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A GREAT MISSOURI ASSOCIATED PRESENTATION SWORD

(SLIGHTLY USED)

 

Overall View Of Obverse Of Brigade Surgeon S. H. Melcher's Presentation Sword
Overall View Of Obverse Of Brigade Surgeon S. H. Melcher's Presentation Sword
(In Scabbard)

 

Inscription On Obverse of Middle Scabbard Band
Inscription On Obverse of Middle Scabbard Band

 

Presented
-to-
BRIG. SURG.
S. H. MELCHER
-by the-
Employees & Patients
-of the-
Marine Hospital
------------
St. Louis July 14th
-1862-

 

     During part of 1862, Brigade Surgeon S. H. Melcher was in charge of 3 military hospitals in St. Louis. He was also secretary and member of the State Medical Army Examining Board. He served as Chief Medical Officer, District of  S. W. Missouri and as Medical Director of The Army Of The Frontier. He was a veteran of the 5th Regiment Missouri Volunteers - a three month stint that stretched out to twice that amount of time with almost equal parts being shared between his Union regiment, and being "in the hands of the rebels for more than 3 months in charge of wounded who were left on the field and in Springfield."

     A month later he was in Springfield, MO from where he went to “fight mit Sigel” at the Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861. On August 2, he took part in the “affair” at Dug Springs and 8 days later participated “historically” in the Battle of Wilson's Creek. By “historic” we are referring to the fact that he has been given credit on an named individual basis as advising Col. Sigel that the 3rd Louisiana coming up the Telegraph Road was actually the then greyclad 1st Iowa. When they were within 10 paces of the gun stilled Sigel line, all hell broke loose resulting in the rout of Sigel's brigade. To Melcher's favor, his statement was corroborated by several unnamed skirmishers. 

 

Reverse Of Middle Scabbard Band
Reverse Of Middle Scabbard Band
     A week after his enlistment on May 7, 1861 in the 5th at the age of 32, he was on an expedition to Potosi, De Soto and Victoria, Missouri capturing secessionists, their horses and, as noted by soon to be General Nathaniel Lyon, a secessionist flag.

 

     His initial actions at Wilson's Creek were more those of a scout than a doctor. He also tried to re-direct Sigel's artillery as it was, in his own words, “creating a stampede but doing little, if any, damage to life or limb.” Quite a comment, for a doctor.

 

       Later that day, the Federals captured a Doctor Smith, a surgeon in Confederate General Rains' division. At Melcher's instigation he was released and the two doctors returned to the battlefield together. This proved propitious as the Confederates turned over the slain General Lyon's body to Melcher which he, along with a Confederate honor guard, took to Springfield where he turned the body over to Maj. General J. M. Schofield. Dr. Melcher then attended to the wounded at Springfield. After the Federal withdrawal from Springfield, the Confederates took over the hospital and Dr. Melcher. He remained there for over 3 months caring for the wounded before being allowed to return to St. Louis. Strangely enough, I have not been able to find any evidence that Dr. Melcher was ever officially declared to be a prisoner or that he was paroled or exchanged.

 

Obverse of Top Scabbard Band
Obverse of Top Scabbard Band

 

     Obviously, the presentation date on the sword indicates that he was involved in some capacity with the Marine Hospital at St. Louis as of July 14, 1862. However, we have not found specific orders or information as to the exact dates that he was in charge of the 3 hospitals. Pension paper notes indicate that he was Chief Medical Officer- District of S. W. Missouri from approximately June of 62 to January of 63. Another application states he was Medical Director of the Army of The Frontier during the winter of 1862 - 1863. That notation also carried the remark that “He shouldered a rifle.” It was made by Gen. E. B. Brown. These assignments might have been concurrent with other duties as the the next official records we have on Doctor Melcher indicates that he was Colonel of the Washington County Militia with headquarters at Potosi, Missouri. These records are dated September 9, 15 and 29. One is a report by Melcher of a skirmish on Strother's Fork of Black River. Another is a letter involving dealing with a civilian and the third, dated September 29, 1862 contains instructions regarding disbanding of the Washington County Militia.

 

Reverse Of Top Scabbard Band
Reverse Of Top Scabbard Band

 

      In January of 1863, Brigade Surgeon Melcher is in charge of the Post Hospital at Springfield, Mo. Another battle is brewing. General Marmaduke is preparing to attack the town. On January 7, Doctor Melcher went through the hospitals calling for volunteers to defend the town. He got about 300 men, organized them into companies of 50 men each and placed them under the command of nurses, stewards and disabled commissioned officers. They were marched to the arsenal and furnished muskets and ammunition. These people became part of the "quinine brigade" and provided heroic and valuable service during the battle. Melcher also advised General E. B. Brown as to the availability of three dismounted old iron guns, two 12-pounders and one 6-pounder and got permission to prepare the guns to be placed in Fort No. 4 where they were put under the charge of nine volunteer artillery men who were sick and enfeebled. Two attempts to take Fort No. 4 were turned back by the heavy and intense fire of the soldiers and convalescents. The next morning it was discovered that Marmaduke had withdrawn. The Battle of Springfield was over.

