IDENTIFIED SWORD BELT OF SERGEANT SOLOMON ASHLINE 118th NEW YORK, CAPTURED AT SECOND FAIR OAKS 1864

$2,250.00

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Item Code: 172-5551

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This regulation buff leather sword belt is near mint condition. The leather is supple and has a nice overall brown tone that is common in black buff accoutrements, which oxidized quickly from iron in the dyes. The belt is complete with both sword slings and the shoulder belt. The belt plate and hasp have matching bench numbers (461) and the belt still has the small sliding tighteners at the upper ends of the slings and on the waist belt near the plate. The plate is the pattern adopted in December 1863 using a wider plate, one-piece wreath, and sun’s rays encircling the eagle from lower edge of the plate to lower edge.

Boldly marked in period brown ink inside the belt is “Sol Ashline.” This partially covers an ink maker stamp, the bottom line of which reads, “Newark” and the line above likely, “maker.” J. Davy seems a likely candidate for the manufacturer and some black lighting might confirm that, but there are some other possibilities. The only candidate for the soldier, however, is Solomon Ashline, who served in the 118th New Infantry as a corporal and sergeant. Ashline, a farmer, enlisted at age 21 in Champlain, NY, on 8/9/62 and mustered into Co. I of the newly organized 118th New York Volunteers (The Adirondack Regiment) as a private on 8/20/62. He made corporal a few days later, 8/29/62, and sergeant at some time around 7/1/64.

The regiment left the state 9/3/62 and served in Washington until April 1863 when it was ordered to Suffolk, Va. There is served in the 7th Corps and briefly in the 4th, being present at the Siege of Suffolk, Antioch Church, Baker’s Crossroads, Franklin. the South Anna Bridge, where it suffered 11 casualties, Ballyhack, and Smithfield.

Assigned in January 1864 to the 18th Corps, the regiment became part of Butler’s Army of the James in April, seeing action at Port Walthall Junction, Chester Station, Swift Creek, Proctor’s Creek, and heavy fighting at Drewry’s Bluff, where it lost 199 men. At Cold Harbor in early June it took part in the first and second assaults, losing another 32 men, and in the assaults on Petersburg in mid-June another 21, plus further losses as the siege progressed.

On September 28 the regiment exchanged its Enfields for Spencer rifles and the next day was thrown into combat at Chaffin’s Farm and the assault on Fort Harrison, which was captured and defended the next day against desperate, repeated attempts to retake it. They remained in and around the newly renamed “Fort Burnham” until October 27, when they took part in a thrust against the Richmond lines meant to coordinate with movements at Petersburg on the Boydtown Road. On October 28 at Fair Oaks, the old 1862 battlefield, the regiment was part of Cullen’s brigade, which advanced against the Confederate works. These were more strongly manned than had been thought, by Confederates of Fields’ Division, who counterattacked. Lacking support, the brigade pulled back, the 118th losing 17 killed or wounded, and 94 missing, most of whom were captured, Ashline among them. He was eventually paroled to await exchange, which seems to have happened on March 2 according to one source. Records indicate he may have been absent sick for a time and received a furlough. He was discharged from Camp Parole at Annapolis 6/13/65, the date the regiment was mustered out at Richmond. Ashline returned home and at some point moved to Vermont. He was married twice, and died in Orwell, VT, in 1914.

Why Ashline had a cavalry saber belt is unclear. There is no indication the regiment was ever mounted, though if Ashline was detached at some point, in charge of ambulances or something like that, he might have been, and the records might not pick it up. Our best guess, however, is that since sergeants were entitled to the same rectangular eagle belt plate as on the sword belt, its acquisition have been a matter of opportunity. In any case, it is complete and in excellent condition, scarce in itself, with a “dead-real” ink inscription.  [sr]

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