INCREDIBLE ETCHED PRESENTATION SWORD: COLONEL EDWARD SANFORD, MILITARY SUPERVISOR OF THE TELEGRAPH.
The telegraph was the most important innovation for military communications of the Civil War & used to great affect by Abraham Lincoln, & his secondary of war, who communicated w/ his generals via telegraph. The phenomenal custom detailed etching on this blade shows in 8″ panel the telegraph lines leading from the capital south down the Telegraph Road to military headquarters in Virginia, under the lines on the telegraph poles is a poem: “With lightning strides / Which thought alone can trace / Annihilates in turn / Both time, and space”. Etched battle scenes are rare on sword blades, but this unique etch is incredible. The other side of blade 5″ panel: “E.S. SANFORD” w/ a lightning bolt like terminations representing the electricity of Sanford’s telegraph lines. Each side of blade has 22″ etched patriotic panels including mottoes “OUR GLORIOUS UNION FOREVER” & “LIBERTY OR DEATH”. Sword is high grade model 1850 staff & field officer’s sword w/ eagle head quillon w/ red ruby eyes, basket weave spiral silver grip w/ triple gilded wire wrap. Hilt, pommel, & scalloped scabbard mounts are richly chased & engraved in foliate design. Blade of drag is decorated. Scabbard body is fire blued steel. Etched on ricasso: “W.G. Simmons & Bros / Manufacturers / Philadelphia, Penn”.
A small presentation plaque is found between the top mounts: presented to /Col. E.S. Sanford Military Supervisor / of the Telegraph by Many friends as a / Testimonial to his Courtesy and Impartiality / Zeal and Fidelity / May 1862”. There was no US government telegraph organization before the Civil War, there was no appropriation of funds by Congress to pay for the expenses of erecting poles, running cables, or the salaries of operators. The huge cash outlay establishing the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps was paid by Sanford, who was doing his patriotic duty as he had the wealth & resources & knew he would eventually be repaid by the government which he was. By the time of the presentation of the sword, the US Military Telegraph Corps was a well established juggernaut sending & receiving over 3000 encrypted military telegraphs every day. Lincoln was very much aware of the value of the telegraph & would nearly take personal command of battle fronts through its use. Lincoln would be at the military telegraph office by the capital w/ the Secretary of War every day. All orders the telegraph operators received came directly from the Secretary of War by direction of the president. The value of the Military Telegraph was recognized by Secretary of War Stanton in his official report to Congress Dec., 1863: “The Military Telegraph, under the general direction of Col. Stager and Major Eckert, has been of inestimable value to the service, and no corps has surpassed, few have equaled, the telegraph operators in diligence & devotion to their duties. At the fall of Richmond, April 3, 1865, after announcing the fact, from the office window of the War Department, to the assembled multitude beneath, Secretary of War Stanton turned to the operators in the room & said: “Boys, I consider the telegraph my right arm, & if ever I can do anything for you, don’t hesitate to ask it”. Edward Sewell Sanford (1817-1882) Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, Businessman.
The President of the American Telegraph Company at the start of the Civil War, his expertise in telegraph communications was called upon by the Union to help defeat the rebellion. Commissioned Colonel, US Volunteers, he served as Military Supervisor of Telegraphic Messages for the Union Army. He was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers on March 13, 1865 for “meritorious services”. By the war’s end over 6 million military telegrams had been sent & received. Col. Sanford’s establishing of U.S. Military Telegraph Corps communication changed the way war was fought. Lincoln felt he always had up to date news because of his constant telegraphic updates even during battles being fought. Over 1200 men age 16 to 22 manned over 15,000 miles of telegraph wires of the U.S. Army’s Military Telegraph Corps, over 300 died or killed during the war, much higher rate of death than soldiers. This is the most impressive & unique blade etch design I have ever encountered, the artist who rendered these unique images & verse must have understood the impact & importance of electric communication!