MODEL 1850 FOOT OFFICER’S SWORD & SCABBARD ID’D TO 126TH PENNSYLVANIA OFFICER KILLED AT FREDERICKSBURG

$4,500.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 988-11

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The drawn sword meas. approx. 37.25 inches long from point to pommel. The blade itself meas. approx. 31.50 inches. It has a stopped wide fuller that is approx. 22.25 inches long with a 13.75 inch long narrow fuller. The blade surface has a dull semi-bright appearance with faint scattered mottling. The edge has three small nicks. There are no markings on the ricasso and the etching is barely visible. A scrollwork decorative pattern along with hints of a panoply of flags, “U.S.” and part of a riband can be made out, but little else. There is no washer at the base of the ricasso.

The detailed brass hilt features a cast brass guard and knucklebow with a delicately cast single-band with cutout oak leaf scrolls and acanthus leaves. Knucklebow and guard wiggle a bit. Grip features a center-swelled wooden handle wrapped in high quality, dark sharkskin. Skin is tightly bound with double-twisted brass wire. Grips are original and show only light wear. Brass pommel is decorated with ornate scrollwork of laurel leaves and features a tiered domed cap. Underside of the guard has a small “T H” stamping.

The original black leather scabbard has all brass furniture but is broken about 16.50 inches below the throat with another weak spot just above the drag. Leather surface is heavily worn with much surface finish loss and the remaining leather shows heavy crazing. Brass drag and mounts are plain. Both rings are present. Drag has several small dents. The bottom of the top mount is clearly engraved “PRESENTED TO LT. H. C. FORTESCUE BY CO. G 126TH REG. PENN. VOLS.”

Henry Clay Fortescue resided in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania just west of the famous town of Gettysburg. He first enlisted as a Private in Company A, of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry on April 20, 1861. He served for three months with General Patterson’s forces in the Shenandoah Valley before being mustered out July 26, 1861.

Fortescue was next commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in Company G of the 126th Pennsylvania on August 25, 1862. The regiment was assigned to the 3rd Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac and arrived at Antietam the day after the battle just missing that action.

The 126th “saw the elephant” for the first time at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. There in the late afternoon the regiment found itself drawn up near the Telegraph Road when orders were given to cross to the left side of the road and form into two lines for an assault on Marye’s Heights. The right of the regiment hurried across the road, which was being swept by artillery and small arms fire, without incident. The left of the regiment waited for a moment at the edge of the road and then dashed across. Lt. Fortescue had scarcely put a foot into the road when a bullet pierced his head and he fell dead. In a letter home on December 20, 1862 a member of the regiment wrote:

“SECOND LIEUTENANT HENRY CLAY FORTESCUE OF COMPANY G WAS THE ONLY OFFICER KILLED IN THE REGIMENT. HE MET HIS DEATH JUST PREVIOUS TO THE CHARGE, A BALL STRIKING HIM INSTANTLY. HE WAS A BRAVE AND GALLANT YOUNG MAN, AND GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS COUNTRY JUST AS HE WAS ABOUT UNSHEATHING HIS MAIDEN SWORD TO HER DEFENSE. HE WAS A PHILADELPHIAN BY BIRTH, BUT SOME YEARS PAST RESIDED IN CHAMBERSBURG. IN THE THREE MONTHS CAMPAIGN HE ACQUITED HIMSELF WELL AS A SERGEANT IN CAPTAIN HOUSUM’S COMPANY A AND WAS AN EFFICIENT AND USEFUL OFFICER OF THE COMPANY TO WHICH HE WAS ATTACHED AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH. THE DREADFUL CARNAGE AROUND WHERE HE FELL RENDERED IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIS COMRADES TO RECOVER HIS BODY. PEACE TO HIS ASHES.”

Lt. Fortescue left behind his wife of eight years, 27 year-old Mary A. Fortescue. The couple had no children. The Lieutenant’s body was never recovered and to this day he rests in an unknown grave.

Copies of military and pension records from the National Archives are present with the sword.

Also present is an original 1869 copy of the 126th regimental history inscribed by the author to Colonel Theodore McGowan of the Adjutant Generals Office in 1870. The cover and first few pages are loose. There is also a 1984 reprint of the history in the group.

The lack of decoration on this sword shows it to be intended for everyday use and was most likely hanging on Lt. Fortescue’s belt that fateful day at Fredericksburg and was probably one of the few items to be returned to his wife. Of course we cannot know this for sure but there is no doubt this sword, being presented by his company, was a prized possession.   [ad]

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