The American Civil War (1861–1865) also known as the War Between the States was a conflict of major proportions and changed the lives and history of Americans forever. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and five border slave states.
In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republican victory in that election resulted in seven Southern states declaring their separation from the Union even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Both the outgoing and incoming US administrations rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion.
Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a US military installation at Fort Sumpter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state, leading to declarations of secession by four more Southern slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union assumed control of the border states early in the war and established a naval Blockade. In September 1862, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, and dissuaded the British from intervening.
Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back after the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Long-term Union advantages in men and material were realized in 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant fought a battle of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, and marched to the sea. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars in human history. Railroads, steamships, mass-produced weapons, and various other military devices were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, and of trench warfare around Petersburg foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted until 1877.
What American hasn’t heard of the Civil War or possibly seen a Civil War artifact? When I was about 12 years old my family took a road trip by car, driving from our small farm in Barry IL to Corsicana TX where a great aunt lived. My mother, a major antique collector and history buff carefully planned the route down the old Route 66. Along the way were many stops at Civil War battlefields and museums. She took it upon herself to make sure my brother and I understood the consequence the Civil War had on our United States and how it affected the American people forever.
I was never a collector of Civil War artifacts per se although always interested in this momentous area of collecting. Civil War collector’s are some of the most dedicated and zealous American collectors I have known and can usually cite the exact history, dates of battles, weapons used, units involved etc. more so than other areas of collecting. Some collector’s had so many artifacts they collected they opened museums of Civil War history or started business enterprises evaluating, buying and selling these artifacts. Many of the States now have microfilmed records of battles fought, units involved and even list the state’s individual citizens and their involvement in this war. It is a very interesting period of history and makes for fabulous collecting.
Having served in the U.S. military myself for 23 years I can relate to many of the artifacts collected and their use in war. Somehow, a few of these artifacts came into my possession. Being a collector I guess I have a knack for recognizing what is collectible. I usually hold onto things I think are really neat and have historical significance. Here is my story and the few items I have collected from the Civil War.
A 1987 Limited Edition, Don Stivers print titled “First Sergeant”
This print by Don Stivers was purchased for me as a gift from my wife in 1994 just prior to my retirement from the Army as a First Sergeant. It is a hand signed copy, number 1535 of 2000. Don Stivers died in November 2009. Don Stivers painted many scenes of and portraits of the Civil War era. You will not be able to purchase this print as it is very rare. Those that own them will not part with them. That makes them very collectible and valuable. This one is not for sale. One of the reasons I wanted to show you the print is to have you look at the First Sergeant’s sword as depicted in the print.
The sword or M1840 enlisted Calvary saber in the print is just like the civil war sword that I own.
An 1840 Civil War Sword Made by Horster.
Above is a M1840 Civil war sword made in Germany by Horster of Solengen. There are many makers of Civil War swords some U.S. such as Ames and even Tiffany of New York and some imported from Europe such as this one. This is a weapon that was used by a Union Officer. On the guard you will see stamped numbers. These are called rack numbers, and were used as an accounting system. They were stamped on the sword by a quartermaster. They don’t really tell us much about the sword as records were not kept, however, it does give us a bit of a feel that the sword was really “there”. The fact that this sword was an enlisted saber doesn’t rule out that an officer carried the sword. It was easy for an officer to appropriate an issued sword from the quartermaster rather than risking damaging a much nicer weapon that he had to purchase himself. This sword could possibly have stayed in service up to 1906. NOTE: This sword is not in perfect condition as the leather handle wrap is gone as well as the wire wrap that held it in place. It would cost some pretty good money and time and effort to restore this sword to it’s prior glory. That being said, this is a valuable artifact that was used in the Civil War.
With the sword I also have a picture:
This is a photo of a Union Officer who supposedly carried this sword that I have.
The thing to note about the photo is that it is not a tintype photo. It is what is known as a cabinet card which dates it to about 1870. Five years after the Civil War ended. Even though the photo is damaged (broken down the middle and repaired) it is still a very good likeness of a Union Officer and can be researched using a book called The Horse Soldier vol. II, 1851 – 1880.
Some other interesting artifacts I have from this period is a Named Civil War Pattern Ladder Badge:
This is an ID’d Pattern Civil War badge made by the J.S. Ginger Co. of St Louis. This badge is 145 years old.
This is an authentic ID’d ladder badge, presented to Isaac J. Ogle, Co D, 50th Illinois Infantry. The 50th Volunteers known as the Blind Half Hundred was organized at Quincy ILL in the month of August 1861 and mustered into service on Sept 21 1861.
Pvt. Ogle joined this unit on Aug. 19 1861, age listed as 20 years old. If you would like to know more about this badge visit my eBay store and search for Militaria Kelekchens and read the sales ad I have with all of SGT. Ogle’s info. Just go to My Assistant, (The Duck) in the upper right hand corner of this post. Put your cursor on the duck and press enter.
Here are some more period pieces, a Souvenir Badge dated 1922 and a desk/secretary made just prior to the Civil War.
That is it for today. Come back often as I buy, trade, sell and build on the many different collections that I have. Next post I will show you some of the Military artifacts I have from WWI and WWII.
Until then Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”