Old South Military Antiques

William J. McElroy Cavalry Sword
Item #: OS-6674







William John McElroy was born in New York Cityin 1822. It is not known when he moved to the South, but by 1845 he was in Savannah, Georgia working as a tinner and in 1850 he was a merchant in Macon, Georgia. On December 27, 1849 he married a Belle named of Esther Freeney. From this union, 5 children were born. Their first son John William (it may have been William John Jr.) was born in 1851. A second son, Charles J., was born in 1853. Two years later, in 1855, they had their first daughter, Juliet F. and two years after that, in 1857, their second daughter Esther was born Apparently Georgia was very good to McElroy; the 1860 Macon census list him as a 37 year old merchant with $5,500 in real estate and $17,550 of personal estate.

When the War Between the States began, he put his talents to work making war material for his adopted home. Wm J. McElroy & Co was making war accoutrements as early as September, 1861. During the course of the War he made swords, knives, cutlasses, spurs, belts, bits, buckles, brass crossed cannon, cap letters, gun and sword parts. In short, he made anything and everything military that he could produce and sell. He is best known for his beautifully made and etched swords. Because of the quality of work he produced and because many of his products carry his name, they are among the most desirable Confederate antiques in the world.

Among his products was one of the best quality cavalry swords made in the Confederacy. We can identify his enlisted cavalry swords because he stamped his name along the top of the pommel on a few examples. By comparison of features, such as the uncommonly pointed quillon, and the massive ring mounts, we can identify his unmarked examples.

Shown here is an excellent, and near pristine example of his work. The sword’s grip is perfect; this is not a re wrap, this is the original wrap. The russet grip wrap stands out because he did not use standard cow hide. I am not certain, but this may be wrapped in pig, or goat skin. (I have samples of various leathers specifically for comparison, but I have misplaced them)

The original small diameter iron wire which wraps the grip is complete and tight. The throat washer is a replacement. There is a crack in the grip on the off side. The guard remains as tight as when it was made. The blade is in beautiful condition and has never been sharpened or repointed. The sword is in its original scabbard; and what a scabbard it is! It still retains most of its original black paint.

This is a beautiful example of a very rare Georgia maker’s work; a hard sword to come by in any condition, but to find it in such fine condition is a true rarity.


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