One of a Kind Sword

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Description and Photograph

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    The English Model 1822, General Officer’s Sword with the Droop Winged Eagle surmounted by thirteen stars with CSA across its breast has always been considered one of the most attractive and desirable of the Confederate era swords.   Little is known about the company that sold it; a Montgomery, Alabama based military goods dealers known as Halfmann & Taylor.  That much was known because the ricasso was etched Halfmann & Taylor, Montgomery, Alabama.  Taylor’s identity is completely lost to history, the other half of the company Halfmann, was Ethelbert Halfmann.

     Ethelbert Halfmann was a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania clothier in the 1850s, before coming to Montgomery, Alabama in 1856.  His tailoring and clothier business prospered in Montgomery so he closed his Philadelphia store in 1858.  When the War Between the States erupted he sided with the South.  He traveled to Europe to purchase clothing and military goods for the Confederacy.  Swords and buttons bearing Halfmann & Taylor’s firm name are the only known surviving tangible result of his trip to Europe.  His military outfitting foray came to an end only a few months after it began; he died in Havana in January of 1863 while trying to make arrangements to run the blockade.

     The swords that Halfmann had custom made in London, England are some of the most aesthetically appealing of the Confederate era.  The swords made for Halfmann & Taylor started out as British Model 1822 officer’s swords with the standard iron basket, but the London maker cut out the engraved infantry horn that was centrally located in the basket and soldered in an iron disc engraved with the Confederate droop winged eagle surmounted by eleven stars.  It has never been known who Halfmann purchased the swords and buttons from, nor how a Pennsylvania clothier got into the sword business, but the same evidence answers both questions.

    The sword shown here follows the same 1822 pattern, but it is very different from all other swords marked Halfmann & Taylor.  Its basket is of a smaller size and the blade is lighter, but the smaller disc in the guard is otherwise identical right down to the background stippling, and was plainly done by the same hand as the few others that exist.  Its main difference is the etching, though it is clearly done by the same etcher.  Instead of a Droop Winged Eagle in the etched panel, this sword is emblazoned with the Confederate Battle Flag on both sides, a thing of beauty to all who hold valor, chivalry and honour dear, but its most important feature is the ricasso etching.  The etching on the ricasso reads: “Goody & Jones, 40 Pall Mall London”  Goody & Jones cannot be found in any of the common works on Confederate swords or buttons, but the company’s advertisement in the London Index reads:

“Goody & Jones, Military and Naval Outfitters and Accoutrement Manufacturers, 40 Pall Mall  Begs to inform officers of both services, and Gentlemen that theirs is the only establishment at which Confederate Grey cloth can be obtained, having already made a great number of outfits according to the regulations issued by the War Department of the Confederate States”

     While there is no smoking gun such as an invoice from Goody and Jones to Halfmann & Taylor known, there can be little doubt that the clothier Ethelbert Halfmann went to Europe to purchase uniforms.  It should be noted that the Goody & Jones advertisement reports that they had already made a great number of uniforms according to the Confederate regulations, who can doubt that they or a good portion of them bore Halfmann & Taylor buttons.  In fact the Directory of American Military Dealers & Makers 1785-1915 notes: “When last heard from he (Halfmann)has been to Europe purchasing clothing for the South, (and)  was at Havana trying to get an opportunity to run the blockade, …”  as noted earlier he died in Havana before he could get home.  Thankfully his military purchases did.  Halfmann must have determined that a few swords were in order also, perhaps by special order since so few have been noted, or perhaps he purchased a few for display and sale.  The etching found on the Halfmann and Taylor sword can also be found on some of the Isaac & Campbell blades, though the Isaac & Co do not have the special eagle basket and some of the same buttons that are Halfmann backmarked are also found with Isaac & Co. backmarks.  This newly discovered historical work of art leaves no doubt both firms were purchasing uniforms from the same firm; Goody & Jones.

     The sword itself is beautiful and in nearly mint condition but for the wear on the silver wash that was applied to both the basket and the scabbard.  The blade is as close to its new condition as any one of its age could be.  The etching is crisp and clear and the blade has its original mirror finish.  

   

 

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