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200-year-old sword from the Seminole War found in Florida pond

By BILL DIPAOLO | The Palm Beach Post, Fla. | Published: October 26, 2017

JUPITER, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — When a Jupiter Farms resident found a three-foot-long iron sword in a dried-up pond on her property, she had no idea she’d discovered a piece of Seminole War-era history.

The sword was likely used in the Battle of Loxahatchee almost 200 years ago, experts said.

The resident anonymously turned the sword over to the Loxahatchee River Preservationists, a local group of volunteers that stages Seminole War re-enactments and historical tours at Loxahatchee River Battlefield/Riverbend Park.

“She told us her pond dried up last February more than it had ever been. She found the sword lying in the mud,” said Guy Bachmann, co-founder and past president of the organization.

Preservationists sent photos of the sword to Richard Angelico, a Louisiana expert on Civil War relics. Angelico gave directions on how to clean the sword. Bachmann and John Labota, an West Palm Beach antique dealer, brought the artifact back to life.

First, the two-pound sword with its pewter pommel handle was soaked in rust remover. Lobota and Bachmann gingerly cleaned out the rust with a steel brush. Then they used acetone. Finally, the sword was given a polyurethane and tannic acid coating, said Bachmann.

Now cleaned up and restored to its luster, the sword will be on display Nov. 11 at the preservationists’ next event at Riverbend Park.

The style, handle and blade of the sword show that it likely was manufactured in the late 1700s t0 early 1800s in England, said Angelico.

“Thousands of those swords came to the United States through trade,” said Angelico.

Three faded bomb and flame insignias, each about the size of a half-dollar, are imprinted on the sword. The insignias show the sword was carried by an officer. Many of the swords used in the Seminole wars were used later by soldiers in the Civil War and handed down generation to generation, said Angelico.

“The sword (found in Jupiter Farms) is consistent with swords made in that period and there is a good possibility it was used in that period. The sword is military without question,” said Angelico.

The sword was probably discarded during one of the two Battles of the Loxahatchee, the only battles known to have been fought in Palm Beach County, said Bachmann, a Boynton Beach resident.

On January 15, 1838, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Levin M. Powell led 75 army and navy troops against 50 to 60 Seminoles. Nine days later, Major General Thomas Jesup brought 1,500 troops against 100 to 300 Seminoles.

The sword was found on the route the soldiers rode to the battle sites. Bachmann figures the sword was dropped while soldiers were making their 200-mile march from Fort Mellon — now Sanford, Florida - to the Loxahatchee River.

These battles ended the organized resistance of the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War.

“The swords were not used just for battle by officers,” said Bachmann. “They used them to direct troops. They used them as machetes to get through the thick brush. An officer likely lost this sword as he was fighting through the brush.”

Jack Islin, a member of the preservationists and a Tequesta resident, said travel was incredibly difficult for the soldiers.

“They were fighting through cypress trees. Getting cut up by the grass. There were snakes and bugs. They were losing their shoes and equipment in the mud. It must have been very difficult for the commander to maintain morale,” said Islin, a Vietnam veteran.

A red string was found intact, wrapped around the handle attached to a small piece of wood on the sword. Bachmann keeps the string and pieces of wood in a plastic bag with the sword.

“Maybe it was part of the soldier’s sash. It’s all part of the mystery,” said Bachmann.

DOCENTS NEEDED FOR HISTORIC TOURS

The Loxahatchee River Preservationists are seeking volunteers to lead tours of the Loxahatchee River battlefield sites near Jupiter. The tours, which last about an hour and are about one mile long, are conducted about once a month. The tours are every Saturday at 10 a.m. from October through May at at Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park/Riverbend Park, which is on the south side of Indiantown Road about one mile west of Florida’s Turnpike at 9060 Indiantown Road. For information, call 561-203-7018.

©2017 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Visit The Palm Beach Post at www.palmbeachpost.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

Seminole War historian Henry Sheldon points to U.S. Army positions in Florida during the early 19th century on a replica 1839 map on Sept. 4, 2013.
THOMAS KIELBASA/U.S. AIR FORCE

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