A sword made in the United Kingdom that was carried into battle by Col. Robert Gould Shaw has been recovered after being lost for more than 150 years. Shaw was the commanding officer of the first regiment of black Americans enlisted to fight in the army of the United States during the conflict. He commanded the famous 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry and fell with his men in a battle to seize Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in 1863. He was buried with his men in rifle pits on the scarred battlefield.
The Second Battle of Fort Wagner was portrayed in the 1989 Oscar-winning movie "Glory." Actor In it, Shaw and his troops were unable to dislodge Confederate troops holding the fort. Shaw also fought at the deadly Battle of Antietam.
Recently, Shaw's sword was discovered in the home of one of his distant relatives. On July 18, the sword will go on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, which happens to be the anniversary of Shaw's heroic sacrifice.
A sword that some have called the holy grail of Civil War swords, its disappearance had long been mysterious.
As was customary, Confederate soldiers stripped of his clothing and belongings. Shaw was white, as were all officers and most non-commissioned officers leading black men in the ranks. Two years after Shaw's death, a Confederate officer turned over the sword, which was eventually returned to his parents in Boston. Because Shaw had no children, the sword came into the possession of his sister, Susanna Minturn Haskins.
Some believe that Minturn gave the sword to her teenaged grandson. It was found late last year in an attic by Minturn's great-grandchildren while cleaning out a house after their mother's death. Earlier this year, the family donated the sword to the Massachusetts Historical Society. Previously, the family gave another sword Shaw used during his service in the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment before he was given command of the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment.
Experts believe that because the sword bore Shaw's initials -- RGS -- that it is indeed the sword that he used at Fort Wagner. When experts researched the sword's serial number, it matched the records kept by Henry Wilkinson -- the English swordsmith. The handle showed wear and the blade showed rust, while some of the furniture was tarnished. It also showed use, probably by a Confederate officer who kept it for the balance of the conflict. Shaw acquired the sword about a month before his death, using it only twice in battle.
The Fort Wagner sword will join other Shaw artifacts at the historical society, remaining on display until September.