Lost and Found: A U.S. Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber
An article by Sean A. Flynt
It seems that my wife's great-great grandfather had been hunting in the vicinity of Turkey Creek near Morris (19 miles north of modern Birmingham) in the late 19th century when he found a cavalry saber and scabbard. He passed it down through the generations of my wife's family and it was stored in a closet when I first heard about it. The owner generously passed it on to me and my wife the Christmas after he learned of my intense interest in the piece. At last, I could examine and document the weapon in detail, research its history and give it an honored place in my collection.
This weapon is an enlisted men's pattern U.S. Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber, made by the former scythe-manufacturing firm of Mansfield & Lamb of Forestdale, Rhode Island. It is in remarkable condition, no doubt owing to the fact that it was recovered within a decade or two of being lost.
The brass hilt, like the rest of the weapon, is in untouched condition and is surprisingly tight, with only a slight wobble. The rear quillon is bent at a 45-degree angle toward the pommel but is otherwise undamaged. The spirally fluted wooden grip is in excellent condition, with a dark, glossy shine, but lacks its original leather wrap and wire binding (although slight traces of both survive).
The blade has a smooth grey patina overall and one very small nick in its edge, but is otherwise pristine. The edge is not particularly sharp but the point is acute and quite deadly looking. A small remnant of the original leather washer remains between the ricasso and guard at the back of the blade. The inside of the ricasso bears the manufacturer's name and city. The outside of the ricasso is marked U.S., C.E.W. (For Charles E. Wilson, the inspector who accepted the saber for the federal government) and 1864.
Measurements and Specifications:
The Lost Brigade
"Fearing to risk an engagement with a superior force, backed by the militia, he [Croxton] countermarched and moved again in the direction of Tuscaloosa; leaving it to the right, passed on through Jasper, re-crossed the West Fork of the Warrior River at Hanby's Mills, marched nearly due east by the way of Mount Pinson and Trussville, crossed the Coosa at Truss' and Collins' Ferries, and marched to Talladega."The route described in this report took Croxton slightly to the north of Morris, and the brigade may have crossed Turkey Creek or ridden alongside the creek virtually anywhere between Morris and Pinson. So, the simplest explanation for the saber's presence in the vicinity of Turkey Creek is that it was lost by one of Croxton's enlisted cavalrymen in mid-April 1865 (Croxton reached Talladega by April 21).
I have found no other record of Federal cavalry activity in the area of the saber's finding, but neither is there any record of fighting along this part of Croxton's route. So how was the saber lost?
Perhaps our cavalryman had stowed the weapon behind his saddle for the dash through the densely forested Appalachian foothills and failed to notice when it was dislodged by brush or while clambering up the south bank of Turkey Creek. However it departed from the cavalryman, it remained where it fell until found in the 1870s or 1880s by Ambrose Doss, who shared the name of a father killed by Federal artillery at the Battle of Atlanta.
If this informed speculation about the saber's journey through North Alabama is trueand I believe it is the most plausible explanationour saber was almost certainly present at the burning of the University of Alabama. It is therefore especially appropriate that the weapon now resides with fans of the Auburn University Tigers, UA's traditional rival in football and all other athletic affairs.
There are a couple of other interesting points of connection between the saber and its current owners. In Tuscaloosa, Croxton's brigade encountered slight resistance from the UA Cadet Corps commanded by Col. James T. Murfee. Murfee went on to become President of Howard College, now Samford University, employer and Alma Mater of both my wife and myself. In a final twist to this tale, my wife and I plan to move to Morris soon, returning this historically important edged weapon to the area where it was both lost and found, and where it spent most of the 142 years of its life.
About the Author
Sean Flynt is a writer and editor living in Birmingham, Alabama. He is interested in Western arms and armour of all periods, but especially those of 16th through 18th century Britain and Colonial North America.
American Sword, 1775 to 1945, by Harold L. Peterson
Reports for Wilson's Raid to Selma 22 March - 22 April 65
Croxton's Raid: The Lost Brigade
The Skirmish at Sipsey Mills Bridge, near Pleasant Ridge, April 6, 1865