December 14-17, 2021 Collectible Firearms & Militaria
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/14/2021
Major General Benjamin W. Brice is a lesser known American General but still imprinted a significant impact on United States military history. Brice was born in West Virginia on November 30, 1809. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825. Upon Brice's graduation, his future did not look so bright, as he graduated near the bottom of his class. Despite the rough start to his military career, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served as a member of the 3rd Infantry Regiment on frontier duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Some of his early military exploits include his service during the Black Hawk War expedition against the Sac Indians in 1831. A year later in 1832, Brice left the Army and moved to Ohio in order to practice law where he was elected as an associate judge of the court of Licking County, Ohio and was later appointed as Adjutant General of the state militia where he served until 1847 when he resigned in order to re-enter the Army so he could serve in the American Mexican War. Brice, serving with the rank of Major, became the United States Army Paymaster under President James K. Polk and served for 2 years and 1 day from March 3, 1847, to March 4, 1849. Although his position was by no means on the front lines, he was still well traveled throughout the war and saw service at Camargo in 1847, Monterrey, Saltillo, and Brazos Island in 1848. During the last year of the war he was stationed at Fort Brown, Texas, from 1848 until the end of the war in 1849. After the war his command was disbanded and Brice was reappointed as Major in 1852, and served in the pay department and as Paymaster in a variety of southern and western locations including Fort Fillmore, New Orleans, Fort Bliss, and Florida. In 1859, Brice was made Paymaster of the Western Department under General David Hunter at Fort Leavenworth, Missouri, where he would fill this position until the outbreak of the rebellion. During the Civil War, Brice became Paymaster General of the District of Kansas and the Territories. In 1862, he became chief of the pay district embracing New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, headquartered at Baltimore, Maryland, and served until 1864. Brice was briefly promoted to Brigadier General on March 22, 1862, but the promotion was tabled by Congress on July 16, 1862, and Brice reverted to his regular army rank of major. Towards the end of the war on November 29, 1864, Brice was sent to Washington in order to take over as the head of the Pay Department. President Lincoln nominated Brice for appointment as brevet brigadier general on December 12, 1864. The Senate confirmed the appointment on February 20, 1865. After the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson nominated Brice for appointment as brevet major general on March 8, 1866. Brice remained in charge of the Pay Department in Washington D.C. through the rest of the 1860s until 1872, when he retired. Brice died in 1892 and was interred in Washington leaving behind a lengthy and successful career that started with him at the bottom of his class at West Point. Brice is among the group of accomplished Washington staff officers whose achievements are largely overlooked. The Pay Department were regulated to wear their own unique swords and this is a nice example of a Model 1840 Paymaster sword that was manufactured by Ames. As is regulation, the blade is oval in cross section, without a fuller, double edged, and with a spearpoint. The blade is ornately decorated and features foliate designs with scrolls of acanthus leaves that travel up the blade and swirl around patriotic motifs including swords, staffs, and panoplies. The decorations end on the obverse with "N.P. Ames / Cutler / Cabotville / Mass" etched just above a palmette. This marking makes the sword rare because of the Ames markings and only 4 Paymaster Officers were in the Army from 1842 -1847. The reverse blade exhibits similar acanthus scrolls and patriotic motifs that end with etched oak leaves and acorns. The center of the blade is etched with the letters "U.S. Pay Department" contained in a vignette. The crossguard is equally ornate and is designed as branches of formed scrolling acanthus leaves. There are shield shaped langets that extend downward towards the blade. The reverse langet is blank and the obverse contains a silvered “PD” above a cluster of thirteen stars, all bordered by bellflower garland. The grip is thickly cast and chased in floral motifs seeming to spring out of an urn shaped flowering bulb at the base of the grip. This is followed by long ovular shaped panels on either side, the reverse of which is correctly blank and the obverse is filled with a perched eagle gripping arrows and olive branches in its talons and flanked by branches of a wreath. The pommel is topped by an acorn shaped finial. The sword is complete with its gilt brass scabbard which is marked "N.P. Ames / Cutler / Cabotville / Mass." below the upper mount. The scabbard features deeply cast and chased floral mounts at the throat, middle carrying ring, and drag. The upper mount features two five pointed stars that overlap each other while the following mount exhibits a foliate vine flanked by two flowers. The drag is detailed with thick oak leaves that nearly hide the acorns. CONDITION: The blade exhibits a gray patina with areas of pitting scattered throughout its length. There are a few scattered chips in the edges. The hilt retains most of its gilt and exhibits a scattered scratches, especially on the reverse langet. The scabbard exhibits a pleasant mustard patina. There are a few dents near the drag. Throat is missing. Overall good. The sword is accompanied by a small binder of research. The consigner states that the sword is attributed to Major General Brice by the distinct wear pattern on the scabbard. A portrait photo of Brice is included in which he appears to be holding this sword. According to the consigner, when Brice walked, he held the sword above the middle and top mounts resulting in the very distinctive wear pattern where the patina is most evident. JLD
Blade Length
Overall Length
37 - 1/2"
Binder of Research
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,500.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $1,920.00
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Number Bids: 3
Auction closed on Friday, December 17, 2021.
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