Civil War Archive of Acting Ensign William Henderson, USN,
Estimate: n. a.
Price realised: US$3,738
lot of 6 pieces, including this officer's wartime leather bound notebook, a pair of ensign's shoulder straps, his officer's belt rig with two-piece interlocking eagle over anchor buckle, a numbered 1908 Navy Service medal in bronze with Henderson's name and ship, the USS Massachusetts, inscribed in the rim, a M1852 Naval Officers sword with scabbard and a practical, non-regulation buff over-the-shoulder sword sling worn by Henderson during the war. The sword has 28.75" single-edged blade with false edge and 3/4-length fuller, very worn acid-etched with scrollwork and nautical, stamped on right ricasso 1861; cast gilt brass quillon/knuckle bow with pierced oak leaves and acorns and "USN", bow & quillon with dolphin terminal and slot for sword knot, oval gilt cast brass pommel with eagle and star surround and 1/4 backstrap with laurel leaves; grip is white ray skin covered with braided brass wire wrap; total length 34.5". Black leather scabbard with cast brass throat with knot motif and carrying ring; middle band with same and engraved laurel leave bands and top and bottom and drag with dolphin; total length 30.7". The 4" by 6" notebook with ink and pencil entries contains numerous account ledgers with lists of men organized by division and detailed for various duties and drills, musketeers, sail trimmers, boat crews, etc. Henderson must have been in charge of a small boat division as he kept copious records of musters and side arms issued with serial numbers of same, interspersed with a smattering of brevet entries relating to ships duty stations and correct procedure, i.e. In coming to anchor forecastle men will man brails of fore sail and fore gaff topsail. Most of the entries appear to date to 1863 while on duty off Charleston. The middle section is empty and the latter portion of the log contains colored drawings of various signal flags with their meaning: attack, commence firing, retreat, etc. The matching pair of ensign's straps authorized July 16, 1862 contains a simple silver embroidered anchor on a dark blue velvet field. One board exhibits minor moth damage in the field and the paper undersides of both are tatty. The belt rig shows heavy surface wear with the black leather still supple, but only partial sword slings remaining. The interlocking brass plate (O'Donnell & Campbell, Plate #1001) shows excellent workmanship with matching number 442 and is uncleaned with minor verdigris. The Naval Service Medal, serial #2217, was authorized by the Navy Department under SO 81, dated June 27, 1908 and is inscribed, William Henderson Ast. Masters Mate U.S.S. Massachusetts around the rim. The campaign medal with gray and blue silk ribbon was awarded by application, upon proof of service during the Civil War and only about 2,600 navy medals were applied for. The medals were made by Bailey, Banks and Biddle of Philadelphia and inscribed serially without prefix. The non-regulation over-the-shoulder sword sling appears to have been custom made aboard ship. It is complete but shows heavy use, being infinitely more practical when working a small boat in rough seas. William Henderson may have served in the navy as an ordinary seaman and is first listed in the Navy Register as Mate, March 21, 1862. The 1863 Navy Register carries him as an Acting Master's Mate aboard the steam gunboat Huron. He is then shown as having been promoted to Acting Ensign on March 16, 1864 and was dismissed from service (no reason given) on November 28, 1864. His medal indicates service aboard the Massachusetts, a civilian screw steamship taken into the Navy in May 1861. Massachusetts had an eventful career with the Gulf Squadron capturing a number of contraband laden vessels including one British and one Mexican ship, later serving as a communications and supply vessel with the blockading squadrons along the Southern coast. She captured the blockade-runner Caledonia on May 30, 1864 and towards the end of the war struck a Confederate mine in Charleston Harbor o
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