|Description and Photograph||
Little is known about the College Hill Arsenal, and their swords are exceedingly rare. They made swords for less than nine months, but exactly how much less is unknown. We do know that on June 29, 1861, the future arsenal proprietor L. T. Cunningham, and Robert Drury wrote a letter advising the Confederate Secretary of War that he, Cunningham, could purchase swords to be delivered in Nashville. This letter makes it clear that Cunningham was not yet manufacturing swords. Thomas Leech & Company was not up and running until the following August. The only sword maker in Nashville at that early date was the Nashville Plow Works. The Plow Works provided his first swords, which look identical to the product made by the Plow Works with the exception that the Nashville Plow Works name normally cast into the guard was obliterated.
Cunningham was a skilled etcher and an astute businessman. He had the foresight to set his manufactory up on Nashville’s College Hill. The hill was home to the military academy, Confederate camps and a fort; seemingly a ready-made market. Once established he produced swords of his own make albeit oftentimes using parts of the Nashville Plow Works pattern. The College Hill blade has an unstopped fuller, and a unique pen-knife style edge stop. Another peculiarity is an unadorned pommel cap with the knuckle bow junction at its bottom giving the pommel cap an unusually "tall" appearance.
The cavalry officer’s pattern shown here is prototypical of his swords, having the attributes mentioned above. It is only different from the College Hill field and staff pattern in that it lacks the etching and utilizes a metal scabbard rather than a leather scabbard. The sword is all original, including the leather grip and twisted brass wire wrap. The leather grip wrap is one hundred percent complete and even retains virtually one hundred percent of its original gloss finish. The wire had come loose and had to be rewound. You can easily see in the images that the original twist in the wire was distorted during the rewinding. The brass guard is perfect; it was made from a Nashville Plow works casting with the firm name obliterated. The guard’s patina is much darker than the pictures indicate. It seems the light sort of cut through the patina to the brass. It is without any doubt completely original and uncleaned. The blade has not a single nick; it is smooth from ricasso to point. It has not been sharpened or repointed since the War, but looks as if it was during its service life. The blade has been very lightly cleaned in a very credible manner.
The sword is still sheathed in its original metal College Hill scabbard with brass rings, ring mounts and drag. The sword’s scabbard is perfect; and I do mean perfect, it does not have a single dent and all of the brass furniture is original, tight and in perfect condition.
Though I doubt that this is the very best example extant, this is without a doubt among the very best examples of the rare College Hill’s Cavalry Officer’s swords extant. I suppose this is because none were made after the spring of 1862 so they had three years left to serve. This combined with so few being made originally make this among the rarest Confederate patterns. To give you an idea of the rarity/condition of these swords in general, I will tell you that though I have owned several hundred Confederate swords over the last thirty years, I have only owned one of this company’s field and staff pattern officer’s sword and this is the very first Cavalry Officer’s Pattern I have ever owned.