NON-REGULATION CAVALRY OFFICER SABER OF W.S. ABERT, 6th U.S. CAVALRY AT WILLIAMSBURG AND HANOVER COURT HOUSE, AIDE-DE-CAMP TO McCLELLAN AT ANTIETAM, STAFF OF GEN. BANKS, BVT. BRIGADIER GENERAL

$6,000.00

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Item Code: 870-409

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Following the British 1822 pattern saber for an officer of light cavalry, this beautiful cavalry officer’s sword with German silver hilt and scabbard was made by F. Horster of Solingen and carried by William Stretch Abert, a regular army officer who served from 1855 in Florida and Utah with the artillery, and through the Civil War as a cavalry line officer and staff officer, gaining several promotions and three brevets, and dying shortly after joining the 7th U.S. Cavalry as Major in 1867. The sword was in the famed Medicus collection and is illustrated in Plate 33 of Flayderman’s edition of the collection (though he mistranscribes the maker as “Kinzler.”) It is also illustrated in Thillman’s Civil War Cavalry and Artillery Sabers, pages 202-203, (though he mistranscribes Abert’s name as “Albert.”)

The sword has German silver hilt with a two-branch guard connecting to a flat knuckle bow. The pommel is a channeled bird’s head form with integral backstrap. The grip is dark gray sharkskin with good surface and triple binding wires in place with a thicker “dragoon twist” wire bordered by narrower wires. The reverse has a folding counter guard with open scrollwork.

The blade is 32 inches long with an 8 inch back edge. The metal is bright with some dark spots toward the tip and edge roughness near the upper end of the fuller, but the etching is very visible and it has a pleasing overall appearance. The obverse is dry-point etched “F. Horster, Jr.” over a palmette at the base of the blade, with a stand of arms and flags, eagle and E Pluribus Unum ribbon among floral scrolls. The reverse has “Solingen” dry-point etched over a palmette, trophies of arms and a block US amid floral scrolls. (Thillmann reverses these in his description.)

The scabbard is also German silver, matching the hilt, but has an iron drag blade, which is a practical measure since German silver is softer, which is shown by a period repair just above the drag, using a German silver band that matches the scabbard. The scabbard also bears a “dead real” family inscription reading:

 

Col. W. S. Abert U.S.A.

Brvt. Brig. Gen'l. U.S. Vol.

Balls Bluff, Shenandoah Valley, Peninsula of Va. Second Manassas

Boonsboro, Antietam, Port Hudson, Red River La. Shreveport, Mansfield,

Pleasant Hill.

Born Wash. D.C. Feb. 1st 1836      Died Galveston, TX Aug. 25th 1867

 

William Stretch Abert, the son of Colonel John J. Albert, Chief of Topographical Engineers, received a commission as 2nd Lt in the 4th US Artillery 18 June 1855. In October 1856 he was posted to Florida with his company, promoted to 1st Lt. 31 March 1857, and then served with the company on the Mormon expedition March 1858 to April 1859. From June 1859 to April 1860 he was stationed in Nebraska, and from then until April 1861 at Fortress Monroe, VA, when General Scott placed him on detached service. On 14 May 1861 he promoted Captain and transferred to the new 3rd US Cavalry, which was re-designated the 6th US Cavalry as of 3 August 1861, and served in Virginia. Abert commanded Company D as of September 1861 and was commanding a squadron of the regiment at Williamsburg and Hanover Courthouse, where he was breveted Major for “gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Hanover Court House” as of 27 May 1862.

In July 1862 he was detailed as aide-de-camp to General McClellan and served in that capacity until McCellan was relieved of command. For “gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Antietam,” he received a second brevet, as Lt. Colonel as of 17 September 1862. When McClellan was relieved, Abert was transferred to the staff of Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Army of the Gulf as Lt. Col. and Assistant Inspector General, where he served from 17 November 1862 to 6 October 1864, taking part in the campaign against Port Hudson and the Red River Campaign. On 3 December 1864 he was commissioned Colonel of the 3rd Massachusetts Artillery, which served in the fortifications around Washington. Upon muster out of that regiment Abert returned to his regular army rank of Captain, but received a brevet to Brigadier General of Volunteers “for gallant and meritorious service during the war,” dating to March 1865. On 8 June 1867 he was promoted to Major of the 7th US Cavalry, of Custer fame, joined the regiment in Texas, but died in Galveston of yellow fever not long after, on 25 August 1867. We find a portrait of him in the Mollus Collection and he likely appears in photographs of McClellan or Banks among their staff officers. Indeed, he appears very much like an officer standing just behind Banks in a portrait of that general with his staff officers.

This is a very high-grade version of popular officer’s sword and the repair to the lower scabbard indicates it saw field service in the hands of this very active officer. It would add to a collection based on its owner’s history and on its own merits as a sword as well. [sr]

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