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Saber with connection to Battle of Aiken donated to Historical Museum

November 12, 2018

The Aiken County Historical Museum recently was the recipient of a Civil War relic with a significant local connection.

Siblings Richard Price of North Carolina, Barbara Price of Florida and Harry Price of Tennessee donated a saber that belonged to their great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Mowry, who fought in the Battle of Aiken while under the command of Union general Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.

Richard and Barbara presented the antique weapon to the museum’s executive director, Brenda Baratto, and collections manager, Lauren Virgo, on Nov. 9.

“This saber will be incorporated into our existing Civil War exhibit,” said Virgo, who will become the museum’s executive director after Baratto retires later his month. “It will tell another side of the story, and it definitely will enhance the exhibit.”

Mowry enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 18 in August 1863. He was a member of Company G of the 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

According to a history of Mowry’s service that Richard wrote, the young soldier saw action in Alabama and then went to Georgia.

From there, it’s not certain whether Mowry, who was a private, participated in Union General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea or ended up with another general, George H. Thomas, in Tennessee for the Battles of Nashville and Franklin.

But Richard was able to confirm Mowry’s presence at the Battle of Aiken, which took place in February 1865 near the Civil War’s conclusion.

The Confederates forces, led by General Joseph Wheeler, were victorious. After retreating to Montmorenci, Kilpatrick “sent out a flag of truce,” according one account, and then he and his cavalry left and headed toward Columbia.

Nobody knows for sure if Mowry actually wielded the saber donated by the Price family to the museum in the Battle of Aiken.

The Union cavalry’s primary weapon of choice at that time was the carbine, a short rifle.

“Kilpatrick wrote in his after action report that his troops didn’t carry sabers in the battle, but other accounts say that there were sabers used,” Richard said.

Richard does believe, however, that the saber was in Mowry’s possession when he passed through this part of South Carolina.

“We don’t know how many sabers he had during the war, because they (soldiers) had a tendency to lose them and were issued new ones,” Richard said. “But this was the one that he brought home afterward and he probably had it when the Battle of Aiken was fought in 1865. If he didn’t have it on him during the battle, it would have been back at the base camp.”

Markings on the saber indicate it was made by the Ames Manufacturing Co., which was based in Massachusetts, in 1864.

The Price siblings gave the saber to the museum in memory of their mother, Alice Bowman Price, who died in 2014. She decided the family’s prized Civil War relic belonged in the Aiken County facility the year before her death.

Mowry was Alice’s great-grandfather.

Richard’s wife, Amelia, is the granddaughter of Arthur and Nancy Courtney, who played important roles in the founding of the museum.

Amelia’s great-great-great-grandfather, James Lawrence Courtney, had a farm near Montmorenci during the Civil War.

“The Yankees were going to burn down his farmhouse,” Amelia said. “ He said, ‘Over my dead body,’ and they shot him in the leg. He died of gangrene two weeks later.”

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