Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 99: Capt James Bliss Civil War Gilt Presentation Sword

Auction Date: August 26, 2022

Historic Civil War Gilt Presentation Sword with Relief Carved Grip and Silver Plated Scabbard Inscribed to Captain James Bliss from the Veterans of Company B, 8th New York Cavalry

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $8,500 - $13,000

Historic Civil War Gilt Presentation Sword with Relief Carved Grip and Silver Plated Scabbard Inscribed to Captain James Bliss from the Veterans of Company B, 8th New York Cavalry

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 493
Item Interest: Active
Catalog Page: 124
Class: Other

The 36 3/8 inch, curved blade has 17 1/2 inch etched panels of floral, patriotic, and martial patterns and has the W. Clauberg maker's mark on the left ricasso. The gilt brass hilt has ornate foliage designs, a bust of Columbia on the back of the pommel, a pineapple style pommel finial, and a gilt sword knot. The antique ivory grip is carved in raised relief on the right side with a pair of pistols and sabers, cavalry helmet, and wheel. The scabbard has brass fittings with floral patterns, including laurel wreath shaped rings, a silvered body, scroll engraving, a matching pattern with the grip below the suspension bands, a cavalry trooper with a "USC" flag above the drag, and "Capt James Bliss,/from Veterans of Co B 8th/N.Y. Cav." inscribed between the suspension bands. James Bliss enlisted on September 5, 1861, at Brighton, New York, as a 1st sergeant and mustered into Co. B, 8th New York Cavalry (Rochester Regiment), on November 23, 1861. He is identified as promoted to 2nd lieutenant on July 22, 1862, 1st lieutenant on December 1, 1862, captain in Co. F on June 25, 1863, transferred back to Co. B on March 3, 1864, promoted to major on October 31, 1864, and on the field and staff, received a brevet to colonel for meritorious service on March 13, 1865, and a final promotion to lieutenant colonel on April 13, 1864, before mustering out on June 27, 1865, at Alexandria, Virginia. In the latter part of the war, he was at times in command of the regiment. Given his dates of promotions, this sword was likely presented between March of 1864 and late October of 1864. Closer to the end of that range seems most likely as the 8th was originally mustered in for three years and the original men that reenlisted became veterans that fall. The regiment was originally ordered to the defenses of Washington in late November 1861 and subsequently fought in over 130 engagements. They first saw combat at Winchester in May of 1862. They earned distinction in combat at the Siege of Harpers Ferry that September when they broke through the enemy lines at night and captured some of the enemy's ammunition trains. The 8th led the famous assault on Beverly Ford Road during the Battle of Brandy Station in June of 1863 where they lost 12 killed, 31 wounded, and 7 missing, more than any regiment on the field that day, but succeeded in driving the enemy back. Colonel Benjamin F. Davis was among the men killed during the Confederate counter attack, but the 8th was saved when the 8th Illinois Cavalry entered the fray. At Gettysburg, they were part of Colonel William Gable's 1st Brigade in General John Buford's 1st Division. Their monument at Gettysburg states: "Pickets of this regiment were attacked around 5 a.m., July 1, 1863, by the advanced skirmishers of Heth’s Confederate Division. The regiment engaged the enemy west of Seminary Ridge, with the brigade stubbornly contesting the ground against great odds until about 10:30 a.m., when it was relieved by the advance regiments of the 1st Corps." After Gettysburg, they pursued the Confederates into Virginia. During the Shenandoah Campaign in 1864, they were part of Wilson's division and participated in the raid on Weldon Railroad in June where they counted 117 losses (101 of them missing). In the Appomattox Campaign, they fought under George Armstrong Custer's command. By the end of the war, they lost approximately 14 officers and 91 men killed or mortally wounded in action and 5 officers and 200 men from disease or other causes.

Rating Definition:

Fine with mostly bright exceptional blade exhibiting some mild oxidation mainly at the ricassos, distinct etching, strong gilt finish and distinct designs on the hilt, nice carving and natural tones on the hilt, some minor age cracks and slight edge chips on the grip, dark aged patina on the silver scabbard body, a few minor dings, distinct presentation inscription, and general minor age and storage related wear overall. This attractive sword engraved to a battle-hardened officer of the 8th New York Cavalry will certainly make a fine addition to any Civil War collection.

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