Mexican War Presentation Sword, ca. 1845
Appraised Value: $50,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:39)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: It's been in the family for many generations. It was my third great-grandfather through my mother's side, and he was awarded this by the citizens of Baltimore, where he was born. And it was given to him for his valor in the Mexican War.
GUEST: Before he fell off his horse and died.
APPRAISER: Right, unfortunately, I think he passed away while he was in Mexico. That was my understanding. He never actually physically received it. It was given posthumously. When this war starts, there are so many young officers that go to Mexico and serve and do heroic deeds that will eventually become leaders of both sides-- the Union and the Confederacy-- in the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee becomes the commanding general of the Confederate Army. He served in Mexico with bravery.
APPRAISER: Ulysses S. Grant becomes the commanding general of the Union Army. He serves in Mexico with bravery. Jefferson Davis, who was just a regular officer, he becomes the president of the Confederacy. So this is a period in our history that is pivotal. And this was given as a token of esteem for something that a young officer did a long way from home, and he lost his life. If we look at the scabbard, it says, "The Citizens of Baltimore to Lieutenant Randolph Ridgely, 3rd Artillery, USA, Palo Alto"-- that's the name of the battle-- "Resaca de la Palma"-- that's the name of a battle. And then, it gives the dates that these happened. And then here in this panel, "'The terrible fire kept up by Lieutenant Ridgely.'" And I believe that was probably in a dispatch or something that was written by his commanding officer, explaining his participation in these two battles. These were very awkward battles for the young U.S. Army, and they found themselves in and out of different levels of trouble. At the Battle of Palo Alto, he goes out of his way, he's in terrible fire, he does things that other soldiers aren't willing to do. He takes command after his commanding officer is killed. At the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, he finds his flying artillery out in front of the entire army, being assaulted by the Mexicans. He continues to fire. They take charge of the situation in time for the regular army and the dragoons to come up. As you said, unfortunately, he dies not long after that. He had an accident with his horse and fell off, but if that had not happened, he probably would have been one of these major figures in the American Civil War because he was well regarded while he was alive and he is what we would typically call a hero. Now, there are some interesting facets to this sword. This is a very high-grade sword.
APPRAISER: It's made in Baltimore by... by a man named Warner. He's a silversmith, a very good, qualified silversmith. He made all kind of bowls and silver statues and badges. This entire guard is made of solid silver.
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: This is gold work that's put over the top. And interesting to me, this is actually solid gold.
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: This is made in a tube and then this is all cut out. And then it's slid over the top of the grip. Okay. And then pinned right here. Little pins there, okay. To hold it on. And then this folds... is that... if you ever wanted to use it as a protective, or... It's meant to come out as a type of a guard, but this sword was never meant to be used in battle.
GUEST: No, no. It would have been a little bit ostentatious.
APPRAISER: Yeah, I think so. It's a wonderful token of esteem. In a retail situation, this sword would probably bring $50,000.
GUEST: Okay. That's very nice.
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