A piece of history returns to The Citadel
Return of the sword ceremony Dec. 6
The Friends of the Daniel Library will hold a ceremony celebrating the acquisition of the James B. White Sword at 6:30p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6. The program will include a tribute to the sword donors, recognition of the descendants of James B. White, as well as an homage to the Battalion of State Cadets. The event is open to the public.
Tim Keohane, the sword’s owner and one of the people who made the return of the sword possible, provided the following article to explain the history of the sword and the story behind the acquisition of this Citadel artifact.
The James B. White Sword
Maj. James B. White graduated from The Citadel in 1849. In 1852, he became professor of mathematics at his alma mater. He was appointed fifth president (then called superintendent) of the college in 1861 and served in that capacity until 1865. During the Civil War, cadets were known as the Battalion of State Cadets. White led the Cadet Battalion of State Cadets at the Battle of Tulfinny Creek in December 1864.
Following the war, The Citadel was closed and White retired to Marion, S.C., where he established a private academy—the only school in Marion at the time. He also became involved in the first alumni association and was instrumental in the reopening of The Citadel in 1877. He died in 1906.
In August of 2015, I was reminded of White’s place in Citadel history when I got a call from Dan Carroll, ’86, a sword collector. "Tim, I believe I have found a unique piece of Citadel history for auction,” he said.
“The sword belonging to Maj. J.B. White, the fifth President of The Citadel. Wanna buy it?"
After talking with Carroll, I called Lt. Col. David Goble, ’69, director of library services at the Daniel Library. After conducting a search of the archives, Goble discovered that in 1994 someone had attempted to sell the sword to the college. The attempt was accompanied by photographs of the sword clearly showing the initials “JBW” and “State Cadets,” along with the S.C. seal.
As plans got underway to authenticate and return the historic artifact to the college, another Citadel graduate drove to the auction house in Pennsylvania to take pictures of the sword. The pictures were identical to those from 1994.
In the meantime, the value was being assessed. Carroll advised that similar swords are valued in the ten to fifteen thousand dollar range. This was beyond the budget of the library, and Glen Baldwin, ’70, and I agreed to assist in the cost of the acquisition.
On Sept 20, 2015, Carroll reported to his office prepared to bid on behalf of the college. Carroll stayed in constant contact with me, and as the bidding got underway, he said, "These prices are higher than I thought. How high do you want to go?"
I gave him a number— $15,000, and said, "Just don't tell my wife."
In less than two minutes the bidding was over and we had won. After the sword arrived in Charleston, it was authenticated by one of the most reputable antique dealers in Charleston and appraised with a value higher than what had been paid.
With the sword safely in Charleston, I wondered if there were any surviving relatives and began an internet search trying to find someone with the name "White." It was a challenge, but as a history major, I was no stranger to research and after two weeks I discovered a newsletter from a homeