Posted January 2014

If you have a Civil War item that you can't identify or something you want to know the value of, contact John (mail: Box 510, Acworth, GA 30101; email John at with Civil War in the subject line or call 770-329-4984 or 770-974-6495). John needs a good description of the item, condition, manufacturer's marks and any other markings, and photos. Please Note: All questions MUST be accompanied with a Photo, it should not be more than 200k in file size.

Hello John, I'm attaching photos of a knapsack pipe that I believe is from the Civil War Era. It is a pipe case with the pipe bowl and stem nestled inside. The pipe can be filled with tobacco plug when closed and cut off with the serrated knife lever on top. On the front of the silver case, there is a hunting engraving on the left and a Civil War campsite on the right. There is a nice label inside reading, "The Ridgewood Smoking Tobacco Company, manufactured by the Ridgewood Mfg. Co. Patented May 20th 1862.” Also, “The Ridgewood Patent Pipe Tobacco case office 420 Broadway, N.Y. Patented May 20, 1862” is stamped on the match holder inside. It is 3 1/2 inches wide x 2 1/8 high x 1 3/8 deep.

I'm interested in learning something of this pipe’s historical and monetary value.

JS: The most common items directly related to Civil War soldiers are their letters; many thousands are preserved in archives, libraries and family homes. One of the most common items mentioned in these letters is tobacco; it is a recurrent theme. Tobacco was prized by almost every soldier and officer as almost every soldier used tobacco, with few mentions ill of this addictive agent. In an era before cigarettes, pipes were the main system of administrating the nicotine to the user.

Tobacco could be measured precisely so little was wasted in a pipe, and many pipes like the patented one here had a lid to keep the fire out when not being drawn on so as to waste little of this precious commodity. Cigars were wasteful and for the rich and the generals.

In the field, tobacco was traded from Rebel to Yankee and vice versa. Pipes of all sorts were used; inexpensive clay pipes with integral stems were made in mass in Europe and imported to America for many years. Several pipe bowl makers in the U.S. mass produced inexpensive, glazed ceramic bowls in many fanciful shapes as noted in numerous excavated examples including: an eagle claw holding a bowl; Indian heads; soldier's heads with various faces; emulations of famous generals; President Lincoln and many others. There was a large factory making such pipe bowls at Point Pleasant, Ohio. At least 150 different designs are noted in this manufactory alone.

The common soldier's only means of transporting gear from camp to camp was his knapsack. Officer's had their gear in trunks carried by wagon. This convenient, patented, case-held pipe, matches and tobacco were all the smoking tools needed in an attractive luxurious package that no doubt would have been the envy of fellow fighting men, and it would fit nicely in his knapsack.

Your Ridgewood patented pipe and case are known in excavated examples, I believe. Along with simple clay pipes that sold for only a few cents each, patented fancy "modern" pipes from several manufacturers found the soldier's market. You will read here a testimonial from Union General Ambrose Burnside telling of the advantages of this Ridgeway New York patented pipe and case. This ad was published in 1864 in Harper's which was a popular periodical of the era; note that your pipe case which is "richly plated and engraved" sold for $5.00, a princely sum when simple clay pipes could be bought for 10 cents. Since a common enlisted soldier was only making $13 per month, these pipes are quite scarce.

I can find few sales of Ridgewood pipe cases in auctions, but the few that show up are only for the cases, and they sold for under $100. Your complete Civil War pipe and case should sell for at least $200-$400 in the Civil War trade in my opinion. 

A fake Ames cavalry sword, $50-$100.I am Koen J.Vallons from Belgium. I will have gladly further information on this saber. Because here in our country, I can find no information! Have bought this on a flea market.

Information stamps: US, MM, 1864, Ames MF Co., Chicopee Mass., 3032. Would this original be according to you? What would the value be of this saber? (P.S.: Sorry for my bad English :)

JS: Your sword is a Civil War pattern 1860 US Cavalry saber; however, it is not original. Your sword emulates all the characteristics of manufacture, markings and inspection of the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, which was the largest Civil War manufacturer of swords. Your sword most likely is of recent manufacture from either Spain or India. Unfortunately, these "fake" swords are common in flea markets and online auctions. An original 1864 dated Ames Cavalry Saber, in average condition, complete with scabbard, sells for about $800 retail. Your sword, when sold as a reproduction, can be found for between $50 and $100. 

John Sexton is an independent appraiser and expert of Civil War memorabilia. He is an accredited member of various appraiser organizations. He can be contacted at 770-329-4984 or If you have a Civil War item for him to appraise, email a photo and a description to .




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