INSCRIBED U.S.N. 1852 OFFICER’S SWORD OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS HENDRICKSON (HENRICKSON,) ACTING ENSIGN ON THE MONITOR U.S.S. SAUGUS

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Item Code: 142-66

This regulation US Navy 1852 pattern officer’s sword by Ames is inscribed on the upper mount, “C.A. HENDRICKSON.” This is a natural spelling variation by an engraver for the only possible candidate: Charles Augustus Henrickson, who enlisted from Maine in the U.S. Navy March 1, 1863, and was appointed acting Ensign in the Volunteer Navy on 24 February 1864. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Saugus, a Canonicus-class monitor in the James River Flotilla that fought Confederate shore batteries along the James River and took part in the attack on Fort Fisher in early 1865.

Henrickson has an interesting biography to say the least. Born in Bergen, Norway, in October 1837, he was shipwrecked in 1852 near Owls Head, Maine, and chose to remain in this country, becoming a citizen in 1858 and settling in Waterville, Maine. He enrolled as a student at Waterville College (now Colby College,) to be a member of the class graduating in 1864, but when the war broke out he was the first to volunteer from Waterville, enlisting in Co. G of the 3rd Maine, under Colonel and later Major General Oliver Otis Howard on 30 April 1861.

Henrickson mustered into the U.S. service with the regiment on June 4 and was present with them at First Bull Run, where he was captured. He then spent eleven months in prison at Libby, Salisbury and Parish Prison (New Orleans,) before being exchanged. This places him back in the regiment around June or July 1862, when they were on the Peninsula. He was with them again in any case by August, when he was captured for a second time, appropriately enough, at Second Bull Run, 30 August 1862. He seems to have been paroled immediately after that, but how soon he returned to the regiment is unclear. They were engaged at Fredericksburg in December.

Henrickson was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate of disability on 12 February 1863, but was determined to continue serving his adopted country, and immediately re-enlisted. Having had enough of being captured in the army, however, he again chose to go to sea, enlisting in the navy on or about 1 March 1863. On 24 February 1864 he was appointed Acting Ensign in the volunteer service of the U.S. Navy. This was confirmed in the 5 March 1864 issue of the Army and Navy Journal, which indicates he was then at the New York Navy Yard.

The 1865 Register of US Navy officers shows him on the U.S.S. Saugus and a history of Waterville recounts his experience on that vessel in the bombardment of Fort Fisher in January 1865. The vessel was commissioned in April 1864, soon after Henrickson’s appointment as Acting Ensign, so he may have been on the ship from the beginning of its service. In May, June, early July, and December 1864 the ship was engaged with Confederate shore batteries along the James. In late December and again in January, the ship took part in the bombardment of Fort Fisher, South Carolina, firing 212 shells against the fort and being hit 11 times in response.

During this bombardment the ship remained in action even after the bursting of one of its two guns. Henrickson was not only on board, but in the turret when the accident happened: “While serving as gunner in the turret of the Monitor Saugus, in the second attack on Fort Fisher, one of the 15-inch Rodman guns exploded, prostrating the executive officer and seventeen men in the turret, wounding every man except Henrickson, but, miraculously, killing none.” (Whittemore, Centennial History of Waterville, 158.)

After the fall of Fort Fisher, the Saugus returned to the James River and helped in mine clearing operations. At the very end of the war the vessel was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard and housed the captured Lincoln conspirators for a time. After being decommissioned in 1869, it was brought again into service from 1870 to 1877. In the meantime, Henrickson was honorably discharged from the navy 24 October 1865 and returned to Waterville. He ran a bookstore in the town, married, and lived there until his death 28 December 1904 at age 67.

The sword is the regulation 1852 pattern for navy officers and remains in very good condition. The brass hilt has a medium, aged patina. The pommel cap is decorated with the regulation eagle and stars, and the counterguard with oak leaves and acorns along with a “U.S.N” on a banner. The sharkskin grip wrap and wire binding are in place and tight. The grip shows the usual slight gap along the seam line.

The blade preserves vivid etched panels. The reverse shows and eagle with sunburst of rays overhead, followed by a fouled anchor, with a foliate ribbon bearing a “USN” overhead and terminating in scrolling and knotted oak leave and acorns. The obverse bears an etched Ames maker’s address at bottom with floral and martial motifs extending up the panel, including an oval of stars, with the etching terminating in flame points. The blade has a good point and edge with no nicks. The metal is bright with a very few gray spots and the etching is very visible.

The scabbard is the regulation pattern with black leather body and brass mounts showing roping on the obverse of the ring mounts and a sea serpent on the drag shoe. The upper mount bears an Ames maker’s stamp on the reverse and the name “C.A. Hendrickson” engraved in period block letters on the obverse. There is a little bit of gilt remaining in the recesses of the mounts, but they match the pleasing, medium aged patina of the hilt. The scabbard shows a well done, sturdy repair just above the drag, a common point of bending or breaking on leather scabbards.

This is a very nice, regulation sword carried by an officer with a very interesting personal history and record of service on a Civil War monitor that saw action and appears in a number of Civil War photographs.   [sr]

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