ELEGANT CA. 1840 SOUTH CAROLINA MILITIA OFFICER’S SWORD BY HORSTMANN

$4,750.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1117-93

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This sword by Horstmann is in excellent condition, incorporates the South Carolina state seal on the guard, and dates about 1840, the era of the “elegant elite,” volunteer militia companies that functioned as both military and social organizations, competing with one another in appearance and drill, and using their uniforms and gear to advertise their patriotism, ethnic identity, and social standing.

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. This is one of their swords for officers of the South Carolina militia, bearing the state seal on the counterguard and also showing on the scabbard Horstmann’s specific inventory or pattern number for South Carolina swords: “425.”

The hilt and scabbard are brass and in excellent condition. The pommel features a portrait bust of a somewhat androgynous figure wearing a Phrygian cap and scale armor, both being classical, but the Phrygian cap being a Liberty cap as well. The knuckleguard has vines and acanthus leaves cast in relief. As it crosses the quillon block it transitions into a feathered neck and eagle head. The counterguard is downturned and bordered at the sides and lower edge with double scrolls suggesting the heads of Ionic columns, but sea-shells as well, with the Palmetto tree of the South Carolina seal at center, growing from a mound with “1776” along its base. The grip is plain mother-of-pearl, not grooved for a wire binding, with a ferrule at the base.

The blade is likewise excellent, bright etched, and vivid. Both sides mix floral scrolls with martial motifs and start from a short geometric section at the base. The obverse incorporates Horstmann’s initials “W.H.H.” in a scroll near the base with a stand of arms and flags above. The reverse includes “Philadelphia” in a scroll and a panoply of arms, flags, drum, shield, and trumpet. On both sides the frosting is strong and terminates in a point with symmetrical leaf edges. In form the blade is spadroon, straight with single edge, spear point, single wide fuller. The flat back is etched with a leafy flowing vine at the base.

The scabbard is in very good condition as well, showing just a few darker spots.  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 lightly struck lengthwise Horstmann stamp.

South Carolina had a vigorous militia system, initially as protection from nearby Spanish settlements and attack by Indian tribes, and after 1721 as part of the slave patrol and police force. All eligible adult males registered in local “line” companies of infantry where only officers might be uniformed, but wealthier areas, like urban Charleston, could field a number of “volunteer” companies who were part of the system, but might operate under their own charters for uniforms and arms, and might have the personal wealth to serve as riflemen, artillery, or cavalry.

This is a nice example of a militia officer’s sword with a strong visual appeal.    [sr]

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