Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3091: Fighting Bob Evans's Spanish-American War Sword

Auction Date: August 28, 2022

Historic Documented Spanish-American War Model 1852 Naval Officer's Presentation Sword and Silver Scabbard Inscribed to Captain Robley D. "Fighting Bob" Evans by the Crew of the Battleship Iowa

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $10,000 - $20,000

Historic Documented Spanish-American War Model 1852 Naval Officer's Presentation Sword and Silver Scabbard Inscribed to Captain Robley D. "Fighting Bob" Evans by the Crew of the Battleship Iowa

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
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Item Views: 507
Item Interest: Active
Catalog Page: 69
Class: Other
Description:

The 30 inch blade has floral, patriotic, and naval etching on the sides and spine with gilt backgrounds that includes "U.S.N." and "SHANNON./MILLER./* CRANE./NEW YORK" on the left and "Robley D. Evans." on the right. The gilt hilt has a "sea horse" and pierced scroll pattern guard, sea serpent finial, anchor and stars on the top of the pommel, a patriotic eagle and shield design on the pommel end, and a gilt wire and white shagreen grip. The scabbard has gilt fittings and a silvered body with engraved scroll, patriotic, and naval themed engraving between the drag and lower suspension band, Wyvern on the drag, floral and shell designs, "USN" monogram on the lower suspension band, and a fouled anchor on the upper band. A gilt sword knot is tied to the hilt. The silver body of the scabbard is inscribed "PRESENTED TO/CAPTAIN ROBLEY D. EVANS, U.S.N./by the crew of the BATTLESHIP/IOWA" between the suspension bands. The back side has "TO OUR HERO/TOO JUST TO TAKE A FALLEN FOE'S/WE GIVE THIS SWORD INSTEAD." The included framed letter from February 14, 1899, addressed from the "U.S.S. IOWA, First Rate" at San Francisco states: "Sir:- The members of this ship's company who had the high honor of serving you from San Juan to Santiago, beg leave to present this sword as a token of our affection and reverence. It had been our intention to make this presentation when you relinquished command, but owing to the disintegration of the crew following our arrival at New York in August last, and our hurried departure, it was not done. Coming at this late day, it will show you, sir, that this action is not from momentary impulse, but that the affection and respect of this crew for you is deep-rooted and lasting; and that the men of the battleship 'IOWA' will ever cherish the memory of their beloved commander. And with this sword we send our wishes for your health and happiness always. It is an assurance from us that you are more than a hero to a nation, you are a hero to your men." A July 12, 1980, bill of sale indicates this sword and the Civil War veterans presentation sword also in the auction were sold by W.L. Kallos and Carol R. Kallos to Joseph Florest. William L. Kallos (d. 2003) was a noted collector and dealer from Illinois. A stereo card from Underwood & Underwood labeled "The Battleship 'Iowa,' 'Fighting Bob' Evans, Captain/Copyright 1898 by Strohmeyer & Wyman." is also included. Documentation relating to Florest's research on this sword and the other in the sale are in the Evans memorbilia lot in this sale. Rear Admiral Robley Dunglison Evans (1846-1912) of Virginia had a long U.S. Navy military career stretching back to the American Civil War and ending in 1908 when he was the commander of the Great White Fleet at the beginning of their world tour. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, starting in 1860 after establishing residency in Utah and graduated early in 1863 and joined the Union war effort despite being from a southern slave owning family. His brother in fact fought for the Confederacy. In "A Sailor's Log," he wrote that, "no one can defend slavery as it existed in our Southern States, nor indeed in any form," but like many southerners of the time, he also wrote that the results of slavery "were not wholly bad" and claimed "The curse of slavery was to the white race and not the black." He led U.S. Marines in a charge on Confederate defenses during the Second Battle of Fort Fisher and was wounded four times but kept on fighting. He described his experience in "A Sailor's Log" as "A Duel to the Death" between him and a Confederate sharpshooter. The first wound was a bullet across his chest, the second in the left below the knee which he tied off with a hankerchief and then continued on, a third tore through his right knee preventing him from standing, and while laying wounded he took a fourth that took off the tip of one of his toes. He claimed to shoot the sharpshooter that had been targeting him through the throat with his revolver as he lay on the ground bleeding. When being attended to for these wounds