Old South Military Antiques

Leech & Rigdon Belt
Item #: OS-6538






The maker of this officer’s sword belt is Leech & Rigdon. Thomas S. Leech, had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1854 to establish a cotton dealership. It was financed by his partners: his brother John B. Leech, Thomas Harrison, Sir Arthur Forwood, and Sir William Bower Forwood of Liverpool, England. Leech opened the firm of Thomas Leech & Co., Cotton Broker, at 35 Front Row Street in Memphis. As war became imminent, Leech and his partners began to expand their business to include war material. The military items were sold under the name of "Memphis Novelty Works Thomas Leech & Co”. Under this name Leech manufactured Swords, Side Knives, Belts, Buckles and Pistols. Leech later formed a partnership with Charles H. Rigdon and renamed the partnership Leech & Rigdon in 1862.

With the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in the spring of 1862 and the subsequent fall of the state of Tennessee into Union hands, Leech and Rigdon decided to relocate their business to Columbus, Mississippi and build a factory adjacent to the Confederate Briarfield Arsenal. Later in 1862, with Sherman making a threat to Mississippi, the Confederate Government decided to relocate the arsenal to Selma, Alabama, at which time they began focusing on making the Leech and Rigdon revolver and away from swords and belts. No doubt they still made some, but the majority of their sword sales probably occurred between November 6, 1861 and June 18, 1862, during which time the company delivered to the Confederate Army Depot 2,017 swords, scabbards and sword belts.

This ultra-rare "Rectangular Two Piece” is without any doubt on its original, unaltered belt. I stress this because it is on a belt made by E. Gaylord of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Evidently the firm had the belt on hand or it was returned, gleaned from the field and Leech & Rigdon proceeded to make good use of it by mounting their highest quality buckle and sewing it in place. I have studied the stitching with an x750 binocular microscope and can guarantee unconditionally that all of the stitching is original and is as assembled at the Leech & Rigdon manufactory.


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