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Important I’d Civil War Naval Grouping – Swords, Diary, Images of Ensign Abner D. Stover


Important I’d Civil War Naval Grouping – Swords, Diary, Images of Ensign Abner D. Stover – This extremely fine grouping, which came directly from Ensign Stover’s descendants.

Abner D. Stover (1835 – 1869) – Abner Dodge Stover was born in Sedgewick, Maine in 1835; as a young adult, he became a carpenter and married Emma Livingston. They had one son, Charles L. Stover and lived, as a family, in Brooklyn, New York. During the Civil War, Stover served in the U.S. Navy, as an Ensign, on board the USS Water Witch. In June of 1863, the Water Witch sailed from New York City to the waters off of the South Carolina coast, near Charleston Harbor, where it spent several months on patrol. During his service on the Water Witch, Ensign Stover kept a diary in which he dutifully recorded daily events, as well as a listing of his observations of the varied flora and fauna he saw as the ship sailed up various coastal rivers and dropped anchor off of uninhabited islands along the coast of South Carolina. In June of 1864, while on patrol, the Water Witch was attacked and boarded by members of the Confederate Navy. The Confederate attackers overpowered the men aboard the Water Witch, capturing Stover and most of his shipmates. During the melee, Stover sustained five cutlass wounds, about his head and shoulder. The captured Union sailors, including Stover, were initially taken to Savannah, Georgia, to a naval hospital, then on to the prisoner of war Camp Ogelthorpe in Macon, Georgia. In July of 1864, the Water Witch prisoners were transferred, via railroad cattle cars, to Charleston; during this trip, Stover and a group of other prisoners, jumped off the train, briefly experiencing some freedom, but were later re-captured. After two months imprisoned in Charleston, Stover and a number of other prisoners, were transferred to Libby Prison, in Richmond, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Stover was exchanged and sent home. Ensign Stover would never regain his physical health; he contracted “Consumption” (Tuberculosis), perhaps during his imprisonment, and would die in February of 1869.

The Stover grouping consists of the following elements:

1. Model 1852 U.S. Navy Officer’s Sword Owned by Ensign Abner D. Stover – Superior example of the M1852 USN officer’s sword owned and carried by U.S. Navy Ensign Abner D. Stover during his initial service in the navy, during the Civil War. This sword, an exceptional example, was, in all likelihood, purchased by Ensign Stover, at significant expense, at the onset of his service. The acid etching on the brightly “frosted” blade depicts several foliate, patriotic and military motifs, on both sides, as well as the etched inscription, encircled in stars: “A.D. STOVER / FOR THE OLD FLAG”. On the upper, wide spine area of the blade is the German steel proof mark, in raised etched letters: “IRON PROOF”. On one side of the ricasso, is a stamped, Medieval knight figure, another German proof mark; just above this side of the ricasso, etched in the blade is: “VIRGIL PRICE / NEW YORK”.* On the obverse of this side of the ricasso is stamped: “W. CLAUBERG  SOLINGEN”, indicative of the specific German manufacturer of the sword. The entire gilded brass hilt is cast with floral designs throughout; the pommel is somewhat plain, with some lesser floral designs surrounding the blade tang peening. The quillon is made in the likeness of a sea creature, usually described as representing a dolphin; the blade side of the wrist guard exhibits a raised cast “USN”. The grip is constructed of German silver, with its ribs wrapped in a single strand of twisted, brass wire; the knucklebow has a slot for the placement of a portapee; the original leather, scabbard throat washer remains in place, between the blade ricasso and the blade side of the guard. The sword’s scabbard is constructed of a fine, low relief, black shagreen or rayfin; the sword mounts are composed of a scalloped shaped sheet brass; the upper throat mount is engraved on one side with: “U.S.N.”, surrounded by a wreath; the opposite side of this mount is lightly engraved in a foliate motif; the sword belt ring is mounted to the mount proper through a raised representation of a heavy ship’s rope. The lower mount exhibits a raised American eagle above the ring mount decorative roping, with a lightly engraved urn-like figure below; on the opposite side of this mount is a lightly engraved foliate design. The brass drag (missing at this writing) is of sheet brass, with an elaborately cast dolphin or sea creature covering the distal end of the scabbard (visible at this writing only in the two images of Ensign Stover).

Condition: This sword is in overall very good to fine condition; it has not been cleaned, so the brass elements exhibit a pleasing age patina. The blade is in superior condition, with the majority of its original bright “frosting” extant, and its acid etched engraving sharp and vivid. The German silver grip and brass rib wire are in excellent condition. The rayfin scabbard is in fair to good condition, with some weak or bent areas towards the distal end and the drag area. As of this writing, the drag is missing.

