Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1125: Capt. Israel Smith's Civil War Schuyler, Hartley & Graham Sword

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Historic Cased Civil War Schuyler, Hartley & Graham Rich Presentation Officer Sword with a Figural Statue Hilt and Scabbard Presentation Inscribed to Captain Israel C. Smith of the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry and 10th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $40,000 - $60,000

Historic Cased Civil War Schuyler, Hartley & Graham Rich Presentation Officer Sword with a Figural Statue Hilt and Scabbard Presentation Inscribed to Captain Israel C. Smith of the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry and 10th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
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Item Interest: Very Active
Catalog Page: 99
Class: Other

This incredible sword's pattern is pictured on page 152 of the 1861 Schuyler, Hartley & Graham catalog where it is item No. 437 in the "Rich Presentation Swords." The 32 3/4 inch, Damascus blade has 17 inch etched panels with scroll patterns, classical martial trophies, patriotic motifs, and gilt backgrounds. The hilt is gilt brass with a cast silver figural grip. The finial is in the shape of a bestial mask, and the guard has pierced acanthus scrollwork. The knucklebow has oak leave and accord patterns, and the impressive figural hilt is a rendition of an allegorical female figure in medieval style armor likely representing Liberty standing on a wyvern (likely meant to represent the Confederacy) and holding a large sword. The wyvern, her legs, arms, head, and helmet plume are all silver, and the rest is finished in gilded. A golden sword knot is fitted to the knuckleguard. The scabbard has gilt brass fittings with silver accents such as a laurel branch on the drag, band on the lower suspension band, and a cherub with a torch and wreath on the back of an eagle on the upper band. The silver body of the scabbard is inscribed "Presented to/Capt. Israel C. Smith/By the Members of the/COMPANY." It comes in a fitted hardwood case with navy velvet interior fitted to the sword and blank lid escutcheon. Israel Canton Smith (1838-1899) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, served as was a captain in the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry and later the colonel of the 10th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. He was also the acting inspector general on the staffs of Philip R. de Trobriand, Davis Tillson, Alvan C. Gillem, and George Stoneman. Prior to the war, Smith studied at Albion College and graduated in 1856. He then worked as a clerk and then in the lumber industry before studying law briefly. In 1859, he went to the West in search of gold but came home broke and returned to his legal studies and found work as a boatman prior to enlisting on May 13, 1861, at Grand Rapids as a 2nd lieutenant in E Company of the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He was noted as a "strict disciplinarian" and was nicknamed "Bub" by the men. In June, the 3rd Infantry headed to Washington, D.C. Their first battle was at Blackburn's Ford on July 18 after which Smith was promoted to adjutant. He was shot in the shoulder while leading a charge during the fighting at Groveton, Virginia, near Bull Run on August 29, 1862. The 3rd was involved in a "severe engagement" with General Jackson's Confederate corps and then the troops under General Longstreet who relieved Jackson. Longstreet forced Union General Pope's command into a retreat. Smith returned to Michigan on leave to recuperate and returned later that year to serve on the staff of General Hiram Berry at Fredericksburg, Maryland, on December 13, 1862. He then served as the acting assistant inspector general of the 3rd Brigade, First Division, Third Corps. from March 23 through June of 1863 and was on the staff of General Samuel B. Hayman of the Third Brigade at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863. He was part of the famous "night charge" that ultimately left Stonewall Jackson mortally wounded when Jackson's own men fired upon him as he returned to their lines. Smith charged in on his horse when the line broke and had his horse struck in the neck by a cannon ball but dismounted and led the men, including in recapturing Union artillery. He was also wounded at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, where Smith was again fighting against General Longstreet's command. After repositioning men to fill a gap in the line to stop Longstreet's charge, he rallied his men, but a shot passed through his horse's shoulder and struck Smith in the leg, fracturing the bone just below his right knee. He was again sent back to Michigan to recover. The local papers reported that his recovery was going well by the end of the month and that he would return to command soon, but private papers indicate that things were not going as well and on August 11, 1863, he was still confined to his room. On the 22nd, he was promoted to major and transferred to the 10th Michigan Cavalry and assigned to command at Camp Kellogg. The 10th Michigan Cavalry was organized during the summer and fall of 1863. Smith is noted as having "won merited distinction in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, in the latter of which he was seriously wounded while serving on the staff of General De Trobriand..." Smith and the regiment left Michigan for Lexington, Kentucky, on December 1, 1863, and joined the Army of the Ohio. In Tennessee, Smith led advances of the infantry corps in reconnoitering the Confederate lines. He was in command of the First Battalion during the reconnaissance to Russellville, Tennessee in late March. Lt. Wallace W. Dickinson, formerly of the K Company of the 3rd Michigan wrote at that time that Smith was "universally liked by officers and men. The boys say, 'He's got the fight in him.'" The following spring on April 25, 1864, Smith led the charge during the attack on the fort at Watauga Bridge and was the first man to cross the Confederate parapet and charged General John Morgan's men at Morristown. His men drove Morgan from the field. A report noted that "Col. Trowbridge and Major Smith are not the men to retire without a vigorous effort to accomplish the object of their mission...A more gallant charge was never made..." On May 11, Smith