AMES MODEL 1840 GENERAL OR STAFF OFFICER’S SWORD PRESENTED TO CAPTAIN, LATER GENERAL, ROBERT COWDIN FEBRUARY 22, 1848

$20,000.00

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Item Code: 870-345

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This high-grade Ames sword displays a nice combination of history art. It shows some non-regulation elements that are not uncommon on militia swords, but generally follows the lines of the 1840 pattern for general officers, as clarified in the 1841 regulations and which remained in use into the Civil War. (See Thillmann for a discussion of the patterns at this period.) The grip is a beautiful, non-regulation, mother-of-pearl. The brass hilt and scabbard have significant areas of silver wash remaining, the traditional color of infantry during the period, with just rubbing to the brass on the upper hilt, high spots and natural points of wear and handling. Where the brass shows it has a pleasing age patina.

In addition to one ring on the middle mount, the scabbard has a two-ring upper mount with frog stud that shows up on general officer’s swords. (Thillmann 119.)

The scabbard is profusely engraved and the mounts are deeply cast and chased. An eagle with thunderbolts is engraved just under the throat, its martial nature underscored by the absence of any olive branch. Between the upper and middle mounts an extensive engraved panel about ten inches long starts at top with floral scrolls and ends below with a combination of geometric and floral scrolls. In between is an impressive trophy of arms with flags on spearpoint staffs, arrows, the bound rods and ax of the fasces of the Roman republic and the features a U.S. shield and a prominent liberty cap on a pole, elements that are reflected in the etching of the blade. The area of the drag is engraved with feather and floral pattern. The shoe is deeply chased. The reverse of the scabbard is plain and preserves more of the silver wash from less handling.

The reverse, folding, counterguard of this hilt is plain. The obverse has a separately applied, deeply cast and chased eagle on a panoply of flags, arms and drum, clutching a wreath of victory in its beak. The beautifully etched blade is the 1840 configuration: straight, with rounded spine, and single wide fuller. The obverse etching has a palmette, latticework and Ames Mfg. Co. / Cabotville / Mass. address at bottom, followed by floral scrolls, and stand of arm with pikes and furled banners, topped by a liberty cap on a pole, terminating with more scrolls and flamboyant ends to the strongly frosted panel.

The reverse has a flowering vine at ricasso leading to a presentation panel etched,

“Presented by the officer's and privates of the / Washington Light Infantry to Capt. / Robert Cowdin  Feb'y 22nd 1848.” Above that panel the figure of Tecumseh as an Indian striding with raised tomahawk is surmounted by more floral scrolls. As on the other side of the blade, the frosting is strong, making the figures distinct.

Robert Cowdin (1805-1874) was born in Vermont, moved to Boston to engage in the lumber business, and was active in the Massachusetts militia from 1838. He was Colonel of the Second Massachusetts Militia at the beginning of the war and in May 1861 was commissioned Colonel of the First Massachusetts Volunteers, the first of the state’s three-year regiments. He saw combat at First Bull Run, having a horse shot out from under him, and more heavy fighting in the Peninsular Campaign at Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Glendale, and Malvern Hill. He served as a brigade commander in Hooker’s Division from September to 1862 to February 1863. He was recommended by Hooker for promotion to Brigadier General and Lincoln nominated him in September 1862 for distinguished conduct at Williamsburg. He served as a brigade commander in the defenses of Washington, but he was opposed by both senators from Massachusetts and not actively supported by the Governor, with the result that his appointment was not confirmed by the Senate. He turned down a paymaster appointment at a lower rank and returned to civilian life in Massachusetts, continued in the militia, becoming captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery, and penned a somewhat aggrieved account of his experience in 1864.

This is a wonderful example the art and craft of the American sword with a vivid presentation to Cowdin as a Captain in 1848 as token of respect from the officers and men of his organization. He has a good fighting record and the story of his brave combat performance mixing with unmerited political struggles is one that puts him in good company with many Civil War officers. One source reports that he scorned to take cover in one engagement, shouting to his men that, “the bullet has not been cast that will kill me today!”  [sr]

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