Image Lot Price Description


THE MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN SWORD EVER TO BE OFFERED AT PUBLIC AUCTION. This represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase what is considered to be, a national treasure. This solid gold, extremely high grade, presentation sword commissioned by the United States Congress, made by America’s premier blade smiths; The Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, and inscribed and presented to General David Emanuel Twiggs of Mexican War fame is the most important American sword in private hands and the only Mexican War Congressionally commissioned and presented sword to ever be sold at public auction. The Ames Manufacturing Company was commissioned by the United States Congress to design and fabricate this presentation sword for the phenomenal sum of $1,500 in 1848. At the time $1,500 was, without doubt, the most expensive American sword ever made by Ames and perhaps any other manufacturer of swords in the United States, or even the world. When James Ames was asked about the phenomenal cost of this sword he believed himself “fairly paid, but nothing more . . . the sword’s to be fully worth that amount.” (John Hamilton, The Ames Sword Company: 1829-1935, p. 115.) Historically, five other gold presentation swords were commissioned and presented to Mexican War heroes by Congress. One is documented to have burned in fire; three are institutionalized (one being in the White House). Only the sword to Major General William O. Butler is still family owned and was “discovered” on the Antiques Roadshow (t) in 2003. All six of these magnificent gold Congressional presentation swords were made by Ames by the same act of Congress in the same year (1848). All are distinct in design, craftsmanship and artistry. The Twiggs sword, presented here, has a spectacular history and provenance both before and during the American Civil War that is unique among all of the other Congressionally commissioned swords. This magnificent gold presentation sword is mounted with gemstones, including two large white sapphires, a topaz, and a rose-colored diamond. This sword is mounted and hilted in solid, 18-karat gold. This sword exhibits some of the finest casting art and engraving ever accomplished by any American sword manufacturer. The N.P. Ames Co. opened for business in 1791 at their factory at Chelmsford, Mass. In 1832 Nathan P. Ames signed his first contract with the U.S. Govt. for Foot Artillery swords. Ames also was the home of one of the largest brass, bronze and iron foundries in the country. They made cannon and rifled guns during the Civil War and many famous statues including the Minuteman Statue in Lexington, Mass. and the bronze doors for the U.S. Capitol. They also pioneered in plating for fine presentation swords. Noted and acclaimed throughout the world for their staff of expert bladesmiths, casters, artists, engravers and jewelers, the Ames firm made some of the finest and most beautiful American swords in history. This sword was presented to General David Emanuel Twiggs by President James K. Polk for extraordinary gallantry and service during the Mexican War. Born in Richmond County, Georgia, he was the oldest officer of the Federal Army to take up arms for the Confederacy. His father was General John Twiggs, a distinguished Revolutionary War officer referred to as the “Savior of Georgia”. Commissioned a Captain, 8th Infantry, on March 12, 1812, Twiggs fought valiantly in the War of 1812. He was promoted to Major, 28th Infantry, in 1814. Twiggs served with Generals Andrew Jackson and Edmund Gaines against the Indians in Florida during the Seminole War. He distinguished himself in the Black Hawk War and in the controversy between the United States and South Carolina in 1832. President Jackson, with whom he was a favorite, ordered him to command the U. S. Arsenal at Augusta, GA. He was commissioned Colonel, 2nd Dragoons, June 8, 1836, which, under his leadership and training, became one of the most renown cavalry regiments in the U.S. Army. Twiggs, as Colonel, 2nd Dragoons, joined General Zachary Taylor’s army at the outbreak of the Mexican War. In the movement upon the Rio Grande, Col. Twiggs led the advance and captured Point Isabel. His gallantry at the Battle of Palo Alto and Resaca-de-la-Palma resulted in a brevet promotion to Brigadier-General. At the Battle of Monterey he was in command of a division and given chief command of that place until ordered to join General Winfield Scott at Vera Cruz. At the Battle of Cerro Gordo he led the main attack, and served conspicuously at the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco. He led an assault at the Belen Gate and participated in the Assault and Capture of the City of Mexico. His actions in Mexico recognized he was honored with a brevet commission of Major- General for gallant and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Monterey and presented with this sword and a resolution by the United States Congress. Following the Mexican War Twiggs was given command of the Department of the West, with headquarters at