Saturday, June 2, 2012

Solid Silver Eagle-Head Spurs of Col. Alford B. Chapman

This is the second time around for these spurs on our website as we just took them back in trade. One can argue that these may be one of the finest and most historical sets of spurs ever to come on the Civil War marketplace. This is the only known set of solid silver Eagles out of the Schuler, Hartley and Graham catalog that I am aware of. Figural spurs such as these and Dolphin Heads are of the rarest and most desirable of known examples, far exceeding those of floral, geometric or plain design. Of course, the American Eagle is tops in all areas of Historical American collectables with military attribution. The Eagle is the iconic figure of American, and at the time, of The Union. In my opinion, these are the best of the best other than those which may be attributed to famous generals of the conflict such as Lee, Grant, etc. These full-form eagles with broad wings have been immaculately hand-chased after casting to produce the finest details. They are in nearly flat-mint condition. In addition, they are inscribed to a battle-worn officer who gave the ultimate at The Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Both are inscribed, "Presented to Col. Alford B. Chapman by the enlisted men of his regiment, 57th N.Y.V. as a Souvenir of their regards and esteem. May 1864". Chapman served in the 7th NY Militia for 7 years prior to the outbreak of the war. He mustered into the 57th as a Captain in August of 1861 and participated at Fair Oaks, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Gaines Mill, Bull Run, and Antietam. He is metioned in the Regimental History in several of these engagements. He was promoted throughout these campaigns and became Lt. Colonel and Regimental Commander in the field after Col. Pierson fell mortally wounded at Antietam. During this battle, Captain Gilbert Frederick described the action that the 57th undertook; "The action was furious, the losses monstrous" as the 57th advanced on "Bloody Lane" (the Sunken Road) with the 66th following the Irish Brigade and finally over the ditch running, walking and stumbling over Rebel dead and wounded as they advanced and captured the colors of the 12th Alabama. General Hancock mentions Chapman in his official report on Antietam. Chapman was then heavily involved at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where it is noted in the Regimental history that during the fighting "Colonel Chapman stood by his horse and an orderly said to him, " Colonel, please don't expose yourself unnecessarily." Just then, a bullet struck the orderly on the right side cutting his suspenders and frizzling his flesh. He turned and said,"That was a providential escape." "Yes", said the Colonel and the next moment Chapman was struck, fatally it was thought, in the chest by a miniball. In his pocket were some folded letters and a blank book which stopped the mini from killing him. Horrific reports from the 57th at the battle speak of shells striking bodies of men and filling the air with pieces of flesh, clothing and accoutrements. One shell struck a man in the back, splitting him in two and sending his entrails flying in all directions. Major Throop, who led the 57th after the wounding of Chapman, was killed. Chapman and the 57th saw action at Chancellorsville, and at Gettysburg the 57th under Chapman were heavily engaged in the Wheatfield. At The Wilderness, Chapman had a premonition that he would not survive the day. At noon on the 5th of May, 1864 Chapman was ordered to take command of the skirmish line on the brigade front. He was engaged in these duties until 5 o'clock, when the line pushed forward directly into the path of Hill's Confederate Corps, beginning one of the most horrific and fiercest battles in history. As the 57th charged over the ground, they found Chapmans body on his back, a note clutched to his chest which read, " Dear Father I am mortally wounded. Do not grieve for me. My dearest love to all". The last words of the fallen hero, they are engraved on his tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery.

Copy and photos from Michael Simens.

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