INSCRIBED DATED AND INSPECTED AMES 1850 FOOT OFFICER’S SWORD WILLIAM NOYES 2nd CALIFORNIA, “A CALIFORNIA PIONEER”

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Item Code: 1117-113

This is a scarce 1862-dated U.S. government contracted and inspected M1850 foot officer’s sword inscribed to an officer with service against Indian raiders in California and Arizona, who got a patrol out of a tight spot when ambushed. Government contracted officers’ swords were to be sold at cost to officers, especially those at remote locations. A limited number 1850 patterns contracted for when the sword was introduced (delivered in 1851 and 1852,) and not again until June 1861, but that contract that was rescinded after delivery of 1,002, of which 571 were dated, like this, 1862. (Thillmann has missed an 1861 delivery, throwing his math off.)

This follows the standard configuration of M1850 foot officer’s sword with brass hilt, sharkskin wrapped and wire bound grip, cast and chased openwork guard with floral motifs, etched blade, and brass mounted black leather scabbard. As is correct, there are no inspection marks on the pommel or the scabbard, only on the ricasso of the sword. This follows the 1862 format, with no U.S. stamp, only the date, 1862, on one side of the ricasso, and the inspector stamp of John Hannis, “J.H.,” on the other. Thillmann records Hannis’s mark on 1861-dated examples, and one undated sword, indicating this may be a very early 1862 manufacture.

The grip wrap and wire binding are in place and very good. The brass hilt, like the scabbard mounts shows use, with wear to the gilt finish showing an aged patina on the underlying brass. The blade pad is in place. The blade shows some gray spotting on the lower portions, but brighter metal at the top, with very visible etching that is more vivid in upper portions. The point and edge are good, though the latter shows a couple of small nicks at the forted. The obverse is etched with Ames address above the ricasso with the “J.H.” stamp, followed by long panel with floral scrolls and an Ames eagle with raised wings posed across the blade. The reverse is etched with floral scrolls and a “U.S.” As with the obverse the

The scabbard and mounts show use, but are solid and good. The scabbard has good color and smooth finish in the upper portions, with a little crazing at the bottom, but no bends or breaks. The mounts are in place and secure, showing some scratches and the drag has a small crack at top. All show traces of gilt near the raised portions and darker patina from rubbing at the middle points. The upper mount has the Ames maker’s stamp, “AMES MFG. CO. / CHICOPEE / MASS.” on reverse. The obverse is inscribed in script, “Wm. H. Noyes / Capt. 2nd Infty. C.V.

William Noyes was born in Boston 17 October 1825. His mother’s pension application says he had been supporting her for 17 years at his death in 1866. A death notice in a California paper at the time calls him, “a California pioneer.” Together this may indicate he went west in the gold rush of 1849 and had been sending money home. On 18 June 1862 in San Francisco he joined the 2nd California Infantry, one of several state units intended to replace U.S. regulars who were heading east, and on July 1 he was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of Co. F, a company organized originally at Carson City, Nevada in 1861.

In 1862 Company F was ordered from San Francisco to Fort Humbodt, California, and was on duty there and at Fort Anderson, Fort Gaston, and Fort Wright. They performed scouting, guard, and patrol duty in pursuit of Indian raiding parties, seeing action at Whitney's Ranch July 28, 1862; Alber's Ranch, January 29; and Crogan's Ranch, May 7, 1862. In September 1862 Noyes led a detachment of twenty men to the head of Redwood Creek where they was ambushed by 75 or 80 Indians on a rocky mountainside. Noyes managed to withdraw to a defensive position and pulled is men back before he could be surrounded, but at the loss of one man wounded, his pack mules captured, and his own riding mule shot out from under him. Noyes was praised in an official report: “There was no possible way of turning the position, and nothing was left but to retire to the timber a few hundred yards distant, which was done coolly, the men turning and firing whenever a glimpse of the Indians could be caught, Lieut. Noyes being the last to enter the cover. . . I am entirely convinced that no censure can be attached to the lieutenant commanding, but that he behaved in a cool, judicious manner throughout the whole affair, and deserves credit for extricating his command from such a well-devised ambuscade. It was a little less than miraculous that the whole party was not exterminated.” The company also took part in subsequent operations in the Humboldt District from March to July 1863, including a skirmish in Williams Valley in April 1863, and again from February through June 1864.

In 1865 the regiment reorganized as veterans and on 7 January 1865 Noyes was promoted to captain of Company K, the rank inscribed on the sword, though he may well have carried the sword as a lieutenant and only had it inscribed on his promotion. (It seems unlikely to have lain around for two years.) In August the regiment was sent to southern California and the Arizona Territory for similar duty in protecting settlers and travelers. Noyes’s company was posted first to Drum Barracks, headquarters for Southern California and the Arizona Territory, and then at Fort Yuma and at Fort Goodwin in the Gila Valley from September 1865 to April 1866, when they were ordered home for muster out.

Fort Goodwin was a notoriously unhealthy location, and Noyes was taken ill with both cardiac disease and, “disorder of the digestive organs” in mid-April. While heading to San Francisco to be mustered out in June, he died on board the steamer “Oregon” on June 8 off the coast of Sonora, Mexico, at the mouth of the Colorado River and was buried there. News of his death was reported at San Francisco and by telegraph to Sacramento, where it was mentioned in “Sacramento Daily Union” of 25 June 1866, where he called, “a California pioneer.” Further research might develop details of his history in early California. We seldom encounter material relating to the far west of this period, especially from someone with active field service. [sr]

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