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Confederate Battle Flag auctioned for $59,750

Matthew Brady ambrotype reaches $41,825
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June 30, 2010

Rare artifacts relating to famous Sons of the South proved both popular and valuable at the June 25 Signature Arms & Militaria Including Civil War auction held by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. More than 780 bidders competed for almost 900 lots to reach $1.16 million. The Presentation Flag of Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, along with the Inscribed Sword and Sword Belt he was wearing when he was killed in battle at Champion’s Hill, led the way with a $59,750 price realized. (All prices include 19.5% Buyer’s Premium).

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“This was the very first time that this flag, along with the entire set, has ever been offered,” said Dennis Lowe, Director of Arms & Militaria Including Civil War Auctions at Heritage, “and collectors took very close notice. All three of these pieces have descended, uninterrupted, through Tilghman’s family for almost 150 years. This beautiful and moving piece is simply steeped in American history.”

Tilghman was born in Maryland and graduated from West Point in 1836. In 1847 he saw action in the Mexican War and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, commanded the Kentucky State Guard, assuming command of the 3rd Kentucky Inf. on July 5, 1861 and being promoted to Brig. Gen. on Oct. 18 of that same year.

Tilghman oversaw the construction of Forts Henry & Donelson and was subsequently captured at Fort Henry on Feb. 6, 1862 before being imprisoned at Fort Warren for six months. On Aug. 15 of that year he was exchanged for Union Gen. John Reynolds. Nine months later he was killed in action at the Battle of Champion’s Hill, on May 16, 1863.

One of the most hotly anticipated lots of the auction, a Matthew Brady Half Plate Ambrotype featuring "The Gallant Pelham," Lieut. John Pelham, circa 1858, was the subject of much pre-auction buzz, and did not disappoint as it brought $41,825. Pelham is one of the most highly romanticized figures of the American Civil War.

“This important original image, while copied countless hundreds of times,” said Lowe, “was presumed lost for more than a century before it was discovered to have descended in the family of Pelham’s sister for the last 100 years.”

Civil War Battle Flags, as evidenced by the top lot in this auction, are among the most highly desirable artifacts from the War Between the States, especially if they are specifically associated with important figures from the war. However, flags without specific association, but important and unimpeachable provenance are also very much coveted by collectors, as seen by the $50,788 final price realized for an early Civil War prototype Confederate National/Battle Flag manufactured for the cause in Georgia.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

Coin Silver Presentation Pitcher to Captain Joseph Ellison, Founder of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, by the Members of the New Orleans Confederate Guard, Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, March 20, 1862: An important piece owned by the founder of modern Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a romantic soldier of the South. Realized: $22,705.

Fine condition U.S. M1863 Type II .58 Caliber Springfield Percussion Rifled Musket, Springfield/1864: With Attached Silver Plaque Identifying the Gun to Congressional Medal of Honor Winner Abraham Greenawalt, Co. G 104th Ohio Vol. Inf. A superbly identified Civil War musket, that was "fired in anger" at The Battle of Franklin, TN, one of the most viciously contested combat actions of the entire American Civil War. Realized: $21,500.

Important Spiller & Burr .36 Caliber Percussion Revolver #76: Very early example of an Atlanta made gun, bearing both the CS on the right side of the frame, as well as the scarce Spiller & Burr mark on the top of the barrel. Only about a dozen of the Atlanta production Spillers are known to exist, with this well documented specimen being among the earliest and finest known. Realized: $19,718.

Relief-carved, original Flintlock, Pennsylvania Fowling Piece Signed J. Roop, circa 1815: The longest Pennsylvania fowler Heritage has ever seen. Realized: $17,925.

Relief-carved Pennsylvania Rifle by Bedford County Maker William Defibaugh, circa 1840: Signed in script "W. Defibaugh" on the top flat of the barrel with script "W. D." on the lock. Defibaugh is renowned as one of the finest makers from this school known for its beautiful long, slender rifles that exhibit quality workmanship, continuing the tradition of the Golden Age of rifle making that had been abandoned by other schools for the strictly utilitarian rifles of the 1830s. Realized: $16,730.

Historically important carved American Revolutionary War Powder Horn with the carved legend "Elijah Sexton His Horn A Son Of Liberty": Sexton enlisted from Connecticut, April 21, 1775, just two days after Lexington and Concord, in Captain Emory Pease's Company, part of Gen. Israel Putnam's command, subsequently enlisting six different times in various Connecticut regiments through the course of the war. Although apparently not engaged at Bunker Hill on June 17, Sexton stated that his "regiment lay within range of the British guns on the day of that battle." Indeed one soldier in his regiment was killed by British artillery fire that day. Realized: $11,950.

Colt Hartford London M1851 .36 Caliber Percussion Navy Revolver in the original factory casing with all accessories, #23789 matching, manufactured in 1853: A gun retaining 95% of the original bright blue on the barrel and just one small area of salt and peppering on the right side near the muzzle. Realized: $10,158.

*Standard Catalog of Civil War Firearms
*Warman's Civil War Collectibles CD

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