Measurements: Overall length (sword in the scabbard w/o drag) – 34.75”. Overall length (sword out of scabbard) – 34.75”. Blade length – 28.75”.

* Virgil Price – Rare, other silver hilted, presentation grade, Civil War period swords are extant that exhibit the marking of Virgil Price, New York. These swords usually exhibit elaborate acid etched scenes or motifs including eagles, drums, arrows in quivers, flags and foliate designs, appearing on both sides of the blades. Many of the Price imports were made by one of the mid-19th century’s most respected sword makers, W. Clauberg , Solingen, Germany. This U.S. importer, Virgil Price, imported some of the highest quality, Civil War period swords, including one carried by Joshua L. Chamberlin of the famed 20th Maine Infantry.

2. Model 1852 U.S. Navy Officer’s Sword Owned by Ensign Abner D. Stover – This M1852 USN officer’s sword was owned and carried by U.S. Navy Ensign Abner D. Stover, presumably after his release from Confederate imprisonment, towards the end of the Civil War. This sword, a fine, high-end example, exhibits elaborate acid etching on the brightly “frosted” blade.  The etchings are in several foliate, patriotic and military motifs, on both sides, including a finely etched American eagle perched on a naval ship cannon, a fouled anchor and “USN” in a riband. Embedded on one side of the ricasso us a circular, iron or steel insert, that exhibits, in raised letters: “PROVED”; this marking is indicative of German manufacture, perhaps W. Clauberg of Solingen. The upper blade retains its original leather scabbard throat washer. The gilded brass hilt was cast in a subdued, floral motif, a scaled dolphin and “USN” on the underside of the wristguard. The white rayskin or shagreen grip is wrapped with three strands of brass wire – two on either side of a twisted strand; the knucklebow has a slot for the placement of a portapee; the pommel is decorated with a right facing eagle surrounded by 13 stars. The scabbard is constructed of black dye finished bridle leather; the sword mounts are gilded sheet brass and are plain with the exception of the belt ring attachment elements which are cast to represent entwined naval roping. The scabbard drag is plain sheet brass, with a cast brass dolphin affixed to the bottom of the drag.

Condition: The overall condition of the sword is very good to fine. The brass elements have not been cleaned and thereby exhibit a mellow, age patina; the steel blade is in excellent condition, exhibiting  a bright, “frosty” sheen ; the scabbard is in fair to good condition with some minor weak areas and some flaking to the finish; the drag’s attachment screws are missing so that the drag can come off the scabbard.

Measurements:  Overall length (sword in the scabbard w/o drag) – 34.75”. Overall length (sword out of scabbard) – 35”. Blade length – 28.75”.

3. Civil War Period Carte de Visite of Ensign Abner D. Stover – Typical war period CDV of Ensign Stover depicting him in his regulation U.S. Navy frock coat and trousers, with his mid-War regulation officer’s cap resting on a table beside him. The cap’s insignia, which appears to have been tinted, represents the rank of Ensign; Stover is wearing a Model 1852 U.S. Navy officer’s sword belt; his Model 1852 officer’s sword, suspended from the belt, appears to be the first sword that is listed above – Item #1 – the sword with his name etched on the blade. The back of the CDV is imprinted with the photographer’s name and address: “ALFRED W. JACOBS  / 183 FULTON ST.  NEAR NASSAU  / BROOKLYN”; above the photographer’s name and address, written in pen, is the following: “ (1862 or 3)  / Abner Dodge Stover / Born Sept. 4, 1835 / Died Feb. 8, 1869”; below the photographer’s name and address, also written in ink, is the following: “Acting Ensign U.S.N.”.

Condition: Overall condition is fair; all four corners of the CDV have been clipped to ease placement into an album; there is considerable foxing throughout, both on the front and back of the CDV, although the subject of the image is not adversely affected.

Measurements: Height – 4”; Width – 2.25”.

