Naval officer’s sword
Captain John Morris Wampler, chief of engineers at Battery Wagner, carried this non-regulation 1841 pattern piece featuring an eagle’s head pommel, leather-covered grip and folding guard, this formidable saber. Customary to some officers, Wampler had his name engraved on the scabbard’s middle brass band.
Assigned to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard’s staff, Captain Wampler returned to Charleston just in time for the disastrous summer of 1863 and the Federal siege of Battery Wagner. A surveyor by trade, Wampler directed the construction ancillary batteries, bombproofs and powder magazines within Wagner all the while under near-constants artillery fire. Sadly, it was inside one of his bombproofs (or semi-submerged, reinforced interiors capable of withstanding indirect shelling), where he died instantly upon a direct hit from a Union gunboat on August 17, 1863.
Wampler’s remains were returned to his native Virginia later that month and were buried in Union Cemetery in Leesburg. Preserving his sword for the next 31 years, his widow, Kate, presented it to the City of Charleston on September 11, 1894.
Author’s note: many will recognize this as the cover piece on The Charleston Museum’s brochure around town
Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share! #WeaponryWednes.