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Old South Military Antiques

Ornate Entwined Serpent, Presentation Griswold Sword
Item #: OS-6938

This Thomas, Griswold & Co presentation sword was carried by Colonel James Francis Girault. James Francis Girault was born in Natchez, Mississippi. After college, Girault studied theology under Bishop Leonidas Polk. Girault came from a line of American patriots, so he knew where his duty lay when Lincoln unconstitutionally waged war on the South. His grandfather, John Girault, took part in the George Rogers Clarke Expedition during the War of 1812 and both his father, John R. and his Uncle Frank, were American officers at the Battle of New Orleans. In 1856 he was a Factor and Commission Merchant at 24 Carondelet Street, New Orleans.[1]

James Girault fought in the 4th Louisiana Regiment under Col. Horatio Davis during the Mexican War, which explains the symbolism in the eagle head and serpent guard. Later he became a Major in the 1st Louisiana Regiment.

In 1861, when the South called, Girault promptly responded and raised a regiment known as the "Confederate Guards” and became the "Guards” Lieutenant Colonel. On February 20th, 1862,[2] Girault was promoted to Colonel, and on March 8th,[3] 1862, when the "Guards” were incorporated into Confederate service. Because of his prior military experience, the well-educated Girault was appointed from the State of Florida as Assistant Adjutant General to General Martin Luther Smith.[4] Wanting to get to the front, he accepted the appointment. Subsequently, General Leonidas Polk appointed him as Inspector General to his own staff during the Tennessee-Kentucky campaign of 1863. Colonel Girault was again transferred as Inspector General to serve at Vicksburg under General M. L. Smith. Though captured at Vicksburg when the place was surrendered, he was soon paroled and exchanged. As soon as at liberty, he reported again to General Smith at Atlanta, becoming General Smith’s Chief of Staff and remaining with him until Atlanta fell. Colonel Girault was then assigned to the War Department in Richmond and reported to Adjutant General Samuel Cooper to serve as Inspector General for the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana. He inspected the forts, stores, arms, troops and was at Meridian, Mississippi inspecting Wheeler’s Cavalry when the war ended.[5] With the struggle over, Colonel Girault returned to New Orleans, continued his theological education and was ordained December 1, 1867. In 1869 he built St. Anna’s Chapel on Esplanade Street. He served his God and the Episcopal Church faithfully until he left the earthly realm in 1889.

This sword is one of the most beautiful Confederate manufactured presentation swords known. Thomas, Griswold & Co, produced some of the finest Confederate swords ever made, and this is their best quality and a unique design, having blended silver and gold gilt.

This example has an eagle head pommel with three serpents’ tails emanating from its mouth. The serpents then intertwine to form the knuckle bow before reuniting to form a serpent head quillon. The hilt was gilded, much of which remains. The sword’s ornate, original scabbard is mounted with distinctive scalloped gold plated and unique florally engraved mounts with beaded sword ring mounts. It too retains much of its gilding. The blade is a deeply struck in the ricasso with "THOMAS, GRISWOLD” in arc above "NEW ORLEANS”. The blade has etched panels which include the presentation "CAPTAIN J. F. GIRAULT BY… / NEW ORLEANS OCT. 16TH 1861”. Opposite side of the blade is etched with the Latin motto which appears to read "TO US ET PRO US”, translating to "TO US, FOR US”. This etching is very, very faint and hard to read. The hilt is completely tight, with the exception of the backstrap, which does have some play. The sword is published in Daniel Hartzler’s Confederate Presentation & Inscribed Swords & Revolvers, on pages 167-169. It is also published in William Albaugh's Confederate Edged Weapons.

This sword was purchased from the renown collector Gerald W. Fox in the late 1950s by Nicholas A. Penachio (1936-2011) and has remained in his estate until recently. The framed, original hand drawn portrait drawn by Carl Pugliese, which was used for the sword’s illustration in William Albaugh’s 1960 book, Confederate Edged Weapons also accompanies the sword.

The sword is in very good to fine condition overall. The sword’s scabbard is strong enough to stand horizontally on its own, it would be perfect but for some light crazing to the surface and a small screw missing from the middle mount, but the mount is tight. The ivory grip has a lovely patina and remains very solid, having only hairline age cracks. The grip’s silver wire grip wrap is missing. The blade is smooth and semi bright with areas of carbon staining and the lightest of pitting. It even retains its original throat washer.

[1] Southern Reveille July 18, 1856

[2] The Daily Picayune, February 20th, 1862

[3] Official Records

[4] Confederate Presentation & Inscribed Swords & Revolvers, on pages 167-169

[5] Confederate Presentation & Inscribed Swords & Revolvers, on pages 167-169

Price $65,000.00 USD