U.S Civil War sword could bring $300,000 at Bonhams

Artefacts from the US Civil War have fascinated collectors for generations - rare photographs, political documents, autographs, letters and weapons have all commanded impressive prices at auction over the years.

A forthcoming Bonhams sale in San Francisco on June 11 will give militaria collectors the chance to own a real piece of American military history, in the form of a sword owned by the Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.

Burnside is a well-known historic figure, although his military reputation is perhaps less than impressive. Although well-liked by his men, his lack of leadership and incompetence led to two famous defeats at the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of the Crater.

Today he is remembered as a former US Senator, railroad industrialist and the man whose impressive facial hair inspired the term 'sideburns'. 


Liegoise percussion pistols
A pair of cased Liegoise percussion pistols valued at $30,000 - $40,000

A series of figural hilt presentation swords were awarded to Burnside, along with a number of prominent Union soldiers, at the New York Metropolitan Fair in 1864 by the United States Sanitary Commission.

The sword was later gifted to Burnside's aid-de-camp Captain Richard Hales Ives Goddard, and has descended through his family to the present day.

This highly rare and historic piece will appear at the sale with an estimated price of $200,000 - $300,000. It will be sold alongside Goddard's complete staff officer uniform grouping, valued at $20,000 - $30,000.

Other notable highlights of the sale will include the earliest known pair of duelling pistols made by the celebrated gunsmith James Purdey, valued at $40,000 - $60,000, and a cased pair of exhibition-grade Liegoise percussion pistols priced at $30,000 - $40,000.

The historic importance and investment potential of American Civil War memorabilia means the category is highly popular with collectors around the world, not just the United States.

And the importance of the conflict, which struck at the heart of America and shaped the nation in a way which still resonates today, means that there will always be passionate collectors in search of a piece of history.

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