 


 

Hilt Of Melchers Sword
Hilt Of Melchers Sword
Sword Grip Close Up
Sword Grip Close Up
(It's Silver)
Sword Guard Close Up
Sword Guard Close Up
     Dr. Melcher and the "Quinine Brigade" were lauded in the reports of the battle. This was the battle where Surgeon Melcher "shouldered a rifle". Mention of this was made by Gen. E. B. Brown in Melcher's pension papers. It was a battle that effected Melcher for the rest of his life as on the night of January 8, 1863 a "Rebel" shell exploded as it passed over his head causing him to dismount due to a momentary dizziness. He stated that "It seemed like a cord was tight about my brain with a terrible headache." He was first treated 3 days later. The constricted feeling about his brain and headaches continued the rest of his life and his sight starts to fail after discharge. General E. B. Brown was also grievously wounded by a treacherous shot from a "secesh" residence.

 

    The sword we are looking at was, in all likelihood, carried by Melcher before, during and after the Battle of Springfield. It is a used sword. The scabbard is somewhat weather beaten. Some screws are missing and the blade has been pitted heavily at and near the point. The rest of the blade is spotted and stained. It was so bad that I cleaned it - carefully. It was just too bad to leave as is. The scabbard must have gathered water to have caused the long term damage to the blade. Melcher was a busy and active man. He took it on himself to be involved in all aspects of military duty. In 43-1/2 months, he took no leave and did not miss a day's duty due to sickness. I can forgive him for not attending to his sword more than he did. That's OK. I will replace the missing screws and will also treat the scabbard to some careful restoration. I will do it in his honor.

 


 

Overall Obverse View Of Brigade Surgeon S. H. Melcher's Presentation Sword Unsheathed
Overall Obverse View Of Brigade Surgeon S. H. Melcher's Presentation Sword Unsheathed

 

Obverse Ricasso Stamped "1862"
Obverse Ricasso Stamped "1862"

 

Reverse Ricasso Marked "COLLINS & CO" In An Arch Over "HARTFORD" Over "CONN"
Reverse Ricasso Marked "COLLINS & CO" In An Arch Over "HARTFORD" Over "CONN"

 

     On May 25, 1863, Melcher resigns his medical commission. On the same date, he is appointed as a Lieut. Colonel in the Sixth Cavalry Missouri State Militia with the effective date being May 28 "by virtue of commission from his excellency H. R, Gamble, Gov. of Mo." On July 10 he was named Assistant Inspector-General to the staff of Maj. Gen. Schofield. On October 1, 1864, he becomes Acting Aid-de-Camp to General Pleasonton during Prices Raid. He is very active throughout the area Southwest and West of St. Louis. On November 1, 1864 Major General Pleasonton praises Melcher, along with others, as being "conspicuous for gallantry and fidelity."

 


 

Head On View Of Eagle Head Quillon
Head On View Of Eagle Head Quillon

 

Obverse Of Quillon
Obverse Of Quillon

 


Reverse Of Quillon

 

     On November 2, 1864, Melcher assumes command of Jefferson City, Mo. He is much involved in rounding up demoralized stragglers, deprecations in the area, reporting rebel movements and arranging transportation for troops, stragglers, convalescents and material to St. Louis. In response to one message requesting "that all artillery belonging to Smith's command to be sent to St. Louis", he replies "that except for a few thieves and plunderers, all of Smith's command; horse, foot and artillery has been sent." The local militia in his sub-district also " pass themselves as bushwhackers, and rob, burn and kill, etc." He has now made several requests for leave or to be sent back to St. Louis as to attend to "neglected personal business" (his father is dying). He is not happy. His messages get more and more critical of the 16th and 17th Corps and their officers. His headaches continue and seeks treatment for them.

 


 

Sword Pommel Top View
Sword Pommel Top View

 

Sword Pommel Front View
Sword Pommel Front View

 

View of Hilt From Bottom
View of Hilt From Bottom

 

     On November 25, 1864, Melcher is relieved of duty at Jefferson City, Mo and ordered to report to his regiment without delay. He requests a delay so as to finish up pending court martials at Jefferson City. Col. Melcher cannot break his own mold. He finally resigns and is discharged on December 22, 1864. This does not prevent Melcher from sending a dispatch to Col. J. H. Baker, Provost-Marshal-General at Memphis Tenn., on January 17, 1865 as to rebels "Dick Berryman" and a young man from Farmington Mo., "by name of Clary" and telling him of rebel movements from information that he picked up in Crittenden County, Arkansas. Old habits are hard to break.

