Judson Kilpatrick with a field sword in Warrenton, Virginia
CMH Museum Artifacts - Pieces of History
Civil War Saber
Presented to Colonel Kilpatrick, Cavalry Commander in the Army of the Potomac
December 6, 2013
Col. Robert J. Dalessandro (Ret.), Julia Simon,
U.S. Army Center of Military History
On December 6, 1862 this ornate Civil War Cavalry Officer's presentation saber was given to Colonel Hugh Judson Kilpatrick of the 2d New York Volunteer Cavalry (also known as the Harris Light Cavalry) on his promotion to full colonel. The inscription reads, "To Col. Judson Kilpatrick from the Officers and Men of the Harris Light Cavalry."
These sabers were traditionally presented at special occasions such as a promotion ceremony, after a gallant action, or at the retirement of a beloved or respected officer. This saber was presented to Kilpatrick at the time of his meteoric rise as a Cavalry commander in the Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1862-63, when he was chosen by Major General George Stoneman to lead the 1st Brigade 2nd Division of the newly formed Cavalry Corps. Kilpatrick rode into history in May 1863 on a daring raid that took him to the outer defenses of Richmond, Virginia. Kilpatrick had an erratic Army career and eventually served as Ambassador to Chile under the Johnson, Grant and Garfield presidencies.
The gold wash hilt and scabbard are encrusted with martial applications in full relief and marked with "HLC" for Harris Light Cavalry. The unadorned blade was made by the Prussian firm of Friedrich Horster of Solingen, making it a rare piece in its own right, apart from his dashing owner. The guard has a floral open-work design featuring the letters "US." The pommel features the face of a god with a snake around its neck. The grip is sharkskin with wire wrapping. The saber is located at the Army Heritage Museum in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
Detail of the gold wash hilt
Judson Kilpatrick with a field sword.