Alexander Hart's Civil War Sword and Scabbard, Presented Upon His Promotion to Captain

February 22, 1862

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Alexander Hart's Civil War Sword and Scabbard, Presented Upon His Promotion to Captain
Historical artifacts
3 pages | SMC 255

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      If war, as Clausewitz insisted, is always at the mercy of chance, then a religious Jewish haberdasher heroically leading a company of drunkards, gamblers and frequent deserters in storied and valiant battle, is not surprising. Anything can happen. Which explains the rise of Alexander Hart, a “gents’ furnishing store” clerk in New Orleans, who enlisted in the Orleans Cadets at the age of 22; was made First Lieutenant immediately – and so began his meteoric rise to Major, of a company largely foreign-born, somewhat Jewish, and comprised, it was generally felt, of “wharf rats from New Orleans” and the "lowest scrapings of the Mississippi." To Robert E. Lee, however, the 5th Louisiana Infantry - to which the Orleans Cadet Company belonged - were his “Tigers”, and rightfully regarded, in battle, as among the bravest and most formidable troops. It was this infantry, in fact, that held back the opening Federal onslaught at First Manassas; made possible General Stonewall Jackson's historic Valley Campaign; checked the Union breakthrough at Spotsylvania's Bloody Angle; and led Lee's last-ditch assaults at Fort Stedman and Appomattox.

      Hart had an extraordinary war: a Major, at age 23, of one of the most disreputable and heroic companies in the Confederate Army, he was also seriously wounded, captured, paroled, returned to service and, at war’s end, the recipient of a sword presented, in recognition of his services, by the residents of New Orleans. This sword came sooner, in the midst of war, and celebrated his first promotion, to Captain. It is engraved “Capt. A Hart, from his friends 22nd Feb. 1862."

      After the war, Hart married and moved to Virginia; founded a synagogue, started a cheder, and was active, all his life, in the Confederate War Veterans – indeed, even after: his tombstone reads “Major Alexander Hart, 5th La. Inf. C.S.A.”
      Civil War sword and scabbard engraved with "Capt. A Hart, from his friends 22nd Feb. 1862"
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      Cap"t. A. Hart, 
      from his friends
      22"d Feb"y. 1862.

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