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    Exquisite Custom Crafted Gold Mounted Sword Presented to Famed American Explorer Elisha Kent Kane for his Gallant Conduct During Mexican War Service, ca. 1840s. The inscription is engraved in recessed panels on both sides of the scabbard at the throat, "Presented to Surgeon Elisha K. Kane, U. S. Navy by his Friends and Fellow Citizens of the City of Philadelphia in honor of his gallantry when bearer of dispatches to the Commander in Chief, on assuming the command of his casual escort at Nopeluca Mexico - of his skill and intrepidity on leading it to a charge on a body of Mexican Lancers which resulted in the capture of two Generals, other officers and men - and of his noble humanity on interposing his own person in the heat of battle to save the lives of his wounded prisoners from an infuriated soldiery." Doubtless one of the most detailed and compelling inscriptions we've ever encountered.

    After receiving his medical training and practicing briefly in Philadelphia, Elisha Kent Kane joined the United States Navy. Serving several tours of uninspiring naval duty, Kane returned home, seriously ill. However, in October 1847, Kane traveled to the White House seeking assignment to duty more stimulating than a ship's doctor, and he was assigned the hazardous mission of delivering a message to Gen. Winfield Scott in Mexico City. En route Kane, and the mercenaries who had been hired to escort him, encountered Mexican forces commanded by General Gaona. Although Kane skillfully bested Gaona, he received a serious lance wound in the action. Undaunted, Kane saved the lives of Gaona and the other prisoners from the retribution of the mercenaries under his command, stitching up the wounds of Gaona's son with the tine of a fork and thread. In gratitude, Gaona insisted on hosting Kane at his estate while he recovered from his wound and, in 1848, when he returned to Philadelphia, Kane was hailed as a hero and presented this sword.

    Kane is, of course, more widely recognized today for his remarkable exploits on the two Grinnell Arctic Expeditions in search of the missing British explorer Sir Jon Franklin. Kane participated in the first expedition from May 1850 to September 1851, and commanded the second expedition from May 1853 to August 1855. His superb leadership against horrible privations resulted in the return of seventeen of the original twenty expedition members and he is considered today to be among the greatest adventurers and explorers of the last two centuries. Kane's books on the Arctic Expeditions were immediate best sellers and among the most widely read books of the 19th century. Upon his death in Havana in 1837, at the age of 37, the governor of Cuba personally escorted his body to New Orleans. From New Orleans to Cincinnati the banks of the Mississippi were lined with mourners and the subsequent train trip to Philadelphia took four days, because the tracks were thronged with those wishing to pay their respects. Kane's funeral was the largest in American history, eclipsed only by Lincoln's eight years later.

    The hilt of the sword is entirely of gold. The tapered cylindrical grip is spirally decorated with engraved scroll and loop motifs. The flattened pommel cap with engraved linear decoration and uses a 3/8" capstan. The whole is overlaid with a coiled rattlesnake with exquisitely defined scales, fangs and teeth and carbochon jeweled eyes. The tail of the snake, including the rattles, extends over the cruciform cross guard, which incorporates classical motifs along with flags, pennants and drums. The 1¼" langets are formed with a shield motif in the center with leaves on either side. The 28½" double-edged blade with median ridge, which is a correct period restoration, is etched for half its length with floral/ scroll motifs and a tucked wing eagle with riband surmounted by sixteen stars at the center of the reverse. The gold scabbard also displays the finest in workmanship with unique draped ring mounts, the helmeted head of Minerva at the bottom and a circle with an acorn and oak leaf finial serving as the drag. The cast and engraved leaf decoration on both sides at the top and bottom mounts is affixed with tiny steel pins, the throat being held in place by tiny steel screws. A beautiful American sword, presented to a man whose life truly embodied the "stuff of legends," for one of the most vicious, small unit, hand to hand actions of the Mexican War.

    As is obvious from the photographs, the condition of the sword is superb. Just a few tiny dents on the lower portion of the scabbard and a few minor stains on the blade, otherwise mint.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    29th-30th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 998

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