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Lot # 694 (of 1411)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1861 Civil War Sword Presented by the Eagle Base Ball Club

Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $2,088.00

Very few relics have survived which directly relate to baseball and the Civil War. Offered is one of the few. This rare Civil War sword, manufactured by Charles Roby & Company of West Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was given in 1861 to Robert H. Ellis by the members of the Eagle Base Ball Club, one of the founding quartet of New York Clubs that included the Knickerbockers. This unique piece represents one of the earliest Civil War swords produced by Roby, and its importance is revealed by the engraving upon the scabbard: "Presented to Quarter Master Robert H. Ellis-1st Regiment Clinton Guard-by Members of the Eagle Base Ball Club-October 18th 1861." The name "C. Roby & Co.-W. Chelmsford, Mass." is engraved on the opposite side of the scabbard. The sword, which appears to be a foot officer's sword, bears the initials "U. S." amid a patriotic and floral design along the shaft. At the base of the shaft is the name of the manufacturer: "C. Roby & Co.-W. Chelmsford-Mass." The Eagle Base Ball Club was one of the earliest organized New York ball clubs. Founded in 1840 as the Eagle Ball Club of New York, the team originally played town ball, an early version of baseball. In 1852 the team embraced the New York game of baseball and, appropriately, changed its name to the Eagle Base Ball Club. The 61st Regiment New York Infantry was organized on October 25, 1861, at New York City, by the consolidation of the Astor regiment of Rifles with the Clinton Guards. Research confirms that Ellis enlisted on August 1, 1861 at the age of 35 and served as 1st Lieutenant and regiment Quartermaster. Ellis served with the 61st Regiment at both Harper's Landing and the Battle of Antietam. He remained with the regiment through September 26, 1862, when he was discharged due to disability. Months later, the regiment fought at Gettysburg, sustaining heavy causalities (a monument to the 61st Regiment stands at Gettysburg today). Roby originally began as a maker of edged tools, such as scythes. The shortage of weapons at the start of the war, however, prompted Roby to begin mass producing swords, and the company quickly became one of the government's chief suppliers. Beginning in 1861 and continuing through 1865, Roby contracted with the government for nearly 50,000 swords. According to a prior owner, this sword was discovered buried in the ground in either Tennessee or Kentucky. How the sword came to that final resting place is not known; however, its condition does support the claim that it was buried for a long period of time. Both the scabbard and shaft are heavily rusted, with the scabbard displaying a few areas of complete deterioration. Nearly all of the wrapping along the handle is missing, leaving the bare wood base fully exposed. Despite its flaws, the inscription remains clearly legible, as do most of the other manufacturer's markings. This is an extremely rare and significant historical piece offering tremendous crossover appeal to both baseball and military collectors alike. The association between baseball and the Civil War is well documented. The Civil War played an integral role in popularizing the game of baseball across the country. Ballplayers who served in the war introduced the game to fellow soldiers, and soon the game was an organized pastime enjoyed by soldiers as a welcome diversion. After the war, the popularity of the game literally spread to the four corners of the country as soldiers returned to their homes, bringing with them a love of the game of baseball which they were anxious to share. In a very short time following the Civil War, baseball was officially America's National Pastime. Baseball presentation pieces dating from this time period are exceedingly rare, especially examples relating to the Eagle Base Ball Club, one of New York's most prominent early clubs. This is a museum-quality piece that would be equally at home in the Baseball Hall of Fame or The National Civil War Museum. The only other baseball-related Civil War presentation sword we have ever handled was an 1865 sword presented to George Phelps by the Atlantics which, while in far superior condition, sold for a staggering $37,700 in Robert Edward Auctions' 2005 sale. Length: 38 inches. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000/$4,000. SOLD FOR $2,088.00


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