4. Civil War Period Albumen Photograph of Ensign Abner D. Stover - Typical war period albumen image of a seated Ensign Stover uniformed in his U.S. Navy regulation frock coat and trousers, holding his mid-War regulation officer’s cap. The cap’s insignia represents the rank of Ensign; Stover is wearing a Model 1852 U.S. Navy officer’s belt; his Model 1852 officer’s sword, suspended from the belt, appears to be the same sword that is listed above – Item #1 – the sword with his name etched on the blade. The lower rim of the cardstock mounting surround is imprinted with the photographer’s name and address: “A. W. JACOBS, Artist, / 183 Fulton St. Brooklyn.” This image appears to have been taken by the same photographer, during the same sitting, as that producing the CDV listed as Item #0003. This image is glued to its original cardstock mount and displayed within a period, perhaps original to the image, wood and gilded gesso, oval frame; the wooden back of the frame has scratched, in pencil, the following: “ABNER STOVER / ENSIGN / WATER WITCH / CIVIL WAR”. Along the upper left back of the frame proper is also scratched in pencil, the following: “Abner Stover / Civil War”.

Condition: The image is in excellent condition, with little to no foxing to the image itself; resolution is excellent. The back of the image does exhibit some foxing from direct contact with the original wooden backing. The frame is in overall very good condition, with only minor gesso chipping and age spotting to the gilding; glass, which appears to be original to the image, is in excellent condition.

Measurements: Frame – Height: 11”; – Width: 9.5”. Cardstock Mount – Height: 9.0;  Width: 7.1”. Sight Size – Height: 7.25”; Width: 5.25”.

5. Civil War Period Albumen Photograph of USS Water Witch** – Civil War period, oval albumen image of the U.S. Navy ship the USS Water Witch, depicting the ship afloat in an undetermined location; image is mounted (glued) to a heavy cardstock and surrounded by a gilded edge, oval cardstock mat. Image shows the ship with what appears to be a canvas, shade covering over a large portion of the deck, perhaps indicative of a summer time image. In the image, all sails are furled, and a U.S. naval boat flag wafts in the wind, attached to a stern mast. Above the image, on the cardstock to which the albumen has been glued, is hand-lettered “Civil War”; just below the image, also on the cardstock, is hand-lettered “Water Witch”. Along the left rim of the cardstock mat, in a curved printing, is the photographer’s imprint: “F. GUTEKUNST, 704 & 706 Arch St. PHILADA.” In pencil, on the old cardboard backing behind the image, is written: “Water Witch / Civil War Vessel / of / Ens. Abner Dodge Stover”. The image and backing are housed in a late 19th to early 20th century, black painted and beaded edge, wood frame; cardboard or stock backing is attached to the frame via old finishing nails.

Condition: The image is in excellent condition, with little to no foxing to the image proper; resolution is excellent. The cardstock mounting does exhibit some foxing and staining. The frame is in overall good condition, exhibiting some chipping and paint loss; glass, which appears to be commensurate with the period of the frame, is in good condition.

Measurements: Frame – Height: 11.75”; – Width: 14.25”. Cardstock Mount – Height: 8.0;  Width: 10.0”. Sight Size – Height: 7.25”; Width: 9.0”.

** USS Water Witch was a wooden-hulled, sidewheel gunboat in the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She is best known as the ship fired on by Paraguay in 1855. In 1864, she was captured by the Confederate States Navy, and subsequently was taken into that Navy as CSS Water Witch. The aforementioned event occurred in the late spring of 1864; in the early spring of that year, after undergoing some refurbishing and repairs, the Water Witch returned to Port Royal, South Carolina to perform blockade duty at several points along the coasts of South CarolinaGeorgia, and northern Florida, but most frequently at Ossabaw Sound between Ossabaw Island and the Georgia mainland about 15 miles due south of Savannah, Georgia. This would remain her primary duty station well into 1864. On the night of 3 June of that year, a Confederate Marine boat force, under the command of First Lieutenant Thomas P. PelotCSN, succeeded in boarding and capturing Water Witch in Ossabaw Sound after a brief but violent fight that inflicted amongst the Union ship’s crew two killed and 12 wounded; in addition, 13 officers and 49 men were captured. Confederate losses were 6 killed and 17 wounded.

6. Letter Written by William W. Carnes*** to Widow of Ensign Abner Stover - Two and a half page, folded, handwritten letter authored by William W. Carnes, from Macon, Georgia, dated July 17, 1869, to Emma L. Stover, widow of Ensign Abner D. Stover. Carnes was in possession of Ensign Stover’s captured M1852 USN Officer’s sword; he had placed an ad in the New York Herald Tribune, in 1869, indicating he was in possession of the sword and wished to “return it to its rightful owner”. A friend of Mrs. Stover saw the ad, told Mrs. Stover, who immediately contacted Mr. Carnes. In his response to Mrs. Stover, Carnes relates how he came into possession of her late husband’s sword, his attempts to determine how to return it and his intention to ship Mrs. Stover the sword. The paper comprising this letter is the variety typically used, in the mid-19th century, as lined, letter stationery; there is a small embossing, by the paper manufacturer, in the upper left corner of the first page of the letter.

