Published: August 14, 2007
In conjunction with the Gettysburg Civil War show, Heritage Auction Galleries conducted a two-day, grand format auction June 24′5. Gary Hendershott, director of Civil War auctions for Dallas-based Heritage, said, “This was, without a doubt, the largest and most impressive Civil War auction we have ever held. This auction realized $6,494,130 for 744 lots offered. The venue was marvelous, the participation was outstanding, and the atmosphere in the room was electric.”
“The highlight of the auction was the sword presented to Ulysses S. Grant by the grateful citizens of Kentucky, upon his assumption of the office of general in chief of the United States Army in 1864. This silver and gold, diamond-encrusted sword hailed from the Tharpe collection of American military history and sold for $1,673,000,” Hendershott said.
Several other swords were also highly sought after: the presentation sword of Major General William Mahone, likely the last Confederate-made blade, brought $388,375, while a Confederate officer’s cavalry saber, made by Boyle & Gamble of Richmond, Va., realized $77,675.
“The single item that probably got the most attention was the personal battle flag of General George Armstrong Custer,” Hendershott said. “Hand-sewn for him by his wife, Elizabeth, this is the flag that flew over Custer’s troops as Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. This banner brought $896,250.”
Other flags saw heavy bidding as well, including the Confederate “Liberty or Death” flag which brought $107,550, and is notable for its capture by Custer’s cavalry from General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry during the retreat following the battle at Gettysburg. The “Bonnie Blue” flag of Texas, renowned in song and story, realized $47,800.
One of the most intriguing items in this auction was the Zouave uniform of W. Beriah Chandler, who was a principal musician. “The Zouave uniforms were unusually colorful and attractive, and this particular example, complete with jacket, pants, sash, leggings and the distinctive fez-style cap, was in excellent condition. Chandler would lead a band into battle playing patriotic tunes to inspire the troops, and even picking up weapons when the fighting came close enough. This rare and exquisite uniform brought $125,475,” said Hendershott.
Other auction highlights include a Confederate colonel’s frock coat, that belonged to Colonel John Thompson Brown, 1st Virginia Artillery, who was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness, which sold for $101,575; a Confederate general’s battle flag sword belt set, similar to General Hood’s, that realized $89,625; a Confederate presentation foot officer’s sword, with brass scabbard, made by E.J. Johnston, of Macon, Ga., sold for $83,650.
A saber, a diamond-shaped sword from a Confederate officer, with the original leather scabbard by Boyle & Gamble, Richmond, Va., realized $77,675; a flag from Mosby’s Rangers, with an archive of information, went for $77,675; and a painting by Franklin Dullin Briscoe, 1889, “Gen’l Custer Leading the Wolverines at Gettysburg,” went for $71,700.
A few of the guns offered had historic importance and were hotly contested, such as a Austin, Texas-made, George Todd .36 caliber revolver. Known as one of the rarest Confederate revolvers ever made, it sold for $59,750. A carbine, used at the raid at Harper’s Ferry, call a “John Brown” Sharps carbine, went to $56,762.
All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
Heritage will hold its next Civil War auction on December 1′ in Nashville, Tenn.
Heritage Auction Galleries is at 3500 Maple Avenue, Dallas, Texas. For information, 800-872-6467 or www.HA.com.
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