Sword Fight

If you’ve been sitting on your hands rather than getting yourself over to the Heritage Auction Galleries in Oak Lawn, you’ve already missed your chance to bid on General Ulysses S. Grant’s gold-silver-and-diamond encrusted sword, which sold yesterday for $1.6 million. And according to the Associated Press, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s frayed battle flag has already been auctioned for $896,250.

But there’s still a half day to get in on the “most important auction of Civil War items in history,” as Heritage labels the sale. The auction, which started on Sunday and ends this afternoon, included about 750 items of Civil War collectibles. Well, you can’t actually get to the floor; the live auction is being held in Gettysburg. But you can still register at Heritage Auction Galleries' Web site and watch the live auction. Some items with Texas connections have already been sold, among them “the rarest Confederate revolver ever made,” a .36-caliber weapon made in Texas by George Todd, which sold for $59,750.

And there was the archive of Confederate General John Austin Wharton, who led Terry’s Texas Rangers. According to the auction catalog, Wharton owned 135 slaves in Brazoria at the outbreak of the Civil War. (There’s still a town named Wharton, writer Horton Foote’s hometown.)

Wharton was so eager to fight in the war he traveled to meet Confederate President Jefferson Davis to ask permission to form a Texas Cavalry unit. Permission was denied, but he still got in the fight. Wharton survived being captured by Union sailors, combat wounds at the Battle of Shiloh, and displayed such bravery at the Battle of Chickamauga he was promoted. But he met an ignominious end.

“While visiting the command of General John B. Magruder at the Fannin Hotel in Houston,” says the catalog, “Wharton quarreled with fellow Confederate officer Colonel George W. Baylor over a personal matter. Reportedly Baylor shot the unarmed General Wharton with his revolver killing him instantly.”

Baylor was acquitted -- makes you wonder just what that fight was about -- and went on to become a celebrated Texas Ranger. Wharton’s family archive of tintypes and documents sold for $1,792.50.

Lots of stuff still to be auctioned off. For all you Civil War buffs even reading the catalog is entertaining. But I’m not sure who would want Custer’s battle flag on their wall. --Glenna Whitley

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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