MODEL 1850 FOOT OFFICER’S SWORD ID’D TO 63RD PENNSYLVANIA OFFICER WOUNDED AT FAIR OAKS

$2,250.00

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Item Code: E2677

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Good conditioned Model 1850 foot officer’s sword believed to have been made by Sauerbier of Newark, New Jersey. Weapon is complete with the scabbard however the scabbard is in poor condition.

Overall the sword meas. approx. 36.00 inches from point to pommel. The blade meas. approx. 30.50 inches long x 1.00 inch wide at the ricasso. It has an unstopped wide fuller that is approx. 24.00 inches long with a 22.00 inch long narrow fuller. The blade surface is bright with pepper-like mottling and light pitting throughout. The point area has a little heavier pitting. The edge has several small nicks near the point.

The blade has no marks on the ricasso and no etching is visible. Close examination with a loop does reveal bits of etched decoration.

The detailed brass hilt features a cast guard and knucklebow with a delicately cast single-band with cutout oak leaf scrolls and acanthus leaves. Knucklebow and pommel cap wiggle slightly. Grip features a grooved, center-swelled wooden handle wrapped in high quality, light colored sharkskin. Skin is tightly bound with double-twisted brass wire around the handle. Grips are original and in good condition. Brass pommel is decorated with ornate scrollwork of laurel leaves and features a tiered domed cap. Face of pommel is engraved “LIEUT. B. F. DUNHAM.”

The original black leather scabbard is missing the throat, one of the two mounts and rings and the drag. What is present is approx. 26.25 inches of the scabbard and one mount and ring. Of the leather that is present, only 60% of its original finish remains.

Benjamin F. Dunham was born in 1840. At the time of his enlistment he was 23 years old and living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant of the Company he helped to raise, Company D, of the 63rd Pennsylvania Infantry. He was mustered in on August 26, 1861.

The regiment was assigned to the 3rd Corps of the Army of The Potomac and went with it to the Virginia Peninsula in April of 1862. The regiment took part in the siege of Yorktown and the battle of Williamsburg. A week later on the 13th of May Dunham was promoted Captain of Company D and led them into action at Fair Oaks.

During the fighting at Fair Oaks Captain Dunham was hit in the stomach by a shell fragment. Though the wound was not very serious it did cause internal bleeding. He was eventually sent to a hospital in Washington, D.C. to recover.

On July 6, 1862 the surgeon in charge of Dunham requested a 20 day leave for him so that he might return to family in Vermont to further recuperate. The leave was granted and Dunham traveled north.

On July 28th Surgeon Edward Porter wrote from Northfield, Vermont requesting a thirty day extension. This request was accompanied by a letter from Dunham seconding the doctor’s opinion.

On August 7th another request for an extension was sent by surgeon Samuel W. Thompson from the U.S. Marine Hospital in Burlington, Vermont. Surgeon Thompson stated that Dunham suffered from peritonitis caused by his wound and would require more time to recover his health. Again this was followed by a letter from Dunham.

The records do not say if the extension was granted and the records also show that Captain Dunham was dismissed from the service by order of the Secretary of War on July 26, 1862.

Apparently the Colonel of the 63rd Alexander Hays, (later brevet Brigadier General killed in the Wilderness,) was not pleased with several of his officer’s and had nine of them removed. Seven were discharged and two were dismissed. It appears that despite his wound Captain Dunham was not up to Colonel Hays’ standards and was dismissed. Perhaps a look at Dunham’s pension records (not included here) will clear up the matter.

Benjamin Dunham had married in 1860 and it is assumed that after his dismissal he took residence with his wife. The couple would have six children. Dunham supported his family by working in a sash and blind factory. He died of heart disease on June 24, 1888 and is buried in Hope Cemetery.

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