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William Bainbridge’s Eagle Pommel Dress Sword

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Captain William Bainbridge was imprisoned in Tripoli for two years after Philadelphia, the ship he was commanding, ran aground. Due to an unsuccessful attempt to scuttle the ship before they were captured, the Tripoline forces were able to fix the damage and add the frigate to their naval firepower. Though American forces were later able to properly scuttle the ship before the first official battle, the capture of Philadelphia still loomed over Bainbridge.

He was released from prison on parole to assist Commodore John Rogers with peace negotiations. On June 5, 1805, Bainbridge and the 300 members of his crew were finally released and were happily received aboard Constitution. Soon after, Bainbridge formally requested an early Court of Inquiry to deal with the matter of Philadelphia and fortunately, Captains James Barron, Stephen Decatur, and Hugh G. Campbell officially declared Bainbridge free of fault. Bainbridge went on to command Constitution during the War of 1812.

This dress sword, worn by Commissioned Navy Officers, was made in Britain and originally had a blue blade with gold paint on the various floral etchings. The American motto at the time, “E Pluribus Unum” is written in a flowing banner held by an eagle’s beak. The eagle pommel is accented with a grip made of ivory, the expensive material clearly displaying his wealth and his high rank in the Navy. Due to intricate details of this sword, it was not used in battle and was instead used when performing ceremonial duties.

Date Created
1800-1833

Medium
Ivory, Metal

Dimensions
[W]4 1/2 in. [L] 37 1/4 in. 31 3/4 in. Curved Blade

Catalog Number
2372.1

Credit Line
USS Constitution Museum Collection.

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