BALTIMORE ROSS WINANS PIKE FROM THE MOLLUS WAR LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

$2,950.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1052-11

Pikes were made throughout the south at the beginning of the war as potential weapons of necessity. This particular style is from a group hastily made in Baltimore in April 1861 at the workshops of Ross Winans, who had made a fortune manufacturing locomotive, was decidedly anti-Federal in his politics and in urging resistance to Federal authorities and troops from free-states on Maryland soil. Baltimore papers reported two thousand pikes under construction at his works on April 22, 1861, and their completion by April 26, just nine days after the Baltimore riots. Some secondary sources report city police Marshal Kane was responsible for ordering the pikes from Winans to arm residents of the city. When General Butler seized Federal Hill and took control of the city on May 13, Winans was one of his first arrests. Butler also acted swiftly to seize stockpiled arms. A Richmond paper reported on May 28 that several thousand muskets and pikes had been retrieved from a cemetery in Baltimore where they had been hidden. (The number there given is 3,000 pikes, but 2,000 seems the actual number supplied by Winans.) Winans was arrested at least twice, but eventually signed a loyalty oath.

This pike matches the Winans’ pikes from William Albaugh’s collection pictured in Brown, American Polearms, p. 114 and discussed on pages 116-117. As Brown points out, these were made quickly and rather crudely, with a good deal of minor variation, but all have a forged, double-edged blade set into a wood shaft by a long tang and have a thick iron collar or upper ferrule. This one is the same as the illustrated Albaugh pieces and fits the description, having a 10-inch blade, diamond in cross section, set into the shaft by a long tang. The blade is about 1-inch wide at the shaft and widens to about 2-inchs for the cutting edge. These are reported to have been 8-feet long, but almost all have been shortened to some degree. This one measures about 71-inches overall, 10 inches for the blade and 61 inches on the shaft, which shows a little rough on the butt end.

The condition is very good. The blade shows gray with dark gray and brown areas, some pitting and crude forging marks and flaws, but with no bends, nicks or chips and a good edge and point. The collar is in place. The wood has a rough finish typical of these, looking almost like a whittled surface, another indicator of the haste with which they were turned out. There is one narrow crack running down from the collar, but blade and shaft are stable. The crude nail/pin through the shaft securing the blade tang is still in place. On one side of the shaft just below the collar is paper label with “953” in blue ink, very typical of items on display in G.A.R. veteran’s halls or displays. The other side has a modern ink museum inventory number on a white background on the collar itself.

This pike comes from the collections of the War Library and Museum of M.O.L.L.U.S., the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the veterans’ organization of Civil War Union officers formed in 1865. The group reached its peak strength around 1900, with some 8,000 former officers, lineal descendants, and a few honorary members. They incorporated their War Library and Museum in 1888 and from 1922 it was housed in a townhouse in Philadelphia. The museum was closed in 2008 pending a move or combination with another institution. These plans unfortunately came to naught. Much of its material was placed with other museums, and the remainder was recently sold at auction. We were fortunate to acquire some very interesting objects at the sale that we are happy to offer to our customers.

This is interesting not only as a Confederate polearm, but as a relic of the chaotic days following the firing on Fort Sumter as U.S. authorities struggled to keep Maryland in the Union and communications open between Washington and the north. [PE] [ph:m]

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