Since the very beginnings of human history, warfare has been an ever-present part of our civilization. American liberty has been bought by the blood of the patriot soldier. Perhaps no one item is identified with the profession of arms as much as the sword, as evidenced by the expression that "the pen is mightier than the sword." However, with the rapid development of warfare over the last century, the sword has become more of a symbol of rank and office than a practical military weapon.

The museum has one such sword on display that typifies the modern use of an ancient weapon. This sword was donated by Whitley A. Boyd, who attended Edwards Military Institute from 1941 to 1950. It is a saber, measuring somewhat under three feet in length in its scabbard. Decorated with attractive engraving on the lightweight blade, it is clearly intended for parade and display duties and not for battle.

In October of 1859, Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart of the U. S. Army learned about the use of dress swords the hard way. He was with a detachment of U. S. Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, which had been sent to rescue hostages being held by the abolitionist John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. When federal forces stormed the armory, Stuart attempted to use his lightweight dress saber against one of the terrorists and only succeeded in bending the blade back double! Fortunately for him, his attacker's weapon misfired and he was able to prevail. The hostages were released and John Brown was tried and executed by the government. Stuart and Lee went on to serve with distinction with the Confederacy in the Army of Northern Virginia.

When you examine the museum's sword, you will soon see what I mean. Come and see this piece of history and others in "Granny's Attic," the Belhaven Memorial Museum.

Belhaven Treasure #14

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Diane K. Mason, HTML Editor 1998