Francis Marion Arthur’s Confederate Officer’s sword captured at Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge. This unique Confederate officer’s sword is similar to the Staff & Field officer’s sword made by Louis Froelich, of Wilmington, North Carolina. After March 12, 1862, the sword maker continued operations in Kenansville, North Carolina under the name Confederate States Army. The sword has a 30″ slightly curved blade with unstopped fullers on each side. The brass guard is pierced to form the large letters “CSA.” The grip is wrapped in brown leather and bound with a thin strand of twisted brass wire; the brass grip ferule and pommel appears to be a pattern unique to this sword. The original brass mounted black leather scabbard has brass suspension bands and rings and the scabbard throat is head engraved, “F.M.A.,” in a ribboned over “Co. (I) 9 VA.” The sword and scabbard are in fine condition with a dark patina on the blade and guard and tight leather and binding on the grip. Oversized.
“F.M.A.” are the initials of Francis Marion Arthur, who enlisted in Company I of the 9th Virginia Infantry on April 17, 1962. A mere six weeks later, on June 1, 1862, the 9th Virginia joined the ranks of Brigadier General Louis A. Armistead’s Brigade; the unit fought in the Battle of Seven Pines, the Seven Days Battles, Malvern Hill, 2nd Manassas, and Sharpsburg. After Sharpsburg, the 9th VA became part of a new division under the command of Major General George E. Pickett and fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, in the winter of 1862. In June of 1863, Pickett’s division was part of the Confederate incursion into Pennsylvania.
On July 2, 1863, they marched into Gettysburg and took position behind Seminary Ridge. And on that fateful following day, Sargent Francis M. Arthur— one of the select few who breached Union lines at the Bloody Angle—was one of the heroes who charged up the slope of Cemetery Hill during Pickett’s Charge. Near Confederate General Louis Armistead when he fell mortally wounded, Arthur himself was captured and confined at Fort Delaware and Point Lookout for about 14 months; while imprisoned he was elected second lieutenant by his comrades.
Arthur rejoined his company after being exchanged on October 30, 1864, and was in command of the company during the Siege of Richmond at the Battle of Dinwiddie Courthouse, VA on April 1, 1865. He was captured and imprisoned at Johnson’s Island, Ohio until June 17, 1865. It was at the Bloody Angle on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863 where Francis Arthur’s path crossed that of Sargent Royal B. Decker of the 20th Maine Infantry under the command of Coronel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
Decker enlisted into COB of the 20th Maine on August 29, 1862. Although the regiment participated in many battles, their most famous engagement was at Little Round Top, on July 2, 1863. On the next day, the 20th Maine was assigned to a safer position in reserve at the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. When the Confederates breached the Union lines at the Bloody Angle, the 20th Maine charged to reinforce the Union position.
It is almost certain that this is where Sargent Royal Decker of the 20th Maine captured Francis Marion Arthur of the 9th VA, along with the here-offered sword. Decker brought the war trophy along when he returned to Maine, and the weapon remained in his family until 2008, when they sold it at auction. A notarized letter from his great-great-grandson is included that states the sword “was captured during the Civil War by my great-great-grandfather Royal and has been in my family’s possession my entire life.”
Much research on Arthur and Decker is present, including photocopies of the original muster rolls showing them each rising in rank from private to sargent at the time of the Gettysburg Battle; both were first lieutenants by the end of the war. An exceptional confederate artifact present at one of the most harrowing engagements of the Civil War.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.