Grand selection of historic US Civil War memorabilia is up for sale today

With a bright, early start according to the way the auction is listed (the auctioneer is in Ohio, but the lot-listings has the start given at 7am Pacific Time) Cowan's is opening its sale of Americana including Civil War history today.

With an impressive total of 539 items on offer, various aspects of American history are covered, including a typed letter signed by Robert Kennedy announcing he was running for President. But the real strength of the auction is certainly in the Civil War.

There is an early militia officer's sword with Confederate presentation owned by Lieutenant Colonel Jules Charles Denis with a gold gilt backstrap, pommel and knuckle bow, not to mention an engraved gold gilt scabbard. A fine piece, it is listed at $12,000 - $15,000.

One of the most striking naval exploits by the Confederate side during the Civil War was carried out by Lieutenant William Whittle, though unknown to him the war was over by the time of his greatest strike.

In October 1864 Whittle joined the CSS Shenandoah as ExecutiveOfficer in an epic voyage to the distant reaches of Northern Pacific in search of the American whaling fleet. The Shenandoah captured and destroyed 29 vessels during a twelve week span in the spring of 1865 not knowing that the war was already over.

Lieutenant Whittle - US Civil War archive
Lieutenant Whittle's US Civil War archive

Upon learning in August that the Confederacy had been defeated, the Shenandoah witha divided crew (most of seamen were Englishmen) set sail for England where the ship surrendered to the Royal Navy at Liverpool docks on November 6, 1865 "hauling down the flag of the last Confederate cruiser."

The archive includes eight Confederate Navy buttons with English-made officer's two-piece sword belt plate, early book and pamphlet, with provenance written in 1935 and is expected to sell for $10,000 - $15,000 - a good candidate as a tangible investment.

The expected top lot, however, is Hannibal Hamlin's US Senatorial Chair (one of three), made of made of mahogany and mahogany veneers, with maple. Hamlin served as a Democratic for Maine, but switched parties in disgust at the Democrats' pro-slavery leanings, and became Abraham Lincoln's vice-President.

He was unlucky not to achieve the Presidency himself and historians have often speculated about how different his Presidency would have been given his uncompromising anti-slavery views.

Hamlin's chair is expected to fetch $20,000 - $30,000 in the sale which starts online in four hours time.


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