Lot #1141
Lot #1143

Lot 1142: M1840 Foot Officer's Sword & Scabbard Inscribed to Gen. Burnside

Civil War W.H. Horstmann & Sons Model 1840 Foot Officer's Sword with Scabbard Inscribed to Union General and First National Rifle Association President Ambrose E. Burnside

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Lot 1142: M1840 Foot Officer's Sword & Scabbard Inscribed to Gen. Burnside

Civil War W.H. Horstmann & Sons Model 1840 Foot Officer's Sword with Scabbard Inscribed to Union General and First National Rifle Association President Ambrose E. Burnside

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

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

Civil War W.H. Horstmann & Sons Model 1840 Foot Officer's Sword with Scabbard Inscribed to Union General and First National Rifle Association President Ambrose E. Burnside

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
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Item Views: 531
Item Interest: Very Active
Catalog Page: 116
Class: Other
Description:

The sword has a 32 3/4 inch blade with 17 inch etched panels with oak leaves, acorns, patriotic motifs, and floral patterns along with the etched "W.H./HORSTMANN/* SONS/PHILADELPHIA" marking over the Gebruder Weyersberg "King's Head" maker's mark. The brass hilt has some floral decoration and a folding languet and has a sword knot. The scabbard has floral and eagle and shield engraving. The reverse between the suspension band is inscribed: "To Genl. A. E. Burnside from the/friends of Co F of Newport/1st Regt. R. I. D. M." Included excerpts from Rhode Island newspapers in August 1861 record Burnsides reception and a parade in Newport, including the presentation of a sword. Mayor Robert Cranston's address included: "I have now one other duty to perform. It is my peculiar pleasure, in behalf of the friends of company F in the 1st Rhode Island regiment, to present to you this sword and this full set of personal and horse equipments for a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army. In delivering you this sword I know full well that whenever your country calls upon you to defend her constitution and protect this glorious Union and enforce its laws promptly and justly, that [this] blade will be drawn, and as long as your arm is nerved it will never be sheathed until the Union is preserved and the laws are vindicated. I place it in your hands with the greatest confidence." Burnside's remarks included, "I shall cherish these gifts as among the most precious that I have ever received. May I never as a soldier or citizen commit any act that shall disgrace this sword. I will use it only in the defense of the country. As I have said to my old regiment, I have no wish beyond the permanency of this government; but I do not feel like sheathing my sword until the integrity of the country is restored." This sword was previously on loan to the National Park Service and displayed at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center from November 10, 2012, until late January 2013 (copies of documents included) and news reports claimed it to be "believed to be Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's favorite" and "likely the one Burnside carried at the Battle of Fredericksburg." The latter apparently based on a drawing from December 14, 1862, but the sword in the drawing appears to be a Model 1850 given the curved blade and scabbard design and known photographs of him with a sword of that model. However, he is holding a Model 1840 similar to this one in a the photo titled "Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside of 1st Rhode Island Infantry Regiment and General Staff U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment with gauntlets and sword" from c. 1861 and a c. 1861 Brady studio portrait, both in the Library of Congress (E. Anthony carte de visite and modern prints included), and an engraved portrait from "The Life and Public Services of Ambrose E. Burnside: Soldier, Citizen, Statesman" by Benjamin Perley Poore also shows him wearing a sword of this pattern. He was also photographed with a different Model 1840 with an ivory grip. The Rhode Island State Legislature also presented Burnside a very elaborate sword while he was stationed at New Bern in North Carolina in June of 1862 in response to his victory at Roanoke Island. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-81) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1847 and resigned in 1853 to pursue the production of the Burnside breech-loading rifle. He sold his design before the design became a success in part due to a factory fire. The Burnside carbines were ultimately used widely in the Civil War, including by men under his command, but he made little off of the design in the antebellum era. Instead, prior to the war he worked in the railroad industry as the treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad where he worked under George B. McClellan. Abraham Lincoln was one of the railroad's lawyers. When the southern states seceded and then attacked Fort Sumter, Burnside returned to the military, initially as the colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the regiment inscribed on this sword. He was soon given command of a brigade and led them at the First Battle of Bull Run before receiving command of a division. