A rare Civil War artifact was donated this week to the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville.
The item is an 1855 engraved British cavalry saber gifted more than 150 years ago as a presentation sword to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan from his men.
Will Hines, 23, a recent graduate of Clemson University and son of Spartanburg businessman Ben Hines, gave it to the museum.
“Over the years, I have built up my personal collection,” Will Hines said. “We’ve had [John Hunt Morgan’s sword] for a long time. I wanted to do something that would help bring more attention to the museum.”
Hines said he recently had the sword appraised for $60,000. He purchased it in 2005 at a Civil War show from a museum in Florida.
Prior to that, he said, the sword belonged to a family member in Alabama.
The sword has been authenticated, Hines said. It was most likely not used during battle.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the sword,” said Webster Jones, curator of the museum at 15 Boyce Avenue. “We already had a Kentucky collection with pieces mostly from the ‘Orphan Brigade.’ This will go very well with that collection.”
Jones said swords tied to Civil War commanders are very rare, particularly on the Confederate side. He said it is the only “sword of notoriety” at the museum, which has hundreds of items on display.
Hines said he began collecting Civil War artifacts as a child. He can trace his ancestry back to soldiers from Surry County, N.C., and Patrick County, Va., who fought for the Confederacy.
“I’ve been to the battlefields where they died,” he said. “It’s an experience that is hard to describe.”
John Hunt Morgan, nicknamed the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” was born in Huntsville, Ala., in 1825.
His mother was a Kentuckian, and Morgan moved to the Bluegrass State as a boy.
According to The Civil War Trust, a national organization that advocates for the preservation of Civil War battlefields, Morgan enlisted in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry during the Mexican War and served under U.S. President Zachary Taylor.
Morgan distinguished himself during the Battle of Buena Vista. After the war, he returned to Kentucky and became a successful hemp manufacturer. He equipped his own militia company known as the “Lexington Rifles” out of his own pocket.
At the outset of the Civil War, Morgan joined forces with Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner. In 1862, he took part in the Battle of Shiloh and then led a 1,000-mile ride through Kentucky, where he wreaked havoc on the Union supply and communication lines.
In July 1863, Morgan took 2,400 men on a raid into Ohio and southern Indiana. He terrorized Union defenses for three weeks before he was finally captured.
Morgan escaped captivity in November 1863 and made his way back to the Confederate lines.
He was appointed head of the Department of Southwestern Virginia in April 1864.
On Sept. 3, 1864, Morgan was leading a force to attack Knoxville when he was killed during a surprise attack in Greenville, Tenn. He is buried in Lexington, Ky.
“It was a significant period of American history,” Jones said. “A lot of changes occurred. Our job is to preserve that history for future generations.”
The museum was founded and is owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 36.
Jones said admission is free. The museum is funded by donations and sales from its gift shop.
It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday, 1 to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Jones said the museum is closed on Tuesday and Thursday, but typically accommodates local school groups on those days.
For more information, visit: www.confederatemuseumandlibrary.org.