St. Louis, MO, until 1857 when he took charge of the Department of Texas, headquartered at San Antonio. In late 1860 Twiggs was one of only four general officers of the line on the Army roster, the others being Winfield Scott, John E. Wool and William S. Harney. He was second in seniority to Scott and would have been in line to assume duties as General-in-Chief had Scott retired. Yet, Twiggs’ Southern sympathies caused him to surrender the military forces and stores under his command in Texas to Colonel Ben McCulloch, representing the State of Texas, an act for which Twiggs was dismissed from the Army on March 1, 1861. On May 22, 1861 Twiggs was appointed a Major-General in the Confederate Provisional Army, the senior officer of that grade, and assigned to command the District of Louisiana. As a result of his heroic military career with the United States Army during the Mexican War and as a result of him being presented with this sword, Abraham Lincoln called him the “Benedict Arnold of the South” for his defection to the Confederate States of America which he considered a treasonous act. When General Benjamin Butler captured New Orleans early in 1862, he sent a detail to capture General Twiggs. Twiggs escaped; however, Butler seized as trophies three wonderful presentation swords. Butler recommended that to show the folly of secession, the three swords should be donated to Congress, West Point, and the final one, this Congressional presentation, to be given to President Lincoln. In an excerpt from Lincoln’s letter to Congress : “I have in my possession three valuable swords formerly the property of General David E. Twiggs”. These swords were eventually all placed in the U.S. Treasury Department until 20 years after the war. Twiggs’ grandson filed suit to have them returned. In advanced age and in ill health, he soon was for all intents and purposes retired and died of pneumonia near Augusta, Georgia on July 15, 1862. We know of no other Civil War sword associated with Abraham Lincoln. Two acts of Congress were required for the return of this sword to the Twiggs family. The presentation plaque on this sword is engraved “Presented by President of the United States agreeable by resolution of Congress to Brig. Gen. David E. Twiggs in testimony of the high sense entertained by Congress of his gallantry and good conduct in storming Monterey. Resolution approved March 2, 1847.” Below this presentation are two gold plaques. One 3″ x 1″ in gold, raised relief depicting a battle scene showing infantry and cavalry charging past Mexican cannons during the storming of Monterey. Beneath this raised panel is a 4″ x 1″ engraved gold panel showing finely detailed soldiers—over 100 in all in this tiny panel—showing American flags and cannons firing. The large, 2″ langet in solid gold relief shows the storming of the fortress at Monterey. Above the langet, and beautifully engraved, are four gold straps decorated with floral, military motifs, including cross cannons and halberds, are interspersed with four mother-of-pearl panels with precious stones and gold studs. Topping the pommel of this sword is a solid gold American eagle, almost 2″ long and 1″ high, overlooking the battle scenes below. Also accompanying this fabulous sword is a wonderful painting of Gen. Twiggs done in 1855 by John W. Dodge. The painting was executed in July 1855 and is so inscribed. The painted image is approximately 6″ x 9″ on cardboard and is mounted in an elegant gold frame. Together, the sale of this unique and historically important sword and portrait is destined for the record books. In the world of fine art and antiques this moment in American auction history will be reported worldwide. CONDITION: 31-1/4″, double-edge, central fullered blade exhibits most of its original frost. Blade is in extremely fine condition with scattered areas of black staining. Gold and mother-of-pearl mounted hilt appears excellent in every regard. The only defect discernible is the broken and missing wing of the eagle on the reverse side of pommel. The eagle’s obverse wing also exhibits a hairline crack, but it is still solidly attached and has no chance of breaking unless hit with a severe blow. Mother-of-pearl slabs are so often chipped, cracked, and damaged, especially when exhibiting so much cutting and insetting. Only one small crack occurs in mother-of-pearl in upper-right panel. Sapphires and diamonds appear perfect. Topaz has a chip in its upper quadrant. Scabbard body is perfect with just scratches and scuffs. Mounts show light wear only at the highest spots. The bottom left floral decoration of the frame surrounding the presentation is worn showing silver where gilt has worn or been rubbed off. The solid gold, fluted drag exhibits some light scratching and denting on its reverse side. 4-31482 CW16 (750,000-1,000,000)

Auction: Firearms - Fall 2007
Please Note: All prices include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, which is paid by the buyer as part of the purchase price. The prices noted here after the auction are considered unofficial and do not become official until after the 46th day.