Anyone who’s watched the Civil War movie “Glory” knows about the courage of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all-black volunteer units to ever fight in an American war. Anyone who hasn’t seen it really should. After he died with his men during the 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was buried in a mass grave alongside them. For several years, his sword, which bears his initials, was considered lost, but eventually was recovered in South Carolina and given to the Shaw family, only to disappear again in the following decades. In 2017, when sorting through the attic of their Massachusetts home, descendents of Shaw’s sister came across it and donated it, along with family papers, to the Massachusetts Historical Society. Today the sword can be seen by prior request.
Information from Mass. Historical: Regulation Infantry sword made for the American market by Henry Wilkinson, Pall Mall, London. Number 12506 with gilt HW seal; blade proofed May 23,1863. British Pattern 1845/54 Officer’s Sabre. Steel blade, etched decoration on both sides with initials R.G.S. below a displayed US Eagle near hilt on back of blade which is slightly curved and unfullered. Normally, this sword would carry an openwork “Crowned VR” cypher in the oval cartouche of the knuckle guard, but made for a non-British customer this feature is left solid and is textured with matt punching. The chamois bag given with the sword is the remains of a “slip,” a soft bag in which one would keep a sword (and its garniture) when packed away. Grip of sharkskin banded in silver wire with flat metal ribbon sword knot ending in acorn affixed to hilt.
One of the treasures of American history.