Civil War collector carries sword to grave of fallen soldier
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – When Allen Wandling held the old Confederate sword over the grave of its owner in Corinth, Miss., he swore he felt the hair on his arms stand on end.
“It was spooky,” he said.
He was standing at the grave of Col. William P. Rogers, who fell in the Battle of Corinth on Oct. 4, 1862.
Wandling, a serious Civil War memorabilia collector, bought the sword from a man in Joplin, Mo., but oddly enough, it had spent many years in Belleville after the war.
Wandling, of Belleville, said it probably hung in the old Grand Army of the Republic headquarters, which was near downtown Belleville.
He spent four years tracing the story of the sword.
He bought the leather scabbard of the sword in 2006 from a man who was selling it for his grandfather in Joplin. The man said his grandfather had inherited it from a sister who was married to a Belleville police officer, who got the sword when the GAR headquarters was sold at auction.
Wandling made him promise to get in touch if they found the drag, or the brass tip of the scabbard, or the sword. Six months later, he bought that piece.
Another three years later and he got a call that the family had found the sword in a closet after the old man died.
Wandling traced the sword to William Rowley, of the 58th Illinois infantry, who cut the sword from Rogers’ belt after the colonel died, leading a gallant charge against Battery Robinette during the battle. Rogers had an armored suit on his chest but after being shot many times, finally died when a canister shot proved the suit not quite bulletproof.
Union Gen. William Rosencrans accorded Rogers a military funeral where he fell for his gallantry.
Wandling got a taste of how revered the colonel still is in early March when he took the sword back to Corinth for a Civil War relics show in honor of the 150th anniversary of the battle.
“They treated me like a hero,” he said. “Everyone wanted to talk to me and see the sword. They paid all my expenses.”
Rowley apparently gave the sword to an officer in the 9th Illinois and it ended up in Belleville at the GAR headquarters.
A great-great-great granddaughter of Rogers—Leslie Eckert, of Austin, Texas—asked Wandling if she could buy it. He agreed to meet her at the show but isn’t selling.
Wandling also had an interest in the battle as two of his relatives fought for the 63rd Ohio and likely had been shooting at Rogers.
“Here were two descendants of people who had fought each other, shaking hands and holding the sword,” Wandling said. “It was a nice moment.”
Wandling said plans to go back down this fall for more festivities and he is hoping that he will be able to work out a deal to display the sword at the interpretative center at the battlefield.
“I see a real enthusiasm for history down there,” he said. “Rogers has been dead for 150 years now but he’s living again in this sword.”
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com
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