Posted October 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.

John, I have one of these swords that has been handed down through my family for years. It does not have the scabbard, however. It is in pretty good shape. Is there a market for these swords, and if so, is it worth anything? I have been thinking of even donating it to a Civil War museum (if they would even want it).

I have traced the sword to James Thomas Murphy (1830-1900). He was born in Tippert, Ireland. He served in the Civil War, and records show that he won the Medal of Honor on March 25, 1865 for his courage manning a cannon during the battle of Fort Stedman in Petersburg, Va. I am not sure whom he served under.

JS: This is a good-looking, honest cutlass, better than the last one I saw in auction. This is a good-looking honest cutlass, better than the last one I saw in auction (at James D. Julia's in Fairfield, Me., that sold for $3,450). Cook & Brother's was a well-known Confederate maker of swords, best known for cutlasses like this one. There are copies of the US 1832 pattern with only the marking of "COOK & BROTHER" stamped into top of the hilt, like yours.

A Cook & Brother cutlass owned by James T. Murphy, winner of the Medal of Honor, $2,500-$3,500 from a dealer.

The interesting history in having descended from the family of a Medal of Honor winner is special. James T. Murphy was one of the last Civil War recipients of our nation's highest award, and it is interesting that he was Canadian-born. His citation reads: "The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private James T. Murphy, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 25 March 1865, while serving with Company L, 1st Connecticut Artillery, in action at Petersburg, Virginia. A piece of artillery having been silenced by the enemy, Private Murphy voluntarily assisted in working the piece, conducting himself throughout the engagement in a gallant and fearless manner.” The 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery had numerous casualties during this last action where James was wounded and gallantly protected his position.

In Nov. 2012, Neal's New Orleans auction sold another N.O cutlass by Thomas, Griswold & Co. for $3,200. These New Orleans-made cutlasses used to bring $6,000+ at peak of market—double that in highest condition with original scabbards.

If you wish to donate it as you stated, I know museums that would love to have it: the New Orleans Confederate Museum, the Atlanta History Center and the U.S. Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Ga. They would all be good candidates. Any of these institutions would love to have it because yours appears better than average and not cleaned. A dealer would probably pay $2,500-$3,500 for it since its condition does appear superior. Top condition is always a plus. Both auction comparables I listed here were for cutlasses that were cleaned, and yours looks better. 

What’s the difference in a cutlass and a sword or a scimitar?

A cutlass is shorter than most swords, and it has a wider blade that is curved. It is similar to a machete. It also has a solid, cupped handguard. A cutlass is heavier than a scimitar, which is also a curved sword. Scimitars were developed primarily to be used from horseback because they are lightweight and best for a slashing attack rather than for stabbing.

Cutlasses were adopted by the U.S. Navy and used until 1949. They were also used on land. They required less skill to use than a sword or a rapier. Cutlasses doubled as farm tools in some countries. 

I have associated this jacket to the owner, and there is some great history with it. The coat belonged to E.A. Hannaford, Quartermaster Sergeant of the 6th Ohio. He also wrote a book about the Civil War called, The Regiment. His initials are on the inside of the coat, and I even have his diary of all the battles and probably where he took notes for his book. He died in Granbury, Texas, and there are a lot of write-ups about him on Google.

The buttons on the front have an "A" on a shield and on the back is “Schuyler H&G New York.”

JS: Your coat is cadet in style, but it could have been used by any number of militia units. Yours appears to be Civil War Era and could be pre-war. The identity of Edwin A. Hannaford as the soldier who owned the coat doesn't really fit for use by an enlisted man in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The "A" buttons on the coat are for a company-grade artillery officer and not for a private, which is how he entered service. It is possible this tailcoat could have been used early in the war if he was in a militia unit and then came to Camp Dennison near Cincinnati in it where he enlisted in May 1861.

The “A” (artillery officer) buttons at $30-$40 each hold much of the value for this frayed, cadet-style jacket, even though its owner is identified.

The buttons backmarked "Schuyler, H & G, NY" denote the large, well-known, New York City military and regalia dealer Schuyler, Hartley & Graham that sold among the highest quality of goods, competing with Tiffany through the Civil War for business.

Your coat has seen better days and has much fraying. The white stains are probably mildew. You can see areas where the wool is gone, and only the white cotton weave is left.

Much of the value is in the buttons, which sell for about $30-$40 each. In an auction, the coat would bring a premium if you can prove this coat saw wartime use. As-is, if I was cataloging this coat for auction, I would give a presale estimate of $600-$800. 

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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