William Albaugh lll Collection
|Description and Photograph||
William Albaugh, III is universally recognized as the father of Confederate sword collecting. His research and writings in the nineteen fifties and sixties presented the first scholarly attempt at identifying Confederate sword makers and their swords. This sword was part of his personal collection and is shown on page 80 of Confederate Edged Weapons by William Albaugh, III in 1960 and again on page 125 in the same author’s A Photographic Supplement of Confederate Swords in 1963.
In both works Mr. Albaugh implies his belief that it is a product of Thomas Leech & Company by comparing the similarities to “a similar sword is in the Battle Abbey Collection that is stamped Memphis Novelty Works, Thos. Leech & Co.” However, with further attention I find that the example in the Battle Abbey Collection is the standard Leech & Rigdon double edged cavalry officer’s sword. The only similarity between the two is that they both had double edged blades, but even those are of different shape.
Perhaps Mr. Albaugh had seen additional evidence that this was a Leech and Rigdon product, however I would assume that in publishing one’s evidence for it being so, one would publish the most convincing evidence attainable.
I think a much better case can be made for it having been made by Sharp and Hamilton. Prior to the War, Messrs. Sharp and Hamilton made plows, operating the Nashville Plow Works. With the coming of War the Plow Works began making edged weapons for sale to the Confederacy and even other military suppliers such as L. T. Cunningham of College Hill, Tennessee. Their later cavalry officer’s swords were marked Nashville Plow Works rather than Sharp and Hamilton. Only a few cavalry swords with the distinct Sharp and Hamilton guard are known to exist and these are virtually always unmarked, though there are at least a couple of exceptions. I believe the marked examples were samples. I have included images of the known Sharp and Hamilton sword with the images of this sword, so you can do your own comparison. Sharp and Hamilton were mass producing swords by October of 1861 and produced 299 during the month. These were almost certainly the Nashville Plow Works swords with the brass back strap.
I have searched for additional information without success, and if anyone has any to add to this, I would welcome all pertinent information.
The sword is unquestionably of Confederate manufacture as determined by the poor casting and finish of the guard and backstrap, the use of a single strand of very, very small diameter wire for the grip wrap, now missing. Also, the forging flaws and rough finish of the unstopped blade, and last by its original tin scabbard. I can also determine that it was made no later than the fall of 1861, by which time all had learned that they were not going on a Sunday picnic, where flimsy scabbards would do, but instead a sure enough war. Such a lightly made scabbard could not have remained in usable condition for a week of field service. As it is the drag broke off and the seam behind the lower mount began to pull apart. Otherwise the scabbard is pristine, meaning it was put away, right away.
The sword is a massive thirty-nine inches, but mere numbers cannot convey its heft, so I have included images with it beside a standard, full size Second Model Kenansville cavalry sword for comparison. With the exception of the flaws noted above, the sword and scabbard are in near perfect condition. There is zero play between the hilt and blade and the mirror like blade has not been cleaned to get that shine, but rather has retained its original polish.
Twice published and the only one known