Leech & Rigdon Belt


Description and Photograph




     The maker of this 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.  Leech and Rigdon relocated with the Arsenal and remained in Selma for a short period.  In March of 1863 Leech and Rigdon separated from the arsenal and moved their operations to Goldsboro, Georgia.

     During the period from November 6, 1861 through June 18, 1862, Thomas Leech & Co. delivered to the Confederate Army Depot 2,017 swords, scabbards and sword belts.  On July 26, 1862 Leech & Rigdon delivered 750 sets of gun mountings at $3.00 per set and 7 swords at $25.00 each; on August 4th another 30 swords were delivered as well as 400 pairs of spurs at $1.75 each. 

     As you can see from the above, swords came with a sword belt.  This two piece CS tongue and wreath buckle pattern is still mounted on its original leather sword belt.  The sword hanger has been cut off of the belt, but from its style and placement I can tell that this belt originally had a frog type hanger rather than two hangers for a saber.  That means that it would have accompanied one of the company’s knives or cutlasses.  It is exceedingly rare to find this plain faced pattern on its original belt.  The distinctive Leech & Rigdon “reverse L” is cast into the wreath face.  The belt and buckle are completely original in all regards and remains exceptionally strong and supple.  The belt’s condition really cannot be overstated; with the exception of some loss of its gloss finish, it is in nearly new condition.  




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