DescriptionLt. Col. Porter S. Cox : M1840/60 Presentation Grade, Ivory Grip Cavalry Officer's Saber. Doubtless one of the most tangible touchstones in existence to what is probably the most romanticized, fictionalized and cruelly violent chapter in American Civil War history - the merciless "no quarter" bloodletting of the Kansas - Missouri Border War and the guerilla rampage of Quantrill, Thrailkill, and "Bloody" Bill Anderson. The saber is inscribed on the reverse of the scabbard between the ring mounts, "Presented to/ Lt. Col. Porter S. Cox/ the Officer who whipped Thrailkill/ and killed Bill Anderson the Bandit/ by his friends in St. Joseph, Mo./ Nov. 25th 1864. (Note that Cox is alternately referred to in both period records and his own correspondence as Porter S.(amuel) Cox and Samuel P.(orter) Cox). A truly remarkable story, from which the historical implications reverberate to this day.
William T. Anderson was born in Randolph County Missouri, with the family relocating to Kansas in 1857. In 1862 has father was shot dead by Jayhawkers, and the seed of vengeance was sown in Anderson's persona. In the spring of 1863 Anderson joined Quantrill's Guerilla company, reciting his own oath of allegiance to "defend the Constitution of the Confederate States, obey orders and kill Yankees." Anderson soon became one of Quantrrill's most trusted lieutenants as the raiders wreaked havoc through Missouri and Kansas, and, in an effort to bring the guerillas to heel, Union authorities imprisoned twelve women on charges of assisting the Confederate partisans, including Anderson's three sisters. The Kansas City, Missouri building in which they were housed was structurally unsound and on August 14, 1863, it collapsed, killing one of Anderson's sisters and crippling another. This was the spark that lit the fire that fueled the incredible bloodlust that Anderson would henceforth demonstrate against Union soldiers and civilians. Anderson participated in Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas on August 21, 1863, in which 200 men and boys were slaughtered, after which the band retreated to Texas. There Quantrill and Anderson quarreled, Anderson returned to Missouri to form his own guerilla unit, and the worst of the savagery began. He and his men rarely took prisoners, and generally scalped and mutilated their victims. Human scalps were found dangling from Anderson's bridle when he was killed. Also, in 1864, Anderson was joined by a group of new recruits that included Frank James and his sixteen year old brother Jesse. On September 27, 1864 the bushwhackers raided the town of Centralia, Missouri. After looting the town they barricaded the tracks of the Northern Missouri Railroad and succeeded in capturing twenty-two Union soldiers returning home on leave. Anderson left one Union sergeant alive for a possible prisoner exchange, the rest he had stripped, shot, and scalped.
The events at Centralia finally moved the Federal authorities to decisive action and although he was now a civilian, Maj. Porter S. Cox, a Mexican War veteran with Civil War service in the 1st Missouri Militia Cavalry, along with elements of the 51st and 33d Mo. Inf., were dispatched to hunt down Anderson and his band. On October 26, 1864 Cox located Anderson near Albany, Missouri and used one of his own tactics against him, luring him into an ambush. Anderson charged straight into the waiting Federals and in the first volley fell from his horse shot through the head. In Cox's own humble words (quoting from his pension application) "in 1864 when Thrailkill and Bill Anderson, Bushwhackers & Guerillas raided our country I joined our Citizen Soldiery and helped." The celebrating militiamen put Anderson's body on display in the town and posed it for a series of now famous photographs. They subsequently cut off his head, placed it atop a telegraph pole, and dragged his corpse through the streets behind a horse, finally burying both the head and body on the outskirts of town. Remarkably, in April 1967, the US Government, in response to a request made under the provisions of an act to provide grave markers to Confederate soldiers, erected a stone marker which is inscribed "William T. Anderson, Missouri, Capt. Mo. Guerilla Confederate States Army 1840 - 1864".
But the story does not end there. Anderson' notoriety was the stuff of legends and legends would continue to be part of its telling. On December 7, 1869, a lanky young man walked into the Davies County Bank in Gallatin, Mo., where Cox had been awarded the rank of Colonel for killing Anderson, and summarily shot dead the cashier, declaring to the citizens on his escape that he had avenged the death of his "brother" Bloody Bill Anderson by killing Cox. The young man was Jesse James, and the cashier was Capt. John W. Sheets, not Cox, as Jesse believed. Cox went on to a successful business career, dying in 1913. When "The Outlaw Josey Wales", as portrayed by Clint Eastwood in the 1976 film, seeks revenge for the murder of his family by Kansas raiders, he casts his lot with the man who identifies himself by saying, "My name is Anderson. They call me Bloody Bill" and the legend lives on.
The sword, which until recently was in the hands of Cox's direct lineal descendants, is most impressive and in superb condition. The curved 34½" blade is etched for 2/3 its length on a pebbled/frosted background. The obverse displays scrolls and a panoply of arms with crossed American flags and cannons, the central panel with the motto "Onward To Victory". The reverse has scroll/floral motifs, the central panel displaying a spread wing eagle with motto, surrounded with stars. the whole flanked by a large old English US. W. Clauberg/Solingen on the reverse ricasso. The hilt is cast with a deep relief shell/fan motif on the quillon, acanthus leaves on the branches, and scroll floral work where the guard joins the pommel. The inside of the guard is deeply and profusely engraved with scrolls. The pommel uses acanthus leaves around the top with extensive deep relief scrollwork and a full figure head of Lady Liberty on the face with stars and acanthus leaves on her head dress. The backstrap also exhibits scroll engraving. The one piece ivory grip exhibits a nice mellow patina with just one tiny chip at the top. The entire hilt retains 80% of the original gilt, with the original fancy leather washer. The blade is essentially clean and bright with crisp deep etching and just a few tiny dark areas of pitting, really negligible. The heavily silvered brass scabbard is near mint retaining 95% of the original finish. Elaborately engraved brass throat, pierced upper mounts with twisted rope like rings. The lower mount is profusely scroll engraved with deeply cast shell like motifs on the drag. The mounts retain about 50% of the original gilt. The inscription is displayed on the reverse between the two upper mounts. A beautiful sword with a truly unique history and certainly one of the most historically impressive Civil War artifacts we've ever cataloged.
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