Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 93: Ames Presentation Sword, Spy Glass, Etc. of Capt. James Davidson

Auction Date: August 26, 2022

Historic Documented Civil War Gilt Presentation Ames Mfg. Co. Militia Officer Sword with Pearl Grip, Helmet Pommel, and Scabbard Inscribed to Captain James Davidson, Commander of Fort Constitution, along with a Sword Belt, a Spyglass Inscribed as Presented to Captain Davidson Two Days After the Sword, Cased Portrait, and Period Documentation

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $15,000 - $25,000

Historic Documented Civil War Gilt Presentation Ames Mfg. Co. Militia Officer Sword with Pearl Grip, Helmet Pommel, and Scabbard Inscribed to Captain James Davidson, Commander of Fort Constitution, along with a Sword Belt, a Spyglass Inscribed as Presented to Captain Davidson Two Days After the Sword, Cased Portrait, and Period Documentation

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 678
Item Interest: Active
Catalog Page: 115
Class: Other

This is a classic and historic Ames militia officer presentation sword from the early days of the American Civil War. The 31 1/2 inch, straight, single fuller blade is decorated with frosted etching on the lower 18 1/4 inches with floral, classical martial, and patriotic designs along with "Ames Mfg. Co./Chicopee/Mass" on the reverse. The gilt brass hilt has floral designs, a pair of crossed cannons and an armory on the obverse languet, pearl grip scales, double chain knuckle guard, and classical helmet pommel with wreath and high plume. The gilt bass scabbard has mostly floral patterns on the fittings as well as Columbia's shield on the upper suspension band and is marked with "AMES MFG. CO./CHICOPEE/MASS" on the reverse below the mouth and inscribed "Presented to Capt Jas Davidson/by the Manchester/Mechanic/Phalanx/July 14, 1861." An included cased, hand tinted portrait of appears to show Davidson holding this sword and possibly wearing the included sword belt. The latter has a spread wing bald eagle with "E PLURIBUS UNUM" banner in its beak, Columbia's shield, arrows and laurel branch, and a laurel wreath. There are no identifying markings on the belt or buckle. The included spyglass measures 38 3/4 inches extended and 22 34 inches closed and has a leather wrapped body and is inscribed "Presented by the Winnicumet Guards/To/Capt. James Davidson/July 16, 1861." The included binder provides details on the life and long military career of Canadian born U.S. military officer James Davidson (1800-1874). He spent over half a century in the U.S. military from prior to the Seminole Wars through the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War and beyond, and he was still stationed at Fort Constitution when he died in 1874 and is reported to have been the oldest enlisted man in the service at the time. The binder contains several original 19th century documents from his military career which started when he was just 16 or 17 depending on the source. His October 1839 appointment as ordnance sergeant at Fort Preble in Maine, for example, is one of the documents. The included loose pages from the 1865 publication "History of Fort Constitution and 'Walbach Tower,' Portsmouth Harbor, N.H." edited by George B. Griffith is perhaps the most significant in terms of the overall history of this lot as it provides details of much of Davidson's career and directly discusses the presentation of this sword and spyglass at Fort Constitution. The fort was already over two centuries old by the time of the Civil War, having originally been constructed back in 1632 at New Castle, New Hampshire, as Fort William & Marry to defend Portsmouth Harbor and received multiple rounds of renovations and improvements over the years. It was renamed Fort Constitution in the early national period and remained in use through World War II. It states the Davidson's "history is of some interest, as he has served his country for more than forty successive years, being the last Regular Army officer stationed at this garrison. He joined the army at the early age of seventeen years, and was on duty with a company of Light Artillery in Fort Independence. In 1825, he attended the Artillery school of practice at Fortress Monroe, where he remained until 1826, when he was ordered to Fort Moultrie, the noted rebel stronghold near Charleston, S.C.;-while there he received a warrant appointing him First Sergeant of Co. D, 3d Regiment of U.S. Artillery, commanded by Brevet Major F. Anasart, before alluded to. He came to Fort Constitution in 1827, and in 1829 married a daughter of the late Capt. Christopher Amazeen of this town." In 1835, he was sent to Florida with the 3rd U.S. Artillery to fight in the Second Seminole War. While in Florida, he was appointed sergeant of ordnance at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. In 1839, he was sent to Fort Preble where he was sergeant of ordnance from that November until December of 1846 when he resigned in order to join the fight in the Mexican-American War during which he participated in the capture of Vera Cruz and other battles as a orderly sergeant in a battery attached to Brigadier General Franklin Pierce's brigade. In 1848, he and his company were stationed at Fort Strumbull in New London, Connecticut, and then he transferred to Fort Constitution on July 30, 1852. When the Civil War broke out, Davidson was commissioned by Governor Ichabod Goodwin of New Hampshire as a captain in the 2nd Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers at Fort Constitution and retained his Regular Army appointment as ordnance sergeant. He enlisted two companies into the state service in 1861 and later others. It goes on to note, "Such was the respect shown him that no soldier was placed under arrest during his command, and three Companies, commanded respectively by Captains Bigly, Gillis, and Dunbar presented him as a token of their regard, an elegant sword and belt, with a magnificent silver trumpet, and spy-glass...Though his sword is at present inactive and has never been drawn except in an honorable cause, yet should the opportunity occur, as his long service for our country's honor deserves he will buckle it on once more to keep step to the music of Union and Liberty." Mid-July of 1861 falls at the end of a three month enlistment for the two companies formed under Captain Davidson at Fort Constitution. George H. Gillis and Jonathan R. Bagley elected as the company captains. Bagley commanded the Manchester Mechanics' Phalanx, and George H. Gillis commanded the Winnacunnet Guards (spelling varies depending on source and period). Presumably Dunbar's men presented the silver trumpet (not included). The men came to Fort Union on June 11 or 12th and garrisoned the fort until July 12. When their three month enlistments were up, some of the men reenlisted and became part of larger New Hampshire regiments that fought in the South. The Winnacunnet Guards, for example, later made up the core of Company D of the 3rd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, and Captain Gillis was later the adjutant of the 13th New Hampshire Volunteers. While they went off to fight in the South, Davidson, by then already in his 60s, remained in command at the fort for many years.

Rating Definition:

Excellent with untouched bright polish blade with distinct etching, 90% original gilt finish, minor edge flaking and a thin crack on the grip, and generally mild overall age and storage related wear mainly on the scabbard. The belt is fine with mainly crackling on the leather, and aged patina on the buckle and fittings. The portrait case is very good with moderate and storage related wear including cracked corner. The portrait itself is very fine aside from a faintly visible crack across Davidson's waist and has a very sharp image with strong tinting and minimal wear. The spyglass is very good with some mild dings and scratches in the metal and leather, clear optics that may need some adjustments to bring into focus, and mild age and storage related wear overall. This is both a stunning and historic Civil War sword, spyglass, and more of one of the longest serving Officers in American military history.

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