A ceremonial sword meant for Columbia County native and War of 1812 hero Daniel Appling has been returned to Georgia after more than a century.
It will soon take its place in the Georgia Capitol building’s Hall of Valor.
A group formed to facilitate the return of the Appling Sword met a Dec. 31 deadline to raise $100,000 to purchase it from a private collector.
“I am so excited,” App-ling Sword Campaign Chairwoman Susan Lemesis said.
The intricately carved, gold-handled ceremonial sword was commissioned by the Georgia Legislature in 1814 to be presented to Lt. Col. Appling.
Lemesis said she received more than $93,000 from private donations and received a grant, at the last minute, to cover the remainder.
She picked up the sword in late January from the collector in Pennsylvania.
Additional funds paid for some minor cleaning and restoration work on the sword. Lemesis said she plans to unveil the sword and present it to the state of Georgia during an Oct. 15 ceremony in the Capitol building in Atlanta.
The Columbia County Historical Society contributed $1,000 to the campaign in honor of late Columbia County Probate Judge and county history buff Pat Hardaway.
“I think she would have definitely supported this,” Historical Society member Julia Prather said.
“She was so interested and concerned with Columbia County history. ... I just think it is something that Pat would like.”
Appling, who was born in Columbia County in 1787, rose through the Army ranks and is best remembered for his leadership in the Battle of Sandy Creek in northwestern New York, where he led his troops in a victory against the British.
The Legislature voted to award Appling the sword for his battlefield leadership. But Appling died on March 5, 1817, before the sword could be presented to him.
“We’re trying to figure out exactly where the man died,” Lemesis said, dismissing rumors he died in Alabama. “There was so much conflict over whether he was here or there. We still don’t know. ... It’s just like he fell off the face of the earth or something.”
The sword was displayed in the state capitol until 1907, when it and several other artifacts were sent to the Jamestown Exposition. It wasn’t seen again until it was mentioned in a 1988 book.
“Really and truly, we don’t know where it was until the late 1970s,” Lemesis said. “There were people in the collecting world that knew immediately what it was, but they didn’t know where it had been.”
After passing through the hands of several collectors, the director of the Georgia Division of Archives and History saw an advertisement in an antiques magazine in 2010 offering the sword for sale for $250,000.
The Pennsylvania antiques collector and dealer gave Georgians until Dec. 31 to raise $100,000 to purchase the sword or he’d sell it to waiting buyers.
This year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The sword will be displayed in the Georgia capitol’s Hall of Valor and will be accompanied by a plaque listing all donors of $1,000 or more.
Even though the $100,000 goal was met, Lemesis said a few more donations have come in and will be put to good use.
“We have to have a plaque,” he said,. “We have to build a display case.”
Funds also are needed teaching materials associated with the sword.