INSCRIBED OFFICER’S SWORD WITH BATTLE HONORS OF LIEUTENANT AND CAPTAIN GEORGE W. ADAMS 1st RI LIGHT ARTILLERY BREVETED THREE TIMES

$8,000.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 870-426

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This is not, “just like the one in the book.” It is the one in the book: illustrated on page 411 of Thillman’s classic “Civil War Army Swords.” These non-regulation swords with steel hilts and scabbards were strong, less subject to damage, and very popular with U.S. officers for field use. Schuyler, Hartley and Graham alone offered five different types. Most are Solingen products using British patterns. The general type has been labeled “Peterson-75” from his numbering in the “American Sword.” This one follows the British 1827 rifle officer’s sword, even preserving the rifleman’s “stringed trumpet” and crown in the counterguard, but with U.S. blade etching.

The hilt has a stepped birdshead pommel with capstan and backstrap. The sharkskin grip is bound with coiled “dragoon style” wire bordered by a single strand. The blade has an inset “Proof” copper disk on the obverse of the long ricasso, an attempt by British makers to distinguish their blades from Solingen copies, but imitated by Solingen makers in turn. There is no maker’s stamp and the reverse was left unetched for a retailer to fill in, but is blank. Kevin Hoffman believed the sword to be British made; Thillmann thought it likely a Walschied product.

The sword shows field use, as it should, but the condition is very good. The hilt is a mix of steel gray and darker gray tones with tiny brown spotting. The grip shows just small wear spots along the wire and near the backstrap and pommel. The blade has good edge and (spear) point, muted silver in color mixed with some thin gray areas, more noticeable from the end of the fuller out to the point. The etching is quite visible, showing a short Arabesque panel at bottom of the obverse containing a floral motif, and a longer panel, with Arabesque terminals, containing an American eagle clutching an E Pluribus Unum banner in its beak, with a row of clouds below, on a sunburst background. The reverse has a similar pair of short and long panels, the latter containing floral scrolls and leafy branches bordering a large U.S. In both cases the motifs are to be read with the blade edge-up.

The scabbard matches the hilt and shows a mix of muted silver gray and darker gray with some brown spotting. The separate throat is missing. Rings, bands and drag are in place. There is just one dent on the reverse, halfway between the lower band and drag. The drag shows wear and a number of dings on the reverse, as should be expected when carried by a mounted officer who saw a lot of action.

The scabbard obverse is boldly engraved at top: “Geo. W. Adams / Capt. & Brevt. Lieut. Col. / 1st R .I. L. Arty” in nice mix of shaded letters in the first line, and slanting upper and lower case block letters in the second and third. Below that, between the middle and lower ring bands, are 24 battle honors engraved in upper and lower case block letters: Balls Bluff, Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Savage Station, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg 1st, Fredericksburg 2nd, Gettysburg, Fairfield, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania C H, Cold Harbor, Petersburg 1st, Poolesville, Snickers Gap, Winchester, Fishers Hill, Woodstock, Cedar Creek, Petersburg 2nd, Sailors Creek, Appomattox C H.” We show an engraving of Adams at a brevet rank and an outdoor photo of him, seated at right, at Brandy Station.

George William Adams (1834-1883) was from Providence, R.I., attended Brown University, but dropped out to enter the mercantile business. He married in 1860, but was widowed a few months later. A member of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery before the war, Adams was in Baltimore when the war broke out, tried to get a commission in Rhode Island and to join the navy in New York, finally mustering into Tompkins’ Battery B of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery on 8/13/61 and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant. He served the entire war and earned three brevets for gallant conduct.

Armed with rifled 6-pounders, the battery participated in the Battle of Balls Bluff in October 1861, one gun actually being hauled across the river and put into action before being captured. In the Peninsular Campaign it served under Sedgwick, fought at Yorktown, was in support at Hanover Court House, and under fire at Fair Oaks, the Peach Orchard, Savage Station and Malvern Hill. At Antietam it was under fire, but in reserve. At Fredericksburg Adams led a section of the battery close to the stone wall and saw heavy action, the battery losing sixteen men killed and wounded and twelve of its battery horses.

