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General Sherman’s wartime saber and military trunk, which sold for $130,000 ($159,900 with buyer’s premium) at Fleischer’s Auctions.

Union Army General W. T. Sherman’s personal effects top estimates at Fleischer’s

COLUMBUS, OH — The May 14-15 auction at Fleischer’s Auctions featured a remarkable cache of works from the family of William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891). Consigned by his descendants, they included the Union general’s personal blade and association copies of some of the best-known works on the American Civil War. The sale was predictably strong.

What was probably Sherman’s personal copy of George Barnard’s monumental work, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, was estimated at $60,000-$80,000 and hammered for $144,000 ($177,120 with buyer’s premium).

Published in 1866, the 61 albumen prints include haunting scenes from many of the key moments in Sherman’s ‘total war’ against the Confederate army in the South, including the occupation of Nashville, the battles for Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, the Atlanta campaign, the Great Raid through the Carolinas, and the famous March to the Sea. Regarding the carnage he wrought, Sherman would later write, “My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us.”

Barnard (1819-1902), an early daguerreotypist and colleague of the celebrated Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, was the official photographer of the Military Division of the Mississippi and the only photographer to accompany Sherman during the March to the Sea.

Intact copies of his magnum opus are exceedingly rare (priced at $100 at the time, it may be that fewer than 150 copies were produced), with the most recently offered example appearing at Christie’s in June 2014, where it sold for $149,000.

Primarily assembled by Sherman himself, this collection of books was inherited and curated by his son, Philemon Tecumseh Sherman (1867-1941), and then transferred the library to his niece, Eleanor Sherman Fitch (1876-1959). Until its sale, the library was held at the family estate in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

A copy of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), annotated by Sherman and bound in gilt tree calf, made $70,000 ($86,100 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $7,500-$15,000. Sherman evidently read the book, penned by his close friend, in great detail in his final days as he battled with throat cancer. Marginal notes on at least 18 pages include his barbed references to interference from Washington in the campaign, his frustrations with politically connected general John McClernand, and his recollection of conversations held during Grant’s first meeting with Abraham Lincoln.

On the last page of the first volume, Sherman wrote: “Read at St Louis, Mo. Dec 5 + 6, 1885. This account of the Civil War is wonderfully accurate and him. W.T.S.” Only a small handful of copies of the book in this deluxe binding are known, suggesting they were made for presentation, perhaps by Grant’s widow, Julia Grant.

Published in St. Louis in 1865 for sale to souvenir hunters was the Military Map Showing the Marches of the United States Forces under Command of Maj. Genl. W.T. Sherman During the Years 1863-65. Also called the March to the Sea map, it shows the routes taken by cavalry and infantry as well as railroads and fortification and is desirable in its own right. The copy owned by Sherman himself overcame some obvious condition issues to bring $22,000 ($27,060 with buyer’s premium).

General Sherman’s wartime saber was an uncommon variant of a standard cavalry officer model produced by the workshop of Christopher Roby of West Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This ‘special order’ saber features a 30in blade that was used by Sherman early in the war when he was a mounted field-grade officer. It likely saw action in numerous engagements, including the Battle of Shiloh, where Sherman was wounded twice and had three horses shot dead underneath him.

The saber, sold together with copies of letters of ownership, was stored with other inherited relics in a military trunk by the Fitch-Sherman family. Fleischer’s estimated it at $40,000-$60,000, but it made $130,000 ($159,900 with buyer’s premium).

Among the most humble but powerful objects in the sale was a Charleston free badge, an oval copper planchet worn by a freed African slave in South Carolina in the 1780s. Struck in relief, it bears a Phrygian cap, aka a liberty cap, on a pole topped with the word ‘Free’ with a banner reading ‘City of Charleston’.

These badges were required by law to be worn by formerly enslaved men and women in Charleston between 1783 and 1789. They symbolized the constant surveillance and control imposed by authorities, but also provided a form of legal recognition in a society where the freedom of an emancipated African American was precarious.

Only around 600 free people of color are noted in Charleston’s 1790 census, and precious few of these badges of subjection have survived. This example is only the eleventh known. It was acquired sometime in the first half of the 20th century by insurance executive and collector of American political numismatics J. Doyle Dewitt (1902-1972).

The reverse indicates it was made, probably by a local smith, from an obsolete copper plate previously used for printing currency. Despite reconfiguration, words and phrases such as ‘Treasury of’ and ‘deposit’ are clear.

The engraved Roman numeral X suggests it was issued immediately after November 1783, when an ordinance was enacted requiring every free individual of African or mixed-race descent age 15 or above in Charleston to procure a badge from the city at a cost of five shillings. The badges were to be worn visibly on the breast, suspended by a string or ribbon, with a penalty of £3 imposed for non-compliance.

Estimated at $15,000-$30,000, this — described as ‘one of the most significant relics of American slavery ever made available for public acquisition’ — was among the most watched items of the month on the LiveAuctioneers platform, with more than 150 bidders eyeballing its progress. The hammer price was $110,000 ($135,300 with buyer’s premium).