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Sword given to Civil War soldier returns to Conn.

Jul. 6, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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DANBURY, CONN. — A Civil War sword that turned up at a New York tag sale is coming home to western Connecticut.

The sword was used by John Betts of Bethel who enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. The News-Times of Danbury reports that Betts was wounded in the First Battle of Winchester in Virginia, captured and imprisoned.

After four months in prison, he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier and returned to Danbury. His Mason’s lodge honored him with a sword engraved with his and the lodge’s names.

Carl Faust and Stephan Ryan received the sword from an allotment from a tag sale for their store in Setauket, N.Y. The two men researched it and contacted the Danbury lodge.

“We’re both Masons. That’s why we did that,” Faust said.

Finding the origins of a historic artifact is not easy, he said. “It doesn’t happen very often,” Faust said, “but when it does, we try to find out where it belongs.”

Danbury lodge historian Sil Gleissner also did some research.

He found in the meeting notes that lodge members looked into the cost of a new sword and unanimously agreed to buy one for $31.50, he said.

The sword, which has a sharkskin scabbard, was inscribed, “Presented to Capt. Jas. A. Betts, Company A, Fifth Regiment, CT Volunteers, by Union Lodge 40.

“Most Civil War swords weren’t used by officers. They were carried but not often used,” Gleissner said.

Betts moved to New York in 1872, married and eventually moved west where he died in a soldier’s home in Los Angeles.

What happened to the sword from the time Betts’ no longer had it to when it was found in the Long Island tag sale 151 years later remains a mystery.

It will now be displayed at the Danbury lodge.

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