The family of Civil War veteran Capt. George Parker Conger and the Saint Albans Museum are pleased to announce that Conger’s ceremonial sword, missing for over a decade, will return home to the Museum this fall.
Capt. Conger began his military career in Vermont’s “Ransom Guards” in 1856, and in 1861 formed Company B of the First Vermont Calvary. He saw action at the Battle of Bull Run and Culpepper Court House, and retired to St. Albans after his term of service was completed.
Unexpectedly, the St. Albans native again found himself called to duty as a bystander during the St. Albans Raid, the northernmost land action of the Civil War. On October 19, 1864 – a group of Confederate Raiders led by Lt. Bennett Young held groups of local citizens hostage while they robbed three banks on Main Street in St. Albans and attempted (unsuccessfully) to set fire to the town. Capt. Conger, who was briefly detained, managed to escape and rallied his fellow residents to pursue the Confederates, calling out “It’s a raid. Bring your guns and fight!” Conger and his ‘posse’ pursued the Raiders across the Canadian border, and participated in the arrests of Young and others, who were eventually put on trial in Montreal. The stolen money and valuables were never recovered.
Conger was presented a ceremonial sword, generously paid for by the men under his command, upon his retirement. It was inscribed: “Presented to Captain Geo. P. Conger by the Officers and Privates of Co. B. First Vermont Cavalry as a token of respect for him as an Officer and a Man, Sept. 16, 1862.”
Passed down by successive generations of the Conger family, the sword went missing sometime in the early 2000’s. Thanks to an exhaustive search by the family, it was recently located as part of a private collection in Pennsylvania. Two family members – Arthur F. Bell, Jr. and Colin Conger – provided the funding which allowed the Saint Albans Museum to purchase the sword as part of its collection. It was accompanied by a variety of related artifacts: Capt. Conger’s brass scabbard, leather waist belt, sash, his original copy of the 1861 Army Regulations, and several documents including his officer’s commission, unit history, and discharge papers.
“We are grateful that this beautiful and unique artifact – which is essential to understanding the story of our community – is coming home,” said Alex Lehning, Executive Director of the Saint Albans Museum. “Thanks to the support of the family, especially Colin and Art, the legacy of Capt. Conger – a local veteran and hero of the Civil War – will be accessible to the public for generations to come.”
Bell expressed his excitement around the return of the sword to St. Albans: “For over 60 years I felt the sword and scabbard should be in a museum and now my dream is fulfilled.”
The community is invited to a free homecoming celebration and reception at the Museum on Friday, October 19 from 5:30-7:30 PM – the 154thanniversary of the St. Albans Raid. Following a brief program on the history of this unique sword, light refreshments will be served and exhibits will be open for tours.
Photography Credit: The Horse Soldier/Saint Albans Museum