RARE CONFEDERATE TINNED IRON CLIP-POINT BOWIE KNIFE SCABBARD BY BOYLE AND GAMBLE, FROM THE MOLLUS WAR LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, FROM THE BATTLE OF CAMP BARTOW, W. VIRGINIA

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Item Code: 766-1539

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This extremely rare tinned iron scabbard is for a clip-point Bowie knife and is slightly shorter, but a match for the scabbard on a rare Virginia D-guard Bowie made and marked by Boyle and Gamble, illustrated on page 55 of Confederate Bowie Knives by Melton et al. This comes from the MOLLUS War Library and Museum collection and by their records was a souvenir from the Battle of Camp Bartow, West Virginia, otherwise known as the Battle of Greenbrier, fought in October 1861.

The condition is excellent. The scabbard measures about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide with a .5 inch wide belt loop still affixed to the reverse.  The tin shows a mix of gray and dark gray with crusty areas but no breaks or bends and only one small hole on the upper edge about 2.5 inches from the throat. The length puts it right between the Boyle and Gamble Virginia side knives illustrated by Melton et al., which have about 8.5 inch blades, clipped and spearpoint, and their artillery knife and D-guard bowie, each with a blade a bit over 13-inches. The closest for blade length is their “Richmond Clip-Point” on page 53, with an 11 5/8 inch blade. Some of these have clip point scabbards as well, though without the sweep shown on this one and on the D-guard.

Camp Bartow was established in September 1861 in Pocahontas County, Virginia, near Cheat Mountain, in the effort to defend the western counties of the state. In October 1861 it was manned by about 1,800 Virginia, Georgia, and Arkansas troops, mostly infantry, but with some artillery and cavalry. They were attacked on October 3 by a Union force of some 5,000 men, consisting of infantry regiments from Ohio and Indiana, artillery from the U.S. Regulars, Michigan and loyal Virginia, with some Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana cavalry. The battle lasted more than five hours before the Union troops withdrew. It resulted in light casualties: 8 killed and 35 wounded Federal troops and 6 killed, 33 wounded and 13 missing Confederates. Both sides decided to improve upon the day by exaggerating the other’s losses.

Since the scabbard is clearly a Boyle and Gamble product (or Boyle, Gamble and McFee, to use the full company name used in government contracts,) it was likely carried by a Virginian in the fight. Among the Virginia units present were the 23rd, 25th, 31st,  and 44th infantry regiments.

This comes from the recently dispersed collections of the M.O.L.L.U.S. War Library and Museum in Philadelphia. Incorporated in 1888 by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S., the veterans’ organization for Union officers, this was the repository for a world-class collection of artifacts housed since 1922 in a Philadelphia townhouse. The museum closed in 2008. Many of their holdings made their way to other institutions, but we purchased a number pieces from them at auction. The Mollus record for the piece, indicating it came from Camp Bartow is repeated in the auction catalog. There is no indication of it having laid in or on the ground for any length of time and was certainly donated to the collection by a Union officer who took it as a souvenir of this early battle. The MOLLUS museum inventory number is on it and we show the entry from the auction catalog recording its provenance as “campsite Bartow, WV,” which is certainly a mistake for “Camp Bartow, WV.” The site was acquired by a land trust around 2016, is now a protected area, and preserves some of the original earthworks of the camp.  [SR] [PH:L]

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