Biddle who suffered a blow to the head that left bone exposed as they passed through Baltimore. The violence in Baltimore became known as the Pratt Street Riots or Pratt Street Massacre and ended with four soldiers and twelve civilians dead and many others wounded. Thompson even wrote, "Powder had been sprinkled by the mob on the floor of the cars in the hope that a soldier carelessly striking a match in the darkened interior of the car might blow himself and his comrades to perdition." President Lincoln personally greeted the men when they arrived in the capitol. As one of the first volunteer units to reach the capital, they have been called "The First Defenders." This unit was incorporated in the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry until they mustered out on July 29, 1861. He then enrolled in the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry on September 16, 1861, as a first lieutenant. In August of 1862, he would have been stationed in Tennessee and later that month the 7th fought in the raid on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. He was promoted to captain in May of 1863 and has been reported to have engaged in more than one hundred engagements. In January-August of 1864, he was inspector of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Cumberland. He was captured after his horse was killed at Lovejoy's Station on August 20, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign. In his diary, he wrote, "The ball struck my mare full in the breast, when she reared up on her hind legs and fell over backwards dead. I extricated myself from the saddle and started for the rebel rear. Here, however, I came upon about a dozen rebels. Turning back, I had gone but a few steps before several bullets came whistling close by me. At the same time, three or four Rebels, ordered me to halt. Looking around, I saw I was surrounded by Rebels, and so surrendered at discretion." He was ill with fever in a Confederate hospital when on parole. He was promoted to major but declined and reigned and mustered out on January 24, 1865. He received praise for his service at the battles of Sparta, Shelbyville, Chickamauga, and Lovejoy's Station. He lived briefly in Richmond before returning to his hometown and engaging in the iron and hardware business with his brother until 1871 when he received a masters of arts from Yale and began working as a civil and mining engineer, including as an agent for the Board of Directors of City Trusts of Philadelphia and was the general manager of Girard Water Co. and held a variety of businesses positions. While inspecting a mine in 1895, he was nearly killed in an explosion that claimed the lives of six miners. He was the president of the First Defenders' Association in 1909-1910, wrote "The First Defenders" in 1910 (copy included), and died in 1911. The sword and much of Thompson's life is documented in the included copy of "North South Trader's Civil War" Vol. 40, No. 2, 2017 in the article "Heber Thompson, 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry" by Rycroft which indicates he restored the sword after purchasing it. The sword retained considerable original gilding and brown finish under a layer of grime and an attempted nickel-zinc plating on the scabbard. Also included is a research binder with copies of primary and secondary source material on Thompson, and reprints of "Diary of Capt. Heber S. Thompson" from May to December of 1864, "The Saber Regiment: History of the 7th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, 1861-1865" by Colonel William B. Sipes who raised the unit (Thompson was on the publication committee for the book), and "Minty and the Cavalry: A History of Cavalry Campaigns in the Western Armies" by Vale. Also includes a red officer's sash.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with Exceptionally bright blade exhibiting distinct etched patterns, some minor oxidation, and light wear; considerable original gilding on the hilt along with some protective wax, and minor overall wear. The grip has been nicely re-wrapped, and the blade washer carefully replaced. The scabbard retains most of the original brown on the body, crisp engraving and designs, original gold in the protected areas, aged patina on the brass, and slightly loose inscription panel. The sash is very good with minor wear. Overall, a beautiful, identified, Civil War cavalry officer's saber. Provenance: Jay Reid Collection.

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