IDENTIFIED 23rd WISCONSIN BOWIE KNIFE: “DEATH TO TRAITORS”

$1,895.00

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Item Code: 2022-1061

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This double-edged spearpoint Bowie or side knife is 12 inches long overall and has a 7-inch blade measure 1-inch wide at the guard. It has German silver mounts: a flat crossguard with scalloped edges and round tips, and rectangular escutcheon plate with rounded ends set in the reverse grip. The blade has a median ridge, prominent ricasso with gap between the beginning of the blade edge and the guard (a “choil”) and bears the motto “DEATH TO TRAITORS” etched in block letters in a convex arc. The first portion of this is on the upper portion of the blade and clearly visible. The last portion extends to the lower portion of the blade and can be made out, but is light from cleaning. The grip is excellent, with uniform deep brown color and good edges, secured on each side by four pins. The point is good and the edge is good as well, the cleaning leaving wipe marks and shallow scratches, but not grinding the edge. The metal is smooth, a light silver in color showing bright metal and some thin gray spots. The scabbard is a brown leather with matching German silver mounts. The body has good color and surface, one slight crease on one side and is missing the small frog button on the throat.

The soldier scratched his name twice on the upper mount of the scabbard. The first try was not very good, but is clearly “L. J. MAIN.” The second attempt, just below this is better “L. MAIN.” This is matched by “L.J. MAIN” on the grip escutcheon plate, which is done in block letters rendered with shading on the L, M and A. Lorenzo J. Main gave his residence at Albion, Wisconsin, when he enlisted and mustered into Co. D of the 23rd Wisconsin on 8/15/62. He served with that regiment until transferring on 11/28/63 to the Veteran Reserve Corps, 62nd Company 2nd Battalion, with which he served through the rest of the war, mustering out 7/17/65.

During his time with the 23rd, they served in the Army of Kentucky, the 13th Corps in the District an Army of West Tennessee, took part in Sherman’s Yazoo Expedition, were in the Department of the Tennessee, and were in the Army and Department of the Gulf when he transferred to the V.R.C. While he was in the 23rd they were engaged and took casualties as Arkansas Post, where they received congratulatory brigade and division orders, Port Gibson, where they were in reserve, but the first to enter the town, Raymond, Champion Hill, where their action was praised, and took part in the capture of a Tennessee regiment the next day at Black River Bridge. It was at the Siege of Vicksburg, taking part in the assault of June 22, and at Jackson afterward. In November 1863, while with the Army and Dept. of the Gulf, they took significant casualties at Carrion Crow Bayou, LA, losing 128 out of 220 engaged. Two regiments had been driven through their lines by a Confederate attack and they were flanked, but fell back, rallied, and with reinforcements regained their lost ground. His VRC company had formerly been Co. K, 4th Regt. VRC, and was organized in St. Louis, MO. We have not tracked their service, but the units were usually employed in guard and provost guard duties. A quick genealogical search shows that he was born in New York in 1845 and died in Nebraska in 1922.

This is a nicely identified Civil War knife with a militant and patriotic blade etching, belonging to a soldier with some active service in the western campaigns. The maker name or trademark in the ricasso is “AKSLN.” This has been explained by some as a phonetic version of “Alexander,” which does not seem right no matter how you slur it, and “Excellenning,” which we hope is a typo. Our best guess, submitted to a voice vote by the staff, is that it is “Excelling” which plays upon the famous Wostenholm “IXL,” but with enough difference to avoid claims of trademark infringement. [SR] [ph:L]

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