was sent to Knoxville to serve as assistant inspector general on General David Tillson's staff, but returned to the 10th Cavalry by August. When they left to attack Carter Station, Smith was with them. "Maj. Smith, who is always sure to be with us if there is a prospect of a fight ahead, commanded the 1st battalion..." Later that month, he was again on staff duty, this time with General Gillem and was then requested to report to General Tillson and take command at Strawberry Plains. With less than 100 men, his men were ambushed by a Confederate regiment, but he led them in a charge and broke through the Confederate lines and initially captured 60 of them. During the pursuit, he found himself charging right into General Wheeler's camp of several thousand Confederates and fell back with the enemy in hot pursuit for five miles. Only he and 18 of his men returned, but they had completed their mission and had vital intel for higher command. It was noted as "perhaps, one of the most gallant charges of the war, and had much to do in saving the Plains, by consuming the enemy's time and causing a diversion." That November, he was ordered to assist General Gillem at Bull's Gap where he faced General John C. Breckenridge's command. When they came under attack, the artillery piece they had on a train car initially tore the Confederates to shreds, but the engineer fled when they came under fire, leaving Smith and his men 40 miles from Union lines, dismounted, and alone against around 3,500 men after Gillem's troops fled. He held his ground and gave Breckenridge's command heavy fire at close range, temporarily halting their advance, but Smith was forced to withdraw to the woods and worked his way back to Strawberry Plains. He was then appointed assistant inspector general on General George Stoneman's staff in the Department of the Cumberland. In the spring of 1865, Stoneman placed Smith in command of two squadrons and ordered them to charge the Confederate batteries at Salisbury, North Carolina. With their carbine fire and yells, they drove the Confederates back. When the Confederates reformed, Smith had another horse shot out from under him and was superficially cut by a fragment of the shell. With fresh forces, he again charged the Confederates and captured the first piece of Confederate artillery and the battery's flag. All of the Confederate artillery and 2,000 prisoners were shortly captured, but Smith's fight continued on. In command of two regiments the following day, they struck out to attack the Confederate cavalry. That night, in command of four squadrons, his men were fired upon five times by Confederate forces along the road to Statesville, but they drove their assailants away, reportedly without firing a shot. He soon returned back to General Gillem's staff at Chattanooga where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 10th Michigan Cavalry. In late April as the war was coming to a close, General Tillson wrote to the adjutant general in Washington with a recommendation that Smith "be appointed Colonel of the First U.S.C. Artillery, Heavy. Lieutenant Colonel Smith has served under my command, or in immediate observation for the past 18 months. His conspicuous courage, capacity and gallantry have made him an object of admiration of the entire command. He has upon his person several scars for wounds received in battle, in which he has repeatedly exhibited the most distinguished bravery and fortitude. I know of no officer of his rank possessing a more brilliant and deserving record in the entire army. The undersigned raised and organized the First U.S.C. Artillery, Heavy, and feels warmly interested in its reputation and success, and feels quite sure that in neither of the respects will the Regiment be inferior to any in the service, should Colonel Smith be made its Commander." Major General Stoneman also approved and wrote his own testimony of Smith's merits, noting that they were "unsurpassed by any officer of may acquaintance..." Provisional Governor Parson Brownlow of Tennessee presented Smith with a bronze statue of a thoroughbred horse. Smith was appointed 2nd lieutenant in the 8th U.S. Cavalry, but opted to return to civilian life when the war came to an end and requested to rejoin the 10th in Memphis. He was promoted to their colonel and took command when Colonel Trowbridge departed. He received a brevet promotion to brigadier general and mustered out with his men on November 11, 1865. After the war, Smith worked as the general manager of the National Hotel in Grand Rapids. He married in 1867 and then left for Kansas City to where he leased the Pacific Hotel. He soon moved to Denver and owned cattle ranches in Colorado and New Mexico. In Denver, he was the commander of the Governor's Guards in Denver. He returned to Grand Rapids in 1873, and was the commander of the Grand Rapids Guards (Company C of the 2nd Regiment) and then took command as colonel of the regiment. He then became brigadier general of the Michigan State Troops from 1884-1889. He also served as a fire marshal, superintendent of police, and IRS collector after the war. His death was reported as due to an accidental discharge of his gun while hunting and was widely reported. His only son, Fitz Smith, was serving in the U.S. 20th Infantry in the Philippines at the time.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine overall. The blade displays distinct etching, visible Damascus patterns, 75% plus original gold wash, some spots of minor patination and spotting, and mild wear mostly from age and being drawn from the scabbard. The hilt retains strong original gild finish and distinct designs throughout. The grip displays attractive aged patina on the silver and some light fading of the gilding. The blade to hilt fit remains excellent, and the sword retains the leather washer. The scabbard has mellow aged patina and a distinct historic inscription on the body, some minor dings and dents, aged patina on the fittings, and minor overall wear. The case is also very fine and has mild age and storage related wear. This is an incredible Civil War presentation sword inscribed to a Union commanding officer who led numerous charges in battle, had multiple horse shot out from under him, and suffered a serious wound at Gettysburg but returned to the fight in the war until victory and the Union were secured.

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