Friday, January 18, 2013

Col Church's Sword

   Recently I commissioned the Massachusetts Historical Society to take color photographs of the sword carried by Colonel Benjamin Church during his service in King Philip's War, King William's War, and Queen Anne's War. Colonel Church, Dr Church's great-grandfather, was the most famous military man of his day in New England and had a very long career. It was the then Captain Church who established the "Ranger" concept in American military service. This Ranger concept was later embellished by the more famous Robert Rogers of "Rogers Rangers" and led to the Ranger concept in today's American Army. Previously, the only photographs of the sword I had discovered were in black and white in an old exhibit catalog.

Benjamin Church cutlass; blade Hounslow (“wolf”) mark, England; grip maple, New England. Late 17th c.
Steel, maple grip: 73.5 cm long x 13 cm (grip)

    Here is the MHS description:
   Hangar or cutlass belonging to Col. Benjamin Church (1639-1718) and believed to be the sword he was wearing when Metacomet (King Philip) was slain in 1676. Church’s sword and musket went to his son, Thomas Church, Esq., whose son, Col. Thomas Church kept the firearm and daughter, Mercy Church Richmond kept the cutlass. When Mrs. Richmond died at Taunton, Mass., her daughter, Anne Richmond Atwood, inherited the cutlass, which she gave to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1825.
   Cutlass blade is plain, slightly curved and widening before the tip. Marked below shoulder with apparent Hounslow “wolf.” Flat guard in two parts: front down-turned, engraved with 4 divergent lines; rear up-turned, with same decoration—the whole presenting a shell appearance. Rear quillon is short and down-turned. Knuckle guard is formed from the rear shell and simply decorated with four incised lines forming two downward-facing chevrons at mid-center face. Pommel is a simple, flattened disk. Grip is plain maple without covering.

MHS Proceedings, Series I, vol. I (1825):379

Among the donations given about this time was the sword of Colonel Benjamin Church, by Mrs. Anne Atwood, of Taunton, great-grand-daughter of Colonel Church. The following letter was written in answer to an enquiry respecting the genuineness of the relic:—

Taunton, May 6, 1825.

 Rev. A. Holmes, Cambridge,

Dear Sir,— I duly received your favor of 2d instant, and now forward the sketch annexed, which I believe to be correct:—

Mrs. Anne Atwood, of Taunton, is a daughter of Mrs. Mercy Richmond, now deceased, the widow of the Hon. Perez Richmond, late of Little Compton (Seconnet), in the State of Rhode Island. Mrs. Richmond and the late Colonel Thomas Church (who commanded one of the Rhode Island regiments at the siege of Boston, and was afterwards a member of the Legislature of Massachusetts, having removed to Dighton, in this county) were children of Thomas Church, Esq., a son of the warrior [i.e. Colonel Benjamin Church], And the author of the historical memoir of that war. The tradition in the family, which is no doubt correct, is that the sword and a gun, both belonging to the warrior Church, were given by him to his son, Thomas. After his decease, the late Colonel Thomas Church and his sister, Mrs. Richmond, who both valued these relics of their grandfather, took possession of them, they being the only surviving children of Thomas Church, the son of the warrior Colonel Church. [He] took the gun and Mrs. Richmond the sword, and during the Revolutionary War she constantly kept it by her bedside, being in constant apprehension of an attack from the British, they then occupying Rhode Island. Whether she would have used it or not we cannot tell, but she was a woman of a daring and resolute spirit. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Richmond came to Dighton to reside with her daughter, Mrs. Atwood, and amongst her other personals she brought this sword. Mr. George Atwood, the husband of Mrs. Atwood, removed afterwards to Taunton, where he kept the hotel on the Green, where he died. Mrs. Richmond accompanied him, and she also died at Taunton. In this way the sword came into the possession of Mrs. Atwood; and, upon the solicitation of Mr. Crocker and Mr. Francis Baileys, and by the hand of Mr. Crocker, it was presented to the Historical Society of Massachusetts, and Mrs. Atwood intended to have it understood that she was the donor. When Colonel Church removed from Little Compton to Dighton, he left the gun with his son-in-law, Dr. Benjamin Richmond, to whose house it had previously removed with the other personal effects of Colonel Church for safety, he at that time living at Seconnet Point, which was much exposed to the incursions of the enemy on Rhode Island. The gun is now whether at Little Compton, or at Westport in this State. Information can be obtained either by application to the Hon. Sylvester Brownell, of Westport, who married a daughter fo the late Colonel Thomas Church, or Dr. John Wilkes Richmond, of Providence, his grandson; and it would probably, upon request, be presented by either of these gentlemen to the Society.

Any further information in my power will be cheerfully communicated by your obedient servant,


Samuel Crocker, Esq.

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