Likely because of his bravery at Fredericksburg, Adams was promoted to Captain of Battery I on 1/30/63 and then to command of Battery G, armed with 3-inch rifles, on 4/23/63. He arrived on May 2, the eve of the “Second Battle of Fredericksburg.” Crossing the river among the foremost of Sedgwick’s troops, Adams’s guns silenced a rebel battery some six hundred yards off in preparation for the infantry attack, but in doing so suffered heavy casualties: twenty-four men killed or wounded, including three lieutenants, and three brothers serving one gun. Sixteen horses were lost, and a gun carriage badly damaged. One of Adams’ men wrote, “Capt. Adams led the Battery in the hottest of the fight, and by his bravery won not only the confidence but high esteem of his men.”

Assigned to the artillery brigade of the Sixth Corps, where it remained for the rest of its service, the regiment was not engaged at Gettysburg, but saw action at Fairfield, firing 162 rounds in an hour-long fight with Early’s rearguard troops in Lee’s retreat. It took part in the Bristoe campaign in October, but next saw action at Mine Run on 11/27 when it fired 111 rounds in preparation for the aborted attack. A veteran battery in the 1864 campaign, they were at Wilderness, though not engaged, but in the horrendous fighting in the Salient at Spotsylvania on May 12, the battery kept up its fire “all day and night” in the words of one corporal, firing 873 rounds. At Cold Harbor they expended 159 rounds and at Petersburg from June 19-22 another 149 rounds on Confederate entrenchments. Adams led the battery in the July move of the Sixth Corps to counter Early’s attack on Washington and on July 15 at Poolesville, Md., they supported a cavalry charge against Early’s rear guard heading back to Virginia firing 27 rounds.

In pursuing Early back to Virginia the battery performed one of its better know feats at Cool Spring on July 18 by firing 134 rounds from Snickers Gap at Confederate troops attacking an isolated Eighth Corps division on the far of the Shenandoah River. A newspaper reported, “At this critical moment, Adams’ Rhode Island Battery came into position on an eminence overlooking the valley below. They immediately opened upon the enemy with shot and shell from three inch rifled guns, creating havoc among them. The range was very accurate, and each shell burst in their midst.” Adams even silenced twenty-pound Parrots brought up to face him. “The scene was a most exciting one: generals, colonels and others were standing near, and high compliments were passed on to this battery by General Russell and others.”

Further fighting against Early cemented their reputation. At Third Winchester they checked Cox’s North Carolinians along the Berryville Turnpike with canister and then changed front to deal with a Virginia artillery battery, firing 462 rounds. At Fisher’s Hill they helped silence two CS batteries and then moved forward with the 6th Corps infantry, expending 218 rounds in supporting fire and harassing fire in the pursuit. At Cedar Creek, they were caught by surprise with the rest of the army, losing 45 horses killed and two guns as a result in a close up melee. Adams himself and two men tried to move one gun to safety, Adams giving up only when his two comrades were shot down. General Wheaton commented, “I never saw a battery more ably and desperately fought,” and recommended Adams for promotion. Field grades were hard to obtain in the artillery, but he was breveted major in November for his actions.

Adams received two more brevets for his performance at Petersburg. In preparation for the final assault on the morning of April 2, 1865, he gathered twenty volunteers with rammers, lanyards and primers, and led them forward with the Vermont brigade, where they mounted the Confederate works and turned two captured howitzers on the enemy. “The moral effect of this deed of daring was felt not only on the men of Battery G, but upon the army,” says a battery history. The rest of the battery was engaged as well, and the unit saw its last action at Sailor’s Creek a few days later, and was present at Appomattox. Seventeen men of Adams’s detail were awarded the Medal of Honor, though not all received it. Adams was awarded an advancement of two brevet ranks, to Lt. Colonel and Colonel.

This is a wonderful combat sword, carried in action by a very active and highly regarded officer who recorded his battles upon it. General Wheaton remarked after his gallant behavior at Cedar Creek: “He has few superiors in the service.”  [sr]

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