SILVERED SOUTH CAROLINA MILITIA OFFICER’S SWORD BY HORSTMANN

$4,250.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1117-92

Volunteer militia companies might operate under their own charters, which let them set their own regulations for uniforms and equipment. In this case, the officer has selected a silver mounted (brass, silver washed) sword that likely fit with white or silver uniform trim, silver buttons, etc. The sword dates about 1840 and is made by Horstmann, bearing the firm name on the scabbard and their inventory or pattern number: “425.”

The pommel features a portrait bust of a warrior wearing scale armor and a Phrygian cap, both classical, the latter being the origin of the Liberty cap. The knuckleguard is cast with vines and leaves in relief that flow into a feathered eagle head as the quillon terminal. The counterguard is downturned and bordered at the sides and lower edge with double scrolls, each suggest the head of an Ionic column, or a rounded “W,” but with those at the sides showing segmented arms and rather amorphous stars suggesting starfish or sea-creatures. At center is the Palmetto tree of the South Carolina seal, growing from a mound with “1776” on its base. The grip is plain mother-of-pearl, not grooved for a wire binding, with a ferrule at the base.

The blade is straight, single edged, with a broad fuller, false edge, and spearpoint with very good blue and gilt color on the lower portion. The motifs incorporate floral and martial elements. The gold is very strong and stands out well against the vibrant blue. The upper portion of the bluing thins out near the scrolling leafy terminals of the panel on either side and the bright metal above that has dark gray sections, but with good edges and point.

The silver washed brass scabbard is very nice. It is mounted with a shield-shaped frog stud and two carrying rings. The reverse is plain. The obverse is bordered with a swag design of repeated crescents and dots. Sections above and below the carrying rings are engraved with leaves fanning out to either side and forming a plain spearhead shaped interior. The drag is a simple button, but there is an extended leafy vine extending up from it. The carrying rings and throat are present. The pattern or inventory number is stamped on the reverse of the throat along with a lengthwise Horstmann stamp.

William H. Horstmann emigrated to the U.S. in 1816 and got his start supplying bullion cloth for coach and dress trimming, and for military uniforms, epaulets, sword knots, etc. The business expanded into more general military goods in the 1830s and 1840s, using many German imports and opening their own sword shop in 1848 after the purchase of Widmann’s tools and the hiring of some former workers. The blade shows the king’s head blade maker’s mark of the Gebruder Weyersberg of Solingen, major exporters of blades to the American market, particularly to Horstmann.

South Carolina had a vigorous militia system that required all eligible adult males to be registered in a local “line” company, but allowed service in volunteer companies within the system, which became both military and social organizations, often competing with one another in drill competitions, etc., and expressing their ethnic identities, politics, etc., in their choice of uniforms, flags, etc. These were more naturally part of wealthier communities like Charleston and from their own personal wealth might serve as riflemen, artillery, or cavalry, hosting banquets and balls, as well as taking part in compulsory musters six times a year.

This is a nice example of an ante-bellum South Carolina militia officer’s sword with a strong visual appeal that might well have seen later service in the Civil War.  [sr]

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