Maj. C.W. Anderson, CSA
Adjutant to Gen. N. B. Forrest
Pictures and text on this page courtesy of Edward Huson.
53. INSCRIBED U.S. NON-REGULATION CAVALRY OFFICER'S SWORD AND IRON SCABBARD. Manufacturer: unknown - unmarked. Inscription: "THE CONSTITUTION [MASONIC LOGO] AND THE UNION/ CAPT. E. B. BASSETT/ MASTER OF THE ALLEGAN LODGE NO. 111. FROM THE MEMBERS OF THE CRAFT. AUGUST 1862" (engraved on a 3" silver band set between the carrying mounts on the obverse scabbard). A remarkable sword, involving an officer cashiered for COWARDICE, and its subsequent captor - a Confederate officer repeatedly cited for GALLANTRY - this historic relic of the war in Tennessee reveals a fascinating story. Elisha B. Bassett was one of the most prominent citizens of Allegan, Michigan in 1862. A newspaper owner/ editor, and the master of his Masonic Lodge, Bassett was elected captain of Company B, 19th Michigan Infantry at the organization of this unit in late July 1862. Bassett's sword was presented to him on Monday, August 25th at the Masonic Hall in Allegan (per the Allegan Journal of Sept. 1, 1862, copies included). Unfortunately, Bassett was more adept as a politician than a soldier. When the 19th Michigan was sent on a reconnaissance to Thompson's Station (south of Franklin, Tenn.) on March 5, 1863, severe fighting occurred and nearly the entire regiment was captured by Confederate cavalry under General Earl Van Dorn. The 19th fought well, losing in this fight 113 killed and wounded of 512 present. When the firing began, however, Bassett lost his nerve, "deserted his company," and behaved "in a most disgraceful and cowardly manner," said the 19th's colonel. Yet Bassett, having run away, was one of the very few who escaped capture. His misdeeds being unreported, Bassett was assigned to command of a stockade near Brentwood, Tenn. (just south of Nashville) with the remnant of the 19th Mich. (230 officers and men). On March 25th 1863, Confederate raiders under NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST surrounded this stockade, which guarded a key railroad bridge. Following a single cannon shot, the timorous Bassett surrendered the stockade to Lieuten sword to the bare chested Anderson (who had taken off his shirt and displayed it as a flag of truce). Ironically, Bassett was sent to prison in Richmond, Va. where he joined the original portion of the 19th Michigan captured at Thompson's Station. Although all officers and men were soon exchanged, when within the Union lines, Bassett was immediately arrested by order of his colonel. He was dishonorably discharged in June, and later died of tuberculosis in November 1865. Amazingly, however, Bassett was elected mayor of Allegan following his return from the war (talk about political skills!). Captain Charles W. Anderson, who apparently received Bassett's sword, was a very prominent officer of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's staff. Anderson was described by Forrest as one of his most gallant officers, and he repeatedly tried to have him promoted, even saying at one point, "I prefer his appointment [as major, A.I.G.] to that of any other man, and justice to his long and laborious service entitles him to that position." Despite Forrest's urging, the authorities failed to act, and at war's end Anderson remained a captain. Captain Anderson was wounded at the Battle of Franklin in Nov. 1864, but returned to duty and surrendered with Forrest in May 1865. The Bassett sword is of foreign manufacture, possibly German, and is of the exact type imported by military dealers early in the war. Its overall length is 39-1/2", and the brass hilt is of modified cavalry type, with a two branch guard decorated in relief with scroll designs. The backstrap is highly decorated in the same manner, while the grips are leather, wrapped with a twisted gilt wire. The 33-3/4" blade is similar to the U.S. M1833 Dragoon Officer's sword, but is slightly curved, single edged, and is etched with military trophies, flags and a 13" floral scroll. The scabbard is all metal, 34-1/2" overall, with two 2/1/4" decorated brass carrying mounts. CONDITION: The sword is in good condition, showing normal wear. Its blade is smooth gray, and the iron scab the elements. Scattered pitting, and a few nicks and dings, are visible on the body. The top carrying ring is elongated from mounted service. Published in the North-South Trader, Jan. - Feb. 1981, pp. 16 ff, "Carried Under Two Flags." (Copy included.). This presentation sword, captured from a hard fighting Union regiment, appears to have been used by a gallant officer of one of the most famous of all Civil War cavalry units, that of Nathan Bedford Forrest! (Forrest himself used after Dec. 1862 a captured U.S. Model 1840 Cavalry Officer's Saber as his personal sword). 4-39435