James Conning Cavalry Sword

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Description and Photograph

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     James Conning was a wealthy man when the War began.  He was a New York silversmith who came to the South and married into a wealthy Mobile, Alabama family.  When the North invaded the South he owned a plantation full of slaves and was a successful merchant.

     Conning did a brisk prewar business with the U.S. and Militia forces in and around Mobile.  When the War Between the States broke out, Conning turned his resources and skills to supplying his adopted country.  Prior to the War he had been importing much of his merchandise from abroad, including fine sword blades from France, and hilting them in Mobile.  When the blockade cutoff his supply, he turned to the local Parker Foundry in order to supply this deficit and continued to make his own hilts until Mobile fell to the Federals.

     Because he was manufacturing swords prior to the War, Conning had basically the same modern machine tools that were used in the North’s sword factories.  Consequently, his swords and scabbards resemble Northern made swords more than his sword manufacturing contemporaries.

     The cavalry sword shown here is a superb example of Conning’s work.  This sword is in nearly new condition and the guard does not have the aged patina one would expect to find.  This however is not from having been cleaned, but rather is from having been packed in a protective coating.  There are traces of the protective coating remaining on the ricasso.  The pommel, guard and blade are all stamped with the number “401”.  The leather grip wrap has been preserved in a like new state and is one hundred percent complete and in perfect condition.  The twisted double brass wire wrap is complete and remains as tight as the day it was installed.  The original throat washer remains; it too is perfect.  The same can be said for the blade; it has a strong well struck maker name and address stamped into the ricasso.  The blade is perfect from ricasso to point and retains its original luster.  The sword is sheathed in its original, all iron, Conning scabbard.  The scabbard has several small dings near the throat, but is otherwise as perfect as the sword.

     This sword is closer in condition and appearance to the way it was the day it was manufactured than any Confederate cavalry sword, by any maker, that I have ever seen.     

 

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