December 14-17, 2021 Collectible Firearms & Militaria
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/14/2021
William H. Hart was an active and energetic officer who was respected by his men and his superior officers, which is displayed through his military career. He rose from Sergeant to Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel in the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery and 36th US Colored Troops, with whom he served from late 1862 to late 1866 in Virginia and Texas. In his young adult life, Hart was a shoemaker in Lynn, Massachusetts, when he enlisted and was mustered as a sergeant in Company M, 14th Massachusetts Regiment of Infantry, on February 28, 1862 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant on January 28, 1863. Hart’s regiment had been organized in June 1861 as the 14th Massachusetts Regiment of Infantry. Their branch of service was changed to heavy artillery in January 1862 with the addition of companies “L” and “M,” of which Hart was a member and were appropriately designated batteries, but official redesignation of the regiment as the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery did not take place until September 1863. The regiment served largely in the defenses of Washington, with several companies assigned to Harpers Ferry and elsewhere. They were reunited at Washington in November 1863 and sent to the field as infantry in May 1864. In the meantime, Hart had applied for a commission in the United States Colored Troops and was appointed Captain of Company H on April 26, 1864. He resigned from the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery and mustered into the 36th USCT on May 11, 1864. The 36th USCT was organized from the 2nd North Carolina Colored Infantry in February 1864. They saw service with the Army of the James as part of the 18th Corps and the 25th Corps. In 1864 they took part in several expeditions and were then involved in the siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond from July 1864 to the end of the war. They lost 49 men killed in action at battles such as Chaffin's Farm, New Market Heights, Fair Oaks, Dutch Gap, Indiantown, and in fighting north of the James River before Richmond until March 27, 1865, after which they took part in the occupation of Richmond on April 3, 1865, and the Appomattox Campaign. In May 1865 they were posted to Texas, serving along the Rio Grande and at other points until mustering out in October 1866. Hart was present with the regiment throughout its service except for some stints of staff duty and a brief furlough in February 1865. On September 24, 1864, he was promoted Major, over the heads of some senior captains, on the recommendation of several superior officers: “. . . he has always performed his duties promptly and faithfully. He is an able Tactician, no line officers in the Regt. excel him, he is reliable, energetic, and efficient, and better qualified to fill the office of Major than any other connected with the Regt.” He was in command of the regiment during its time in Texas. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel on February 25, 1866 and mustered in on March 15, 1866. He mustered out on October 28, 1866 and received a brevet in 1867 for his service, giving him the rank of Colonel from March 13, 1865. Hart returned to Massachusetts, lived in Chelsea, was a customs officer for a while and then graduated from Boston University law school in 1872 and became an attorney and counselor at law, held several trustee and corporate positions and was an officer of the Chelsea police court. He married in 1866, raised two daughters, and was active in the G.A.R. where he was a member at post 5. His wife died in 1895. Tragically, after living a fulfilling life and being respected by the soldiers he lead into battle and the community he resided in after the war, this upstanding soldier and community figure took his own life in the woods of Lynn, Massachusetts during 1897. Hart's final words were recorded in three letters which were addressed to his brother and two daughters which simply said goodbye and gave instructions for a funeral. Some suggested financial problems but it is unknown why Hart decided to end his accomplished life early. Newspaper articles of the time write only positive columns regarding Hart and his life, adding to the tragedy. Hart's achievements live on through his sword which was presented to him by the members of Battery M, 14th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The inscription is located on the upper mount and reads "Presented to / Lieut. W.H. Hat / by the members of / Battery M 14th Regt. / Mass Vol. H.A. / May 1863". The presentation thus dates between January 1863 and May 1864. It may have been a parting gift. As a staff and field sword it would be appropriate for wear during the rest of his career. The sword is faintly marked with a mostly illegible maker mark that appears to have read "James P. Fitch" on the reverse ricasso. James P. Fitch got his start in the military goods business with Schuyler, Hartley and Graham and set up his own business as a retailer in New York City in September 1862. The obverse ricasso is marked with an unknown importer mark which is commonly encountered on Horstmann swords. The sword presents bold and elegant designs throughout its construction. The obverse blade features etched designs are topped with a ornate pillar that is etched overtop of foliate motifs that surround a floral vignette, followed by a spread winged federal eagle contained in a floral vignette that is atop of a panoply of arms and bunting and ending with graceful crosshatching above the ricasso. The reverse blade exhibits the same etched designs with the Federal Eagle replaced by the letters "U.S." which are surrounded by foliate scrolls. The scrollwork continues onto the cast brass guard which is decorated with open floral scrolls and the typical staff and field "US". The quillon is most impressive, in the design of a bearded eagle with red gemstone eyes. The underside of the guard is also adorned with foliate scrollwork which blends onto the grooved, center-swelled cast brass grip that features detailed leaves swirling around each groove. The grooves are detailed with simulated wire and compliment the overall appearance of the grip. The foliate scrolls continue up to the domed pommel which is surrounded by a sunburst pattern. The sword is complete with its steel scabbard and features floral decorations on each mount which reflect the elegance of the sword. The bright steal is overshadowed by two brass mounts with two carry rings, throat, and a brass drag. The mounts, throat, and drag are all equally decorated with graceful floral motifs and scrolls. CONDITION: The blade retains most of its original bright sheen but exhibits scattered blemishes including scattered pitting, scuffs, and scratches. Slight surface rust at the edged of the ricasso. The guard, grip, and pommel exhibit scattered blemishes but remains bright with gilt loss obvious between the scrollwork. The steel scabbard exhibits scattered pitting and reveals a subtle chocolate patina in some areas. The mounts and drag remain sturdy and exhibits scattered scratches. All screws remain in place, except for one that was removed in order to accommodate the throat. Overall very good. The sword is accompanied by a binder of scanned documents that chronicle Hart's military vocation. This is a very fine example of a Civil War presentation sword from a respected officer with an illustrious military and civilian career. JLD
Blade Length
Overall Length
Binder of Research
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,500.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $3,360.00
Estimate: $3,000 - $6,000
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Friday, December 17, 2021.
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