How did Colonel Tew's sword end up in Norwalk?

On September 16, 2015, in an extraordinary ceremony at Antietam National Battlefield, representatives of the 33rd Signal Regiment of the Canadian Army returned a prized relic of the Civil War to the United States. For years, the sword belonging to Colonel Charles Tew of the 2nd North Carolina had hung quietly on the wall of their mess hall in Canada until a review in 2009 identified it for what it was, and efforts were begun to return the sword to the U.S. It was decided to return the sword to The Citadel, whose cadets had presented Charles Tew with the sword in 1858. With Tew’s descendants present, the sword was turned over to the National Park Service who then gave the sword to cadets from the Citadel.
Colonel Charles C. Tew, 2nd North Carolina

The story of how the sword came to Canada is a twisty one. It came via an Odd Fellow’s Lodge in Norwalk, Ohio, and understanding a bit of the story of the 8th Ohio is the key to unraveling another layer of the mystery.

Colonel Tew led the 2nd North Carolina during the Battle of Antietam and was killed in the savage fighting along the sunken road, later called “Bloody Lane.” At the time he was killed, this line was under attack by several Federal brigades with the nearest units to his position being the 8th Ohio and 14th Indiana infantry regiment. According to the Captain Matthew Manley of Co. D of the 2nd North Carolina, Tew was killed “on the left” of the regiment, “shot through the head and placed in the sunken road near the gateway of the lane that leads to the farmhouse with his back to the bank nearer the enemy. Here he was found, apparently unconscious, the blood streaming from a wound in the head with his sword held by both hands across his knees. A Federal soldier attempted to take the sword from him, but he drew it towards his body with the last of his remaining strength and then his grip relaxed and fell forward, dead. This account of Colonel Tew was given the writer by a soldier of the 8th Ohio upon the field of Sharpsburg in the summer of 1897.”
Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sawyer, 8th Ohio Infantry

The 8th Ohio, part of General Nathan Kimball’s brigade, was in the third wave of Federal troops who attacked the Confederate position at the sunken road. The regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sawyer, suffered 48% casualties during its fight with Alabamians under General Robert Rodes (including the 6th Alabama under Colonel John B. Gordon), and North Carolinians including the 2nd and 14th North Carolina whose position lay near the intersection of the William Roulette farm lane and the sunken road. Around noon, the Confederate line, under additional pressure from an attack on the Confederate right, broke and troops from the 8th Ohio charged into the carnage of Bloody Lane. Captain Daniel Lewis of Co. C wrote “the enemy in this ditch soon began to waver. This was the signal for our men to charge, and with a loud huzza, we charged on the ditch, taking 150 prisoners.” The sight was appalling. “The ditch on our front was literally piled full of dead Rebels. We buried 150 in one hole and a board stuck up at one end of the hole with this inscription: ‘Here lies 150 Dead Rebels in this Hole,’ Lewis wrote.
Kimball's brigade attacked the sunken road from roughly 10 a.m. to noon on September 17, 1862. The 8th Ohio suffered 48% casualties but eventually was able to briefly overrun the Confederate position before an attack on their right flank forced them to fall back along the Roulette farm lane. 

How did Charles Tew’s sword end up in Norwalk? Manly continues: “The sword was given by the soldier to the colonel of his regiment, who unfortunately is no longer living [Sawyer died in 1892] and the sword, having passed into other hands, cannot be recovered.”  (Clark, Walter, editor. Histories of the Several Regiments from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-65. Volume I. State of North Carolina, 1901, pgs. 167-68)

This account makes sense. The story goes that years later the sword turned up in the Odd Fellow’s Hall in Norwalk, Ohio, Sawyer’s hometown. Huron Lodge, No. 37 of the International Order of Odd Fellows was instituted in 1845 in Norwalk and had its hall on Mechanic Street, now Whittlesey Avenue. The lodge numbered over 300 members at one point and numbered among its prominent members (you guessed it) Franklin Sawyer. It’s likely that Sawyer donated Colonel Tew’s sword to the I.O.O.F. either during or shortly after the Civil War. Colonel Tew’s father received a letter stating that the sword was in the Odd Fellow’s Hall sometime in the 1870s, but by the time they investigated, the sword was gone. Where the sword went next is something of a mystery.

Accounts mention Captain John Reid of Co. D of the 8th Ohio, “a rogue who was cashiered and imprisoned for embezzlement in 1865”, somehow acquired the sword and donated it to the IOOF. This possible inasmuch as Co. D of the 8th Ohio was raised in Norwalk and Reid was in command of the company at Antietam. It is possible that Reid was the Federal soldier that Matthew Manly spoke with in 1897 at Sharpsburg, and if we accept the Manly account, then Reid told Manley that he gave the sword to Colonel Sawyer. This would be an appropriate thing to do to deliver the sword of a slain Confederate colonel to his commanding officer.

By 1963, the sword was in the hands Amelia Blythe, a former resident of New York state then living in Ottawa, Canada. She donated it to the 763rd Communications Regiment of the Canadian Army, and the sword hung in their mess hall until 2009 when efforts began to return it to the Citadel, where Colonel (then Captain) Tew had received the sword in 1858. Blythe apparently was related distantly to Captain Franklin J. Sauter of the 55th Ohio, and some accounts claim that it was Sauter who donated the sword to the IOOF in Norwalk before he was killed in battle in May 1863. This seems unlikely as Sauter and his regiment were never near Antietam (during the battle, they were outside of Washington, D.C. licking their wounds from the rough handling they’d received on Chinn Ridge during the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862). Sauter was killed at Chancellorsville the following May, and a stone erected in his memory resides in Perrysburg, Ohio, not Norwalk. 

I would offer that Amelia Blythe inherited the sword from an ancestor who was either a member of the IOOF and acquired the sword, or through some other manner. I rather doubt that John Reid, if he was a scoundrel as advertised, would have donated a war prize such as a sword to the local IOOF. I’d offer that Colonel Sawyer donated the sword to the IOOF and it was in that way that it ended up in Amelia’s Blythe’s family.


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