FIFTH NEW HAMPSHIRE PRESENTATION SWORD PRESENTED BY HIS COMPANY TO A TWICE-WOUNDED OFFICER WHO DIED OF WOUNDS RECEIVED AT COLD HARBOR

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Item Code: 715-22

The Fifth New Hampshire needs no introduction to Civil War students. They sustained the greatest loss in battle of any Union regiment during the Civil War, losing an astounding 18 officers and 277 enlisted men just in those killed or mortally wounded. Their service was entirely in the Army of the Potomac, serving in Casey’s and Sumner’s Divisions until the organization of army corps, and then in the Second Corps, with a brief tour of duty in early 1864 at Point Lookout after they had recruited back up to strength, before returning to the field for Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. Civil War data gives some 64 points at which they were engaged and suffered casualties. Their battle honors include engagements such as Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

This engraved presentation sword was given to John Wells Spalding (spelled Spaulding in occasional records as on this sword) by members of his old company as he left them to take a commission in a different company in the regiment. Spalding joined the regiment in time to have taken part in Antietam, where Colonel Cross famously yelled to his men to “put on the warpaint” as they repulsed a Confederate counter attack, and served with them through the period of Fredericksburg, where he was wounded, and Gettysburg, where Cross was killed, until taking part in the charge at Cold Harbor, where he was shot through the lung, discharged for disability eventually dying from his wound after returning home.

The sword itself is a beautiful version of an 1850 Foot Officer’s sword with a German silver grip and engraved scabbard mounts, including a presentation, by the firm of Palmer and Batchelders in Boston, who were wartime dealers in jewelry, watches, silver, and military items under several firm names, including Palmer and Batchelders, Palmers and Batchelders, etc.

The brass hilt and scabbard mounts have a matching aged patina that still shows fairly bright, but not polished. The German silver articulated grip has the brass wire intact and shows no dents or breaks. The red washer is present under the grip. The hilt is tight, with no re-peening of the tang. The black leather scabbard body is very good, with no bends or breaks and only minor scuffing. All three brass mounts have deep floral motifs with a plain diagonal band through the middle on both sides.

The diagonal band on the obverse of the upper mount is engraved in flowing period script: Presented to Lieut. / John W. Spaulding / Co. C 5th N.H. Vol. / By the Members of / Co. K.

John Wells Spalding (spelled both Spaulding and Spalding in various records) resided in Milford, NH, where he seems to have been a merchant. Newly married and with a baby on the way, he was not in a position to have answered the first call for troops in 1861, but at age 26 he enlisted as a private for three years on 8/4/62 under Lincoln’s third call for troops, making him eligible for a town bounty of $75. Leaving behind his wife and ten-month old daughter, he mustered into Co. K of the 5th NH on 8/4/62, little more than a month before Antietam and just four months later was wounded on 12/13/62 at Fredericksburg during the assault of Caldwell’s brigade on the stonewall at Marye’s Heights. He returned to duty and must have been well regarded, for he was promoted First Sergeant of Co. K on 11/1/63, and gained a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. C on 2/1/64, obviously the occasion of the gift of this sword from Company K to one of their own who had risen in the ranks. The presentation likely took place at Point Lookout, where the regiment was temporarily posted before rejoining the army in the field.

Just four months later Spalding was again wounded in another disastrous failed attack, suffering a gunshot wound to the right lung on 6/3/64 at Cold Harbor, where the regiment actually penetrated Confederate lines but was forced to fall back when its flanks were exposed. Spalding returned home to recover, but was given a discharge for disability on 11/5/64. He showed some signs of improvement, but was granted a pension for full disability in May 1865 and health declined. He died on 9/2/1865 as a direct result of his wound in the opinion of doctors, a verdict that is engraved on his tombstone. His wife never remarried and received a widow’s pension until her death in 1924.

The blade is etched on both sides. The obverse with a short lattice-work or basket-weave pattern surmounted by a stand of arms entwined with floral motifs, an American eagle with an E Pluribus Unum ribbon overhead that has floral edges and mixes with more floral elements overhead, another lattice-work section and terminates in an Arabesque flame finial.

The reverse of the blade is etched with the firm name “Palmer / & / Batchelder / Boston” inside a circle at the bottom (a final “s” on Batchelder may be rubbed,) surmounted by similar floral and lattice-work designs, along with a script “US” in an Arabesque pointed panel lower down. The etching on both sides is very legible, showing some bright metal and some frosting, though mixed with some gray. There is a small bit of brown just above the firm name and a spot below that might mask a blade maker’s stamp.

This is an impressive presentation sword given to a fighting soldier who worked his way up through the ranks, was obviously respected by his comrades, and became a sacrifice for his country.

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