Top five US civil war memorabilia



2015-06-26 13:04:16

Top five US civil war memorabilia

With a major auction coming up, we look at the top five civil war memorabilia to have sold previously

US civil war memorabilia continually provides excellent results at auction, as collectors clamour to mark this crucial time in the development of a fledgling nation. The estimates seen in Heritage Auctions' Civil War & Militaria sale are a testament to this, with some fascinating items expecting top bids.

Here, we take a look at the top five items of civil war memorabilia to have previously sold at auction:

  1. Major General William Mahone's presentation sword

Major General William Mahone presentation sword Mahone's was likely the last Confederate sword ever made

This magnificent presentation sword was presented to the Confederate major general William Mahone from the grateful citizens of Petersburg, Virginia after he saved their city during a six month siege.

The Union's General Ambrose Burnside had laid siege on the city for months, with Mahone defending it fiercely. However, a botched explosion in 1864 led the Union troops into the crater they had created and the Confederate troops were able to pick them off with ease, pushing Burniside's men back.

The citizens of Petersburg spared no expense in honouring their defender, as shown by the superb level of detail on the Boyle and Gamble blade. It sold for $388,375 at Heritage Auctions in 2007, boosted by the fact that it was likely the last Confederate sword made before the end of the war.

  1. Terms of Surrender letters signed by Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee civil war surrender letters The Confederate capital eventually fell to a regiment of black troops

After the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia fell to the Union XXV Corps - which was composed of black troops - and having faced several major defeats, Robert E Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. This move effectively ended the American civil war, which had waged for more than four years.

While the original letters sent between Robert E Lee and Union lieutenant general Ulysses S Grant have been lost to history, Lee had the foresight to make true copies of his terms of surrender, each of which he signed personally. These remarkable copies sold for an impressive $537,750 atHeritage Auctions in 2007.

  1. Gustave Young-engraved Colt from Colonel RM Miliken

Miliken Gustave Young Colt revolver Miliken's is perhaps the most coveted civil war percussion revolver

Gustave Young worked for Coltbetween the 1850s and 1870s, and his engravedpistolsare perhaps the most coveted among US firearm collectors. Specialising in wildlife designs and renowned for the intricacy of his work, examples of hisengravings often see six figures at auction.

The Colt Third Model Dragoon Revolver is among the most desirable of all percussion revolvers and, enhanced by Young's exquisitive engraving as well as a full complement of accessories, the Miliken example is perhaps the most sought after of its kind.

Union colonel PM Miliken of the 1st Ohio volunteer cavalry was killed leading a charge against the Confederates at Stone River, Tennessee in 1862. Having been returned to the colonel's family after his death, his Colt sold for $805,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2011.

  1. Personal battle flag of General JEB Stuart

Stuart personal battle flag Stuart's wife continued the tradition of Betsy Ford in the revolutionary war

The most famous cavalry officer of the civil war, JEB Stuart was a favourite among the Confederate states for his daring and flamboyancy. He suffered a mortal wound at Yellow Tavern, Virginia on May 12, 1864, dying in Richmond the next day.

The flag that he carried with him into battle was lovingly made by his wife, Flora, in the tradition of Betsy Ross in the revolutionary war. Incorporating the 13 star design, Stuart sent it home to Flora shortly before his death after it was accidently burnt in his campfire.

It isa remarkable piece from a man who, with his plumed hat and cape, epitomised a military icon. The burnt flag - which had been professionally preserved by conservators - sold for $956,000 in 2007, making a 56.3% increase on its $600,000 high estimate.

  1. Ulysses S Grant presentation sword

Ulysses S Grant presentation sword "The most beautiful and costly sword yet manufactured in this country"

When Ulysses S Grant was made general in chief of the United States Army in March, 1864, the residents of Kentucky presented him with, in the words of the St Louis Dispatch newspaper, "the most beautiful and costly sword yet manufactured in this country".

A fitting gift for the future president, the diamond studded presentation sword was made by St Louis silversmith Henry Folsom. Crafted from both silver and gold, 26 diamonds compose Grant's monogram -USG -with a large amethyst mounted above.

The sword first set a world record for a civil war presentation sword when it was sold by Grant's family in 1989. It went on tobring $1.6m at Heritage Auctions in 2007, to become the most expensive piece of civil war memorabilia ever sold at auction.

Also offered in Heritage Auctions' upcoming sale is a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair, which is enclosed in a striking period locket. Visit our Medals and Militaria news section regularly to see the results of the sale, or sign up to our free weekly newsletter to ensure you don't miss out.

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