December 14-17, 2021 Collectible Firearms & Militaria
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/14/2021
Engraved inside the hilt "Capt R.B. Newkirk", this is likely the sword recorded in the regimental history as presented to Captain Rodney B. Newkirk on November 19, 1864, by the members of Company B, 120th New York and mentioned along with another presentation ten days earlier: “The presentation in both cases was made by Lieutenant-Colonel Tappen in brief and appropriate terms, to which the recipients of the swords made fitting replies. The soldiers were much interested in the ceremonies, expressing their good wishes for the officers thus honored, whose merits and character had commended them as deserving of this distinction.” Known also as the Ulster Regiment and the Washington Guards, the 120th New York was organized in Ulster County in August 1862. The then civilian Rodney Newkirk was a 24 year old clerk who was living at home when he decided to enlist in the Army on August 6, 1862. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant of Company B in September with rank effective from August 12, he was actually in command of the company by January 1, 1863. Newkirk was promoted to Captain, commissioned May 1863 with rank from April 13, when the previous company commander was discharged for disability. The regiment served in the Army of the Potomac, 3rd Corps and 2nd Corps, losing 11 officers and 141 enlisted men just in killed or mortally wounded in battles that included Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, with the loss of 66 men. After the fighting at Chancellorsville, Newkirk was court martialed for drunkenness on duty May 5, 1863 and sentenced to be cashiered. However the sentence was remitted on recommendation of the court, the division commander, and the major general commanding Army of the Potomac and he was returned to duty. This decision to remit would benefit the regiment, as Newkirk would later distinguish himself in battle. Other engagements included Gettysburg, where the unit lost 204 out of 427 men engaged, James City, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomoy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, Poplar Springs Church, Boydton Plank Road (twice,) Hatcher’s Run, White Oak Road, Amelia Springs, Farmville, and Appomattox. Newkirk is mentioned in a November 7, 1864 report for his actions of repelling the enemy during a battle at Fort Morton. On November 5, 1864, Newkirk and the men of the 120th Regiment were part of a defensive picket line that extended from Fort Morton to Fort Meikel under the command of Colonel R. McAllister, 11th New Jersey Volunteers. During the battle, the 120th Regiment was overtaken by the charging rebels, but due to Newkirk's swift leadership, the 120th was able to recover the line. "A part of the One hundred and twentieth New York gave way, being unable to fire but one volley. They rallied again and and retook a portion of their lost posts" After retaking their lost ground, Newkirk was able to rally his men and aid in a counterattack that was organized by Colonel McAllister. "I then sent two companies from the One hundred and twentieth New York Volunteers to report to these officers, and they fought with the others hand to hand across the pits with brave determination and gallantry...I take great pleasure in mentioning the following officers as having borne a conspicuous part in the re-establishment of our line: Capt. Rodney B. Newkirk..." It was not a bad day for the Captain who was almost court martialed. Newkirk would continue to fight till the end of the war, but his life was permanently altered on March 25, 1865, the final day of the Siege of Petersburg. Several pension and medical documents state "That while in the service of the United States he received a gun shot wound in the left hand while in battle on the 25th day of March 1865 at Hatcher's Run in the state of Virginia." Newspapers indicated he was severely wounded in the left arm, but apparently recovered sufficiently to rejoin the regiment in time for muster out and return home in June 1865. Muster roll abstracts show him as present other than an absence in December 1863 and brief assignment as brigade inspector in October 1864. However according to pension documents, it appears as though Newkirk did not fully recover and was permanently disabled. The wound is described as "a gun shot wound in the left hand...the ball passing in hand between thumb and forefinger thence in an oblique direction through hand aforesaid and cut out near the wrist bone" Other documents indicate that Newkirk suffered from paralysis and his hand was paralyzed. The damage to the blade of his sword is certainly battle damage from a bullet or shell fragment and likely dates to the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, where Newkirk was recorded as severely wounded in the left arm. He was well thought of by his men, as evidenced not only by the presentation, but also tributes made to him after his passing. When he died just three years after the war, in November 1868 at age 30, his former comrades furnished a tombstone inscribed with the badge of the Third Corps Union, which was founded in September 1863 by and for officers of the corps. The tribute reads: “The members of the 120th New York Regimental Union to the lasting memory of their friend and comrade, Captain Rodney B. Newkirk, a brave & gallant soldier, who fought with them in most of the battles of the army of the Potomac in the war for the Union.” Despite heavy wear, the sword was probably once a prized possession of Newkirk and reflected the gratitude of his men. The sword is accompanied by a envelope of documents which were copied from the National Archives. Newkirk's story is preserved through his sword, which displays a small example of destruction that the Civil War had caused. The inscription is located under the guard and reads "Capt. R.B. Newkirk". The sword is nearly unmarked, except for a beehive mark on the ricasso which was used by the maker Samuel Hoppe. The blade exhibits a dark gray patina with 75% of the blade covered in a protective layer of varnish that has yellowed over time. At one point, the blade's elegant scrollwork was probably the center of attention when the sword was unsheathed but now the designs remain muted, due years of aging without the protection of a scabbard. Both the obverse and reverse of the blade exhibit scenes of spiraling scrollwork that is intertwined with motifs of patriot bunting and arms. The obverse features a banner that reads "E Pluribus Unum" while the reverse replaces this decoration with the bold letters "US". Finally, and most obviously, the blade was wounded, much like its owner's hand, with a damaged portion that measures approximately 2 - 3/4" where the steel was ripped away. The edge exhibits several nicks that vary in size, possibly reflecting the hand to hand combat that Newkirk experienced during the war. The blade meets the now dulled guard that once glistened in light. Almost all of the gilt has worn away and the open floral scrollwork resembles a flower at the end of autumn. There are various dents on the edge of the grip, further asserting its field use. The guard is followed by the grip, which features a grooved, center-swelled wooden handle wrapped in high quality sharkskin. The wire that once wrapped the grip has been lost over time and the quality of the sharkskin has deteriorated and the wood is now visible in several areas. The sword ends at the domed pommel that reflects the appearance of the guard. CONDITION: The blade exhibits pitting, especially around the tip and scattered throughout its length. The blade is loose and the grip wobbles when moved. The inscription is present but barely visible. Overall fair. Despite the wear, this is a great example of an inscribed Civil War field officer’s sword with obvious battle related damage. While other presentation swords are flashier and visibly attractive, this sword exhibits the conditions of battle, and the consequences of a divided nation. JLD
Blade Length
Overall Length
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $500.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $2,280.00
Estimate: $1,000 - $3,000
Number Bids: 12
Auction closed on Friday, December 17, 2021.
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