Condition: The letter is in fair to good condition, quite legible, with little to no foxing, evidencing some minor tears. There appears to have been a section of the second page of the letter, just below Carnes’ signature, that was torn off.

Measurements: Height – 9”; – Width – 7.75”.

***William W. Carnes (1841 -1932) – William Watts Carnes was born in 1841 in Tennessee; he was a student at the United States Naval Academy when the Civil War began. He resigned and joined Jackson’s Tennessee Battery as a lieutenant. He was soon promoted to captain. Late in the war, Carnes transferred to the Confederate States Navy with the rank of lieutenant. Lt. Carnes was one of the Confederate Naval officers who participated in the boarding and capture of the USS Water Witch, in June of 1864. Carnes obtained Ensign Abner Stover’s M1852 U.S. Navy Officer’s sword from a junior grade Confederate officer who had apparently taken it from Stover during the attack and boarding of the Water Witch. Some time after Stover’s death, Carnes, now living in Macon, Georgia, placed an ad in the “New York Herald Tribune”, stating that he currently had the sword of an Abner Stover and wished to “return it to its rightful owner.” A friend of Ensign Stover’s widow, Emma, saw the notice and contacted her. Emma Stover wrote to Carnes who responded to her and promptly sent the sword.

7. Handwritten Civil War Period Diary of Ensign Abner D. Stover – Large size daily log or diary of Ensign Abner D. Stover; diary entries begin on June 8, 1863 and end on October 17, 1864, encompassing a total of 88 pages. Stover kept this diary during his service aboard the USS Water Witch, describing day to day events, including descriptions of flora and fauna he observed, from the ship, when it ventured up various rivers, occasionally dropping anchor off of some of the small islands along the shores of South Carolina. Included in his highly descriptive entries is a lengthy and animated description of the attack and boarding of the Water Witch by Confederate navy seamen on June 3, 1864; Stover describes, in graphic detail, the attack, his ensuing wounding, his capture, transportation to a Savannah naval hospital and internment at the Confederate prisoner of war Camp Ogelthorpe in Macon, Georgia. Stover also discusses being transported again, with other Union prisoners, from Camp Ogelthorpe to Charleston, South Carolina, via railroad cattle cars, in July of 1864; during the course of this railroad trip, Stover and several other prisoners jumped from the cars, briefly escaping to a nearby swamp. Stover relates that after a couple of days in hiding, he and the other escapees were tracked by dogs and recaptured. His diary entries indicate that after two months imprisoned in Charleston, he was transported to Libby Prison, in Richmond, Virginia. From Libby Prison, as the war drew to a close, Stover reports that he was exchanged and sent north aboard ship; the diary entries abruptly end when Stover was on this ship. The diary is a larger size than most mid-19th century diaries; it is akin to a log or ledger style book; it has marbled boards joined by a black dyed heavy fabric spine; the boards and spine provide binding for the 88 pages of unlined stationery style paper. All of Stover’s entries are in ink, and each entry is dated. The first page after opening the front board has the name “William Schouler**** Adjutant Gen” hand signed at the top of the page.

Condition: The diary is in overall very good condition; the front marbled board evidences some wear and paper loss; the back board does evidence some more noticeable paper loss and heavier wear. The fabric spine is in good condition, with some wear chipping to its top and bottom areas. The written pages of the diary are in overall very good condition, with some very minor and occasional corner folding or age and use wear; there is some staining to a few of the pages – some stains appear to be ink blots, while some others could possibly be blood from wounds suffered by Stover during the Confederate capture of the Water Witch. All entries are quite legible and readable.

Measurements: Height – 13”; Width – 8.25”.

****William Schouler – Schouler (December 31, 1814 – October 24, 1872) was an American journalist, politician and Adjutant General of Massachusetts during the American Civil War. A Scottish immigrant, Schouler spent most of his youth in Massachusetts. In 1853, he moved to Ohio, later becoming the editor for the Cincinnati Gazette and later the Ohio State Journal. In 1855, he was appointed Adjutant-General of Ohio by Salmon P. Chase. In 1858, Schouler moved back to Boston and, in 1860, he was appointed Adjutant General of Massachusetts. He remained Adjutant General throughout all of the U.S. Civil War until 1867. Schouler later served one term in the Massachusetts State Senate. He also wrote a two volume History of Massachusetts in the Civil War.




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