Confederate Naval Sword & Portraits
Appraised Value: $20,000 (2013)
IMAGE: 1 of 18
Appraisal Video: (3:04)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: This belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather, who was a fleet surgeon for the United States Navy and then the Confederate Navy after 1861.
APPRAISER: Do you happen to know, did he go to Annapolis Medical School?
GUEST: He went to Kenyon College, I believe in Ohio. They actually had to walk about 500 miles to get to the school. He was one of ten in the family.
APPRAISER: So up until the time of the American Civil War, he served in the United States Navy under that capacity.
GUEST: Yes, as fleet sergeant.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, that makes complete sense, because the sword that we're looking at here actually predates the American Civil War.
APPRAISER: It predates it. You've got this nice, big American eagle pommel, you've got a leather scabbard, you've got the big fouled anchor. It's a pattern that we come across. A lot of times, they're manufactured by Ames. And if we look down at the bottom, there's a photograph in his United States uniform.
GUEST: Union blue.
APPRAISER: Right, so up until the war starts, he was fairly proud to be a United States Naval officer.
APPRAISER: But then obviously something changed. He decided to follow his state into the war.
APPRAISER: In two separate places on it, we'll notice that he has actually had a jeweler engrave his name, and he's had the jeweler put the initials for the Confederate States Navy, which is CSN. And I think what he's basically doing is he's saying, "Okay, even if I have to carry this sword that I wore in the United States Navy, in my own way, I'm going to make it Confederate." And at the top, we have this really kind of fun image of him as an older man, proud to be in his Confederate uniform. Swords and stuff really are inanimate objects, and what really animates it is the history. So having his name on there tells us unequivocally that that is his sword. And then we can put a face to the owner, as well as speak with someone from the family. Now, there is one thing that I'll tell you. The sword is in the scabbard backwards.
GUEST: I had noticed it did not fit well. It has been this way since I acquired it in 1987.
APPRAISER: It's taken that shape now, and that's the way that this leather is going to want to rest, so it would be a mistake to try to reverse it. So really what we're dealing with is a sword that, without any of the provenance and without the inscription, in that kind of condition, retail price would be around $3,000 or $4,000.
APPRAISER: But because of who he is, I think a retail price for these items as a group would be $20,000.
GUEST: Very nice.
APPRAISER: It's a nice thing, and you don't encounter Confederate naval objects very often.
GUEST: So many, when they captured a ship, would be scuttled and sunk, therefore, no artifacts.
APPRAISER: Or the swords are surrendered, exactly.
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