INSCRIBED OFFICER’S SWORD OF CAPT. CHARLES CURIE 178th NY, WIA ANTIETAM IN HAWKINS ZOUAVES, ACTING ADJUTANT 178th AND 16th CORPS STAFF

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Item Code: 1117-112

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This inscribed 1850 pattern staff and field officer’s sword by Schuyler, Hartley and Graham was carried by Charles Curie, who served almost two years in the Hawkins Zouaves, 9th NY, as an enlisted man and was then discharged in February 1863 for promotion to lieutenant in the Second Hawkins Zouaves, a unit consolidated with others into the 178th New York, which saw active campaigning with the 16th Corps in the west.

The sword is the regulation pattern with brass hilt featuring a pommel cast and chased with a U.S. shield and floral motifs and open-work floral motifs in the guard along with a floating “U.S.” The pommel and guard have an undisturbed aged patina. The scabbard body is an even plum color. The mounts match the hilt in patina and show some reddish stains that are likely remains of original varnish. The drag seems to have been replaced, but the rest of the sword is untouched. The grip preserves its wire binding and sharkskin wrap, but shows definite signs of wear, with sections of the sharkskin worn from handling to expose the wood underneath and the blade pad under the guard is missing.

The blade bears a “Schuyler, Hartley / & Graham / New York” address etched on the obverse ricasso. The blade has a good edge and point, and is largely a muted silver gray in tone with dark gray spots, but with very visible etching in a long single panel on either side, both with geometric Arabesque terminals. The obverse bears a wide, spread-winged eagle on a leafy branch and E Pluribus Unum banner scroll. The reverse is etched with a “U.S.” amid floral scrolls and has the blade maker’s mark of W. Clauberg / Solingen stamped on the ricasso, along with their trademark standing knight. The spine of the blade is etched “Iron Proof,” characteristic of many German import blades.

The upper mount of the scabbard is professionally engraved in script on the obverse, “Chas. Curie / Capt. Co. A / 178th N.Y.V.” and the reverse shows traces of the name lightly scratched in. This might have been a “cheat sheet” by the engraver, who then failed to completely buff it out, or could well have been done by Curie himself earlier. He did not make captain until August 1864, but was on staff duty much earlier and may have anticipated a staff appointment when recruiting the Second Hawkins in early 1863. The sword certainly shows extensive field use. One tell-tale sign, in addition to the grip wear, is the upper ring mount of the scabbard, which is almost worn through. This bears the weight of the sword and is the point of friction when carried on the belt. This seems to have been carried in the field for more than just Curie’s last four months of service. (Leaving aside the question of how he would have obtained a New York retailed sword while campaigning in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri.)

Curie was born in France in 1842 and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1844, settling in Paterson, N.J. He attended business school and was a custom-house clerk in New York City in April 1861 when he enlisted for two years on 4/23/61, mustering in 5/4/61 as a private, Co. C, 9th NY Volunteers, Hawkins Zouaves. He participated in all the regiment’s engagements through Antietam, where he was wounded. He is mentioned as among the first to reach the Confederate battery in the regiment’s charge at the Battle of Roanoke, February 1862, where they lost 17 men, and was promoted corporal 3/5/62. The regiment saw action again in April at Camden (South Mills) with a loss of 75, and then joined Army of the Potomac, 9th Corps, fighting at South Mountain, where Curie is mentioned as acting sergeant and left general guide. He was wounded at Antietam, one of some 240 casualties in the regiment, fighting on the Union left, and was reportedly at home recovering when he was tapped for promotion to 1st lieutenant in the prospective 2nd Battalion Hawkins Zouaves. He was discharged for promotion 2/12/63 and engaged in recruiting in New York City.

Organization of the regiment was stymied by the number of other regiments recruiting and after the unit was twice consolidated with other groups, Currie emerged as 1st Lieutenant, Co. C, 178th NY, hastily organized in June 1863 in view of Lee’s move north. Curie was mustered out of his old position and mustered immediately into the 178th on 6/22/63, going to Washington with the five available companies of the new regiment. Assigned to the 22nd Corps, they did provost guard duty in and around Washington until joined by the rest of the regiment and were then dispatched to join Sherman at Eastport, MS, in October, joining the 3rd Division 16th Army Corps in December.

Currie was acting regimental adjutant from 8/7/63 to 3/8/64, and was posted to brigade (and, possibly, to division) staff as acting ordnance officer and aide-de-camp in 1864 also. Either would explain his use of a staff and field sword, though he might well have anticipated being adjutant of the Second Hawkins and acquired the sword in New York City while recruiting. The inscription, of course, would date to his promotion to captain of Company A of the 178th on 8/5/64.

In Mower's division of the 16th corps the regiment served in Kentucky and Tennessee, was engaged at Camden and Jackson, Mississippi, in early 1864 and on Sherman's expedition from Vicksburg to Meridian. It then was part of two divisions “loaned” to Banks for the Red River Campaign, seeing action at Fort De Russy, Pleasant Hill, Campti, Cloutierville, Moore's plantation, Bayou Rapides, Mansura and Simsport. At Pleasant Hill, “it recaptured a battery in a spirited charge and drove the enemy in confusion. Its loss in this battle amounted to 31 killed, wounded and missing.” At the conclusion of the Red River Campaign the regiment remained with the “Detachment – 16th Army Corps,” two divisions under A.J. Smith that were deployed to counter Confederate forces under Marmaduke, Forrest and Price, seeing yet more action at Lake Chicot, Ark.; Colliersville, and La Grange, Tenn.; Ripley, Tupelo, Old Town creek and Hurricane creek, Miss.; and, Lexington, Independence, and Glasgow, Mo., in November, after which it was sent to join Thomas at Nashville.

Curie was promoted to Captain of Co. A while the regiment was in Mississippi and, presumably then returned to duty in the line, if he had been so posted earlier. In the march to Nashville, while serving with his company, was taken sick and hospitalized at Jefferson Barracks. He tendered his resignation for disability and was discharged 12/20/64, but was unable to return home until March, and it was not able to resume his business career until January 1866.

Curie became successful and wealthy in the postwar years, running his own custom-house brokerage and taking a law degree to specialize in tariffs. He organized the "Patterson Light Guard" in the NJNG in 1879 and was active in veteran’s affairs, joining the NY Commandery of MOLLUS in 1886, and serving as the Commander of the Department of New Jersey, G.A.R., in 1905. From 1908 to 1909 he served as the President of the Society of the Army of the Potomac. He was active in the veterans’ organization of the Hawkins Zouaves and involved with their monument dedication at Antietam. Curie died in Brooklyn in 1910.

This is a very interesting sword, showing lots of honest use by an officer with a very active history of campaigning.    [sr]

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