 


 

Obverse of Scabbard Drag
Obverse of Scabbard Drag

 

Reverse of Scabbard Drag
Reverse of Scabbard Drag

 

     In May of 1865, he is working as an agent for The Freedman's Bureau in La Grange, Tenn. He is having difficulty with his vision. At ten feet he cannot tell a white man from a black man. He is there until 1872 when he moves to St. Louis. His first wife dies at St. Louis in 1880. They have one child who was born in 1857, Around or before 1875 he moves to Chicago, remarries in May of 1882 at Laport, Indiana and moves, in 1883, to Crow Lake, Dakota Territory, where his second child is born in 1884 when Melcher is 56 years old. The children are born 27 years apart. His sight is all but gone, he cannot leave the house without a guide. In 1909 he moves back to Illinois and resides in Chicago from 1910 until 1915 when he dies of senility at the age of 86 years, 9 months and 1 day. Death certificate states that an extended attack of hiccups was a contributory factor.

 


 

"IRON PROOF"
"IRON PROOF" 
On Top Of Blade Back (forte) Near Hilt

 

Boat Scene - Obverse
Boat Scene - Obverse

 

Eagle & Shield - Obverse
Eagle & Shield - Obverse

 

"THE UNION AND THE CONSTITUTION FOREVER"
"THE UNION AND THE CONSTITUTION FOREVER" - Reverse

 

"LIBERTY OR DEATH" - Reverse
"LIBERTY OR DEATH" - Reverse

 

U. S. (Entwined)  - Reverse
U. S. (Entwined) - Reverse

 


 

The following information sources were utilized for this posting:

 

• Pages 407 & 408 - “THE UNION CAUSE IN ST. LOUIS IN 1861.” By Robert J. Rombauer. Pub. 1909 (Fifth Regiment Infantry, Missouri Volunteers - Asst. Surgeon F&S).

 

• Pages 1307, 1324 & 1343 - “THE COMPENDIUM OF THE WAR OF THE REBELLION” Vol. II by Dyer. Pub. 1908 (Regimental Histories - 5th Regiment Infantry (3 Months), 6th Regiment State Missouri Cavalry, Washington County Militia.

 

• Page 247 - “REBELLION IN MISSOURI: 1861” by Hans Christian Adamson. Pub. 1961

 

• Pages 72, 87, 88 & 92 - “THE BATTLE OF WILSON'S CREEK” By Edwin C. Bearss - Fourth Edition. Pub. 1992

 

• Pages 31, 42, 46, 47 & 48 (Melcher's account of battle) and pages 96 through 104 (“Disposition Of The Body Of General Lyon”, in which Dr. Melcher played a prominent part) - “AN ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF WILSON'S CREEK OR OAK HILLS” by Holcombe and Adams. Pub. 1883. Republished 1961. Reprinted 1985.

 

• Pages 22 through 29 “The Battle Of Springfield” from “AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR IN SPRINGFIELD, MO., 1861-1865" By Robert Neuman, Springfield, Missouri. Published 1975 (by author). 

 

• 48 pages from the Official Records in which Samuel H. Melcher is mentioned as a third party or are copies of correspondence either written by him or sent to him.

 

• 44 pages of his pension applications (A lot of his former associates attest to Melcher's military service plus Melcher's own statements).

 

• 16 pages of Melcher's military records - Muster rolls, etc.

 


 

Inscription On Obverse of Middle Scabbard Band
Inscription On Obverse of Middle Scabbard Band
(Enlargement)

 


 

     This sword is my most recent acquisition. It delayed the posting of "The Collector's Item of The Week" by a full week while I searched the Official Records and the various books that I have that contained information on the affairs, actions, skirmishes and battles in Missouri. Also all pension and military records were sorted by date so a time line could be developed on Brigade Surgeon / Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Henry Melcher. This information was then used for this write-up. It was a small world here in Missouri during the Civil War. I found that I had another identified sword that later belonged to one of his wounded patients from Springfield in 1861. Also, I have a lot of items that belonged to a 1st Iowa cavalry man who was in Jefferson City, Missouri when Melcher was in command in 1864. I will have to go through that troopers letters to see if any mention of Melcher is in them. I have a feeling that this is the nucleus that will bring a close relationship to numerous items now in my collection and initiate an ongoing search for additional items. Can anybody spare a dime? I'm going to need it. <G>

 

     I guess the biggest coincidence of all, for me, is that the Marine Hospital in St. Louis was moved out to  Kirkwood, MO in the late 1930's or early 40's. It was later "sold" or given to a Catholic hospital group. It is now St. Joseph's, a mile or so from my house. I have spent some time there and that's where my Doctor's office is. In a way, the sword is just about back to where Dr. Melcher received it. Dr. Melcher also was quite active in this area in October of 1864 as it was expected that Price's Army would pass through Kirkwood to capture St. Louis, so a primary defense line was established in Kirkwood at the Meramec River. Perhaps concerned about this defense line, Price turned and headed west towards Jefferson City. The "Battle of Kirkwood" went with him.

 

     That closes up this posting. My thanks as always to my son and webmaster, Reed Radcliffe, for getting this on the page. I hope it does not take him a week to handle it as it did me.

 

Dave Radcliffe 
Kirkwood, Missouri