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in August 1861 and was in command of the North Carolina Expeditionary Force which met with success in the Burnside Expedition that captured Elizabeth City. He received a promotion to major general in March 1862 after his victories at Roanoke Island and New Bern which were the first major Union victories in the Eastern Theater of the war. He was offered the command of the Army of the Potomac but demurred. At Antietam, Burnside oversaw the poorly planned attempt to attack the Confederate line by crossing "Burnside's Bridge" leaving his men under fire. His delays in breaking through combined with McClellan's fear of a counter attack are considered significant factors in why the bloody battle was ultimately largely a stalemate rather than a decisive victory. Lincoln blamed McClellan and put Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac, and this time Burnside accepted. At Fredericksburg, Burnside confirmed that he was not up to the task of commanding an entire army. The president had urged Burnside to capture Richmond as quickly as possible. The Army of the Potomac was hampered by delays in constructing pontoon bridges in order to allow attacks across the Rappahannock as well as Burnside not taking advantage of natural fording points in the river much as he had failed to do at Antietam. Again, the Confederate forces under Lee had time to prepare to meet the Union assault from high ground. After suffering heavy losses, some Union breakthroughs were achieved, but they were not followed up and ultimately the battle ended with a Confederate victory and 12,653 Union casualties. A subsequent offensive also ended in failure after it was hampered by rain, and Burnside resigned. He remained with the army as the commander of the IX Corps and was sent to the Western Theater where he captured and held Knoxville, Tennessee, before being transferred back east for the Overland Campaign reporting directly to General Ulysses S. Grant. Among the documents within the file with the sword is a May 12, 1864, order from 3:15 P.M. reading "Maj. Gen. Burnside, The 5th Corps is now moving up to the 6th and will together form a heavy Column of assault. Keep your Division commanders on the lookout to take advantage of any weakening on your front to meet it./U.S. Grant/ Lt. Gen." This would be during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House where Burnside and the IX Corps reported to Grant. The prior day Burnside's men had marched about in the rain for unknown reasons. That afternoon, he received orders to launch a surprise attack at 4 a.m. on the 12th. The attack initially on the eastern salient met success and 2,700 prisoners, but Confederate forces responded quickly and put up a stiff defense and recaptured two cannons and many of the prisoners Burnside's men had seized in the initial assault. Burnside's men pulled back and continued to exchange fire. Grant wrote to Burnside urging him to renew the attack. Burnside ordered his men to attack Heth's Salient to the south, but they were met with fierce rifle and artillery fire. When he was trying to launch another assault, Lee ordered an attack out of Heth's Salient on Burnside's men. The fighting was intense, but Willcox's division was able to repulse the Confederate assault. Grant wrote that while Burnside had failed to break through, his attacks had prevented Lee from reinforcing his lines in the Mule Shoe (aka The Bloody Angle) where the heaviest fighting took place, resulting in an estimated 17,000 casualties. Burnside and the IX Corps then moved to Petersburg where he oversaw the digging of a mine under the Confederate lines to allow Union forces to blow a hole in the line with explosives. The idea was sound, but the execution of the attack during The Battle of the Crater was a failure do to last minute changes in the plan. Initially, Burnside had intended to use a specially trained division of U.S. Colored Troops to lead the assault around the sides of the crater created by the explosion and through the gap. Instead, Meade ordered Burnside not to use the African-American troops supposedly fearing possible political repercussions if they were slaughtered. The replacement division was selected by drawing lots, and Brigadier General James H. Ledlie's 1st Division was selected. Ledlie did not properly prepare his men and was reportedly found behind the lines drunk and asleep during the attack. Instead of charging around the sides of the crater and utilizing the confusion in the Confederate lines to their advantage, the Union soldiers poured into the crater itself and did not advance rapidly. The Confederate forces were able to reform and fire down upon them. Burnside sent more men into the slaughter, and they eventually drove the Confederates back briefly before being pushed back, and the overall situation in the Siege of Petersburg remained unchanged. Burnside was initially censured and removed from command and placed on leave after the disaster, but he was eventually exonerated and Meade instead blamed for changing the plans over Burnside's objections. Burnside returned to his career in the railroad industry, including as the president of the Rhode Island Locomotive Works that replaced the Burnside Rifle Company after they completed their Civil War arms contracts, and their first steam engine was named for him. He also served as governor of Rhode Island in 1866-1869, first president of the National Rifle Association in 1871, and an officer of multiple veteran organizations, including as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1871-1873. In 1874, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and remained in office until his death in 1881. He lives on as the namesake for "sideburns."

Rating Definition:

Very good overall with dark aged patina on the hilt and scabbard, absent languet button, somewhat loose grip, and distinct etching and mottled gray patina and mild oxidation/pitting on the blade. The knot is good with moderate wear including torn and loose threads. This is a rare opportunity to get you hands on a Civil War sword inscribed to one of just five commanders of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.



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