December 14-17, 2021 Collectible Firearms & Militaria
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/14/2021
Born in New York in 1840, Fitch Taylor Birdsall was working as a clerk in the prominent New Haven, Connecticut dry goods firm of Winship and Barney when he enlisted on August 15, 1862 and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant, Company G of the 20th Connecticut Volunteers on September 8, 1862. The regiment was organized in response to Lincoln’s June 1862 call for 300,000 more troops and was quickly dispatched to Washington, from where it was sent to Frederick, Maryland, then on to Harpers Ferry and assigned to the 12th Army Corps. It saw its first action in a skirmish with Confederate cavalry at Keys Gap, but avoided the disaster of Fredericksburg by assignment to duty at Fairfax Station and Stafford Court House, seeing its first serious action at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Birdsall was one of several officers who left service before that, resigning February 10, 1863, for, according to documents, reasons of ill health, which was not uncommon considering the conditions of disease-ridden camps, and seems to have moved back to New York. The New York 1863 draft registration finds him living with brother Samuel, who served in the 27th Connecticut as Captain, but was captured and paroled at Chancellorsville, exchanged later, and mustered out to date of the muster out of the regiment on July 23, 1865, (with apparent state brevets to Colonel and Brigadier General.) Samuel, a lawyer, must have had a sense of humor or degree of tolerance. He listed his occupation as “soldier,” which was accurate since he was on parole at the time. Fitch also listed himself as “soldier,” with the additional note that he had served two years in the 20th Connecticut, which seems something of an overstatement. He is listed as living with his brothers and sisters in New York in 1865, and met his end in May 1871, while attempting to swim to shore from the Steamboat Connecticut near Hastings, New York. The sword itself is a very nice example of a presentation grade Ames M1850 foot officer’s sword. The presentation is located on the upper mount and reads “Presented to / Lieut. Fitch Taylor Birdsall/ 20th Regt. C.V./ by / his associate clerks at / Winship & Barney’s / New Haven Sep. 2d 1862.” Once unsheathed, the blade is revealed and exhibits elegant frosted designs. The obverse features gentle foliate scrolls which lead to a banner that reads “E Pluribus Unum” which flows above a classic Ames spread winged eagle, gripping olive branches and arrows. Beneath the eagle is a panoply of arms and bunting followed by more thin foliate scrolls leading up the maker marking which reads “Ames Mfg. Co. / Chicopee / Mass.” nicely etched into the blade just above the ricasso. The reverse exhibits similar thin foliate scrolls, a panoply of arms and bunting, followed by the letters “U.S.” which replace the eagle. More foliate scrolls follow leading up to decorative patterns just above the ricasso. The blade meets the cast brass hilt at the guard which features open foliate scrolls followed by the grip, which features a grooved, center-swelled wooden handle wrapped in high quality sharkskin. The skin is tightly bound to the grip with double-twisted brass wire that fits neatly in the grooves of the handle. The domed brass pommel is decorated with more foliate motifs. The sword is complete with its leather scabbard that is marked “AMES MFG. CO. / CHICOPEE / MASS”. Constructed of a leather body, the scabbard features brass mounts, two carry rings, and a brass drag. Besides the presentation, the mounts are unadorned. CONDITION: The blade has been very well preserved and retains its original polished bright sheen. There are scattered areas of pitting throughout the length of the blade along with a few scattered chips along the edge. The tip is rounded. The guard retains some of its gilt and exhibits a few aged spots. The grip is in superb condition and the brass wire remains tight. The black leather scabbard remains strong but exhibits areas of cracking and leather loss. Three prominent cracks are located towards the drag. The mounts are very clean and exhibit a pleasing mustard patina, with some areas of gilt still noticeable. The upper mount has a reddish-brown area and exhibits fingerprint impressions. All screws are present. The upper and middle mounts wobble slightly. Overall very good. The sword is accompanied by a binder of research which was provided by the consigner. Regardless of his short time in the service, this is still a very nice example of a Civil War presentation sword. JLD
Blade Length
Overall Length
Binder of Research
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $2,280.00
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Number Bids: 11
Auction closed on Friday, December 17, 2021.
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