Old South Military Antiques

Florida Presentation E.J. Johnston Officer’s Sword
Item #: OS-6917

This gorgeous work of art was created and signed by E.J. Johnston of Macon, Georgia. Edward J. Johnston, was a wealthy 40 year old merchant and jeweler in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia. E.J. Johnston & Company worked during the War making high quality edged weapons. All of the company’s products are rare, and highly sought after. The company’s most desirable product was their beautifully etched and finely made officer’s sword. According to William Albaugh they were turning out 40 naval and artillery cutlasses (which appear from the wording to have been one and the same pattern, as they referred to them both as cutlasses), 40 infantry swords and 40 cavalry swords per week as of April, 1862. If this was the case, it is odd that more of their products did not survive. I think it likely that Mr. Albaugh took the production figures from a newspaper article and it was inaccurate. Neither the surviving records, nor the number of surviving specimens are indicative of such a large output.

The "& Company” of E.J. Johnston has never been revealed, however recently discovered records show that the & Co. consisted of 38 year old Massachusetts native George S. Obear, the Chief of the Macon Fire Department. Records show that in November of 1861 the firm sold one plain and one etched sword for $25.00 and $28.00 respectively; included with these were 1 "folded belt with CS clasp and one belt, bridal leather.” I think this refers to patent leather over canvas webbing and single ply, heavy leather belts. These were received and signed for by a Captain of artillery in Richmond, Virginia.

On April 20, 1861 Edward Johnston enlisted in the "Floyd Rifles” Company C, 2nd Battalion Georgia Infantry. He was discharged for disability on the following July 2nd. Though he could not be a soldier, he turned his considerable talents to support the Confederacy; in December of 1861, he supplied William H. Young with three officer’s swords and belts. His letterhead even at this early date stated that he and Obear supplied "Confederate States Service Swords, Belts”, etc.

In August of 1862 he supplied 50 artillery sabers to the Macon Arsenal. It is interesting to note, that by December of 1862, though using the otherwise same letterhead, the reference to Confederate States Swords had been removed. In dozens more receipts over the next 9 months there are no recorded sales of swords, but he is renting his building to the Confederacy as an ordnance warehouse and it appears that he sold off all, or at least a large amount of, his tools and equipment. Judging by their rarity, and the time frame in which Johnston had to make swords, he likely turned out no more than a few dozen officer’s swords and as many cavalry swords.

Then inexplicably, in September of 1863 the reference to Confederate Swords, etc. again appears on his letterhead. This may be because the month before, he and 64 firemen of Macon, known as Captain Obear’s Company mustered in as the "Firemen Guard” Company D, 14th Battalion Georgia State Guards. As noted earlier, E.J. Johnston and George S. Obear were partners in their sword making enterprise. Here we leave Mr. Johnston, and move to the owner of Johnston’s work of art.

The top mount of the E.J. Johnston sword shown here is engraved: "A.J.T. Wright Lt., Col., 3rd Regt. Fla. Vols. Oct. 7th, 1861” During the Seminole Wars in Florida, Private Arthur J.T. Wright served in Asa A. Steward’s Company, Second Regiment, Florida Foot Militia. In 1856, Captain Wright was commanding a company hunting Indians in Levy County, Florida, and its environs. In 1857, he was the Lieutenant Colonel of the Florida Regiment Mounted Volunteers. A few years later, the 36 year old Georgia native was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Florida Infantry in Fernandina, Florida on July 25,1861. The regiment served along the coast at Talbot Island and Cedar Keys, and then moved to Mobile.

After fighting at Perryville, Kentucky, it was assigned to Preston's, Stovall's, Finley's, and J.A. Smith's Brigade, and during December, 1862 consolidated with the 1st Florida Infantry Regiment.

The 3rd’s February muster roll shows Wright as commanding the 3rd Regiment, Florida Volunteers, though still a Lieutenant Colonel. He was with his regiment until dropped from the regimental roll on May 3, 1862, when he failed at the election during the reorganization of the Confederate armies in the spring of 1862.

After leaving the 3rd Florida Volunteers, Wright sought the position of a "Major in the Confederate Army”. Colonel Wright had powerful friends, so in furtherance of that desire, an unusual document was drawn up which reads:

"Petition of A.J.T Wright,

The undersigned members of the Convention of the State of Florida,

respectfully petition the President of the Confederate States of America

to appoint Lieut. Col. A.J.T. Wright a Major in the Confederate Army.”

This petition was signed by 29 members of the Florida Legislature. These are the same men who signed Florida’s Ordinance of Secession. Wright had been a member of the Secession Committee. For undisclosed reasons, he did not receive the appointment to major, but like a true Southern Patriot, he enlisted as a simple private in Mooty’s Company (Company F), 9th Florida Infantry on February 16, 1863, notwithstanding his exalted position in civilian life. In July of 1864 he was furloughed from the hospital in Lake City, Florida for 60 days, for Chronic Inflammatory Rheumatism. In September, he was reported as physically unfit for field service and was detailed to the Lake City, Confederate Hospital.

In the 1860 census, Wright was recorded as a wealthy merchant, owning $30,000.00 worth of property. Both his health and fortune were broken by the war, as five years after the war, he owned only $1,500.00 in property. He died two years later, and has only a small stone marking his grave in Lake City’s Oakdale Cemetery, that reads simply: "A.J.T. Wright 1825 1872”. Certainly a sad end to a noble man; nothing to be remembered by but this extraordinary sword!

E.J. Johnston’s swords display well the skills of its maker. His standard officer’s, enlisted cavalry, and artillery swords were better quality than those made by nearly all of his Southern contemporaries, and equaled the quality found in northern and European made swords. His artillery swords had machined fullers; his enlisted cavalry sword had a pen knife type stop at the ricasso and his officer’s sword had polished wood grips to simulate horn, a pen knife type stop and they had exquisite etching.

This example has these features, and it has beautifully etched mounts on the scabbard. The sword was published in William Albaugh’s 1963 edition of A Photographic Supplement of Confederate Swords, on pages 105 and 106 and again in Daniel Hartzler’s 1988 edition ofConfederate Presentation & Inscribed Swords & Revolvers, on pages 244 and 245. It remains in excellent original condition. The beautiful etched blade has some mottled carbon staining, but retains excellent etching, featuring E.J. Johnston & Co’s name and address, a large Roman "CS” and assorted military panoplies and floral patterns. The black polished wooden grip retains its original luster and its twisted brass wire wrap remains tight. There is a small amount of loose play between the guard and blade and it still retains its original cloth throat washer. Its leather scabbard with ornately engraved mounts is in as close to new condition as any Confederate scabbard one will ever encounter.

Price $60,000.00 USD