after the battle, he drew his revolver to prevent his leg from being amputated, and said he'd kill six men before he'd let them take his leg despite doctors fearing he would lose his life without amputation. He survived with his legs more or less intact but permanently injured. His wounds forced him to leave the navy temperarily, but he was able to rejoin. His post-Civil War career involved travelling much of the world. As the commander of the Yorktown in the Pacific Squadron, he earned his nickname "Fighting Bob" during the 1891 Chilean Civil War after landing troops in Chile in support of U.S. interests following the incident of Chileans attacking the crew of the USS Baltimore and negotiated an end without the outbreak of war. When his own men were assaulted, he informed the Chilean officials that his men would shoot anyone that attacked them in the future. After returning to the States, he was promoted to captain and placed in command of the newly constructed battle cruiser USS New York, the largest naval vessel of the era. He took the ship on a cruise to Germany, and then returned to command the battleship Indiana, the most heavily armed and armored ship at the time. In 1897, he took command of the USS Iowa, considered the finest ship in the U.S. Navy, and traveled with the fleet to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Iowa was struck once during the engagement with the fort. At Santiago, he helped trap the Spanish fleet in the harbor. When the Spaniards struck out to fight. During the Battle of Santiago, the Iowa was hit twice, including a dangerous hit by the water line, but remained in the fight. The Americans emerged victorious, sinking the Pluton and running other vessels a ground in a vicious fight, including the flagship Vizcaya that was pursued by the Iowa and exploded. Evans sent his men to rescue the Spanish crew, and the rescued captain offered his sword as a sign of his surrender, but Evans refused it and invited his defeated and injured foe to his quarters instead. This is the incident referenced in the letter. The Iowa and Brooklyn are credited with 70% of the damage inflicted by the U.S. fleet in the battle, and the Iowa fired some 1,473 rounds in the fighting. The presentation of this sword was reported in the New York Times in the article "A Sword for Capt. R.D. Evans: The Gift of the Iowa's Crew Bears a Noteworthy Inscription." which discusses this sword, its inscription, and Evans's refusal to accept the Spanish captains sword. It notes that Evans responded to the presentation with a letter of his own reading: "My Old Shipmates: Your letter of Feb. 14, with the beautiful sword, came to me this morning as a complete surprise. That I had the respect and confidence of the brace crew of the Iowa I felt assured. Your conduct in action has proved that, but the feeling of personal affection that you have expressed moved me most deeply. Accept from me, please, every member of the old gang, my sincere thanks. God bless each and every one, and give you long life in defense of your country. Your faithful friend, R.D. Evans, Captain, U.S.N." This is also recorded near the end of his memoir "A Sailor's Log" (copy included in the memorbilia in Lot 3093) on pages 460-462. He wrote, "Some time after I left the Iowa I received a beautiful sword, which I value above all my earthly possessions..." After the Spanish-American War, he remained with the navy and was promoted to rear admiral and was close with Theodore Roosevelt, and Roosevelt selected Evans to host Prince Heinrich of Prussia and command the honor squardron for his visit in 1902. Evans subsquently served as the commander-in-chief of the Asiatic Fleet and North Atlantic Fleet, and finally as commander of the Great White Fleet at the beginning of its famous international tour. Ill health during the latter forced him to hand over command to Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry when the fleet reached San Francisco in May 1908 and led to his retirement later that summer on August 18, his 62nd birthday, after over four decades of service to his country. Flags from the Iowa were among the decorations at his retirement. He passed on January 3, 1912, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Captain Franck Taylor Evans, his son, also graduated from the naval academy in 1898 and served with his father on the Iowa at Santiago and also had a long naval career including service during the First World War and retired in 1930.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine with 70% plus original gilding on the otherwise mostly bright polished blade with minimal age related wear, bright gilt hilt and scabbard fittings with minor wear, natural aged patina on the silver scabbard body, and distinct etching, engraving, and inscription.



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