|Description and Photograph||
Update: I forgot to mention an important fact about this sword. Because of its rarity, and especially it’s rarity in this condition, this sword was selected to be included in Commanders of the Civil War on page 104. Commanders of the Civil War documented the very finest officers swords extant and has long been an important reference for sword collectors.
Little is known about the College Hill Arsenal, and their swords are exceedingly rare. They made swords for less than nine months, but how much less is unknown. We do know that on June 29, 1861, the future arsenal proprietor L. T. Cunningham, and Robert Drury wrote a letter advising the Confederate Secretary of War that he, Cunningham, could purchase swords to be delivered in Nashville. This letter makes it clear that Cunningham was not yet manufacturing swords. Thomas Leech & Company was not up and running until the following August. The only sword maker in Nashville at that early date was the Nashville Plow Works. The Plow Works provided his first swords, which look identical to the product made by the Plow Works with the exception that the Nashville Plow Works name normally cast into the guard was obliterated.
Cunningham was a skilled etcher and an astute businessman. He had the foresight to set his manufactory up on Nashville’s College Hill. The hill was home to the military academy, Confederate camps and a fort; seemingly a ready-made market. Once established he produced swords of his own make albeit oftentimes using parts of the Nashville Plow Works pattern, which he magnificently etched himself. His etching is some of the best executed in the Confederacy, but his swords were peculiar. The College Hill blade has an unstopped fuller, and a unique pen-knife style edge stop. Another peculiarity is an unadorned pommel cap with the knuckle bow junction at its bottom giving the pommel cap an unusually "tall" appearance.
The field and staff pattern shown here is prototypical of his swords, having the attributes mentioned above including the fine etching. It has the large, prominent CSA, the Confederate First National Flag and the vine and leaf scroll pattern we have come to expect from Cunningham. The sword is all original, including the leather grip and twisted brass wire wrap. The wire had come loose and had to be reinserted, but is definitely original. The blade has some small nicks along the edge, but it has not been sharpened or repointed. The sword is still sheathed in its original College Hill scabbard. The sword and scabbard have been lightly cleaned and it was done very well. The scabbards usually found with these are most often in pieces and parts; this one is excellent but for one flaw; it was bent or broken just above the drag and has had an epoxy stiffener added. This is clearly shown in the pictures and as you can see it blends nicely. The scabbard is strong and stiff enough to stand out horizontally on its own and it still fits the sword perfectly.
Though this example is not perfect, it is among the best survivors of this pattern. I suppose this is because none were made after the spring of 1862 so they had three years left to serve. This combined with so few being made originally make this among the rarest Confederate patterns. To give you an idea of the rarity/condition of these swords in general I will tell you that though I have owned several hundred Confederate swords over the last thirty years, I have never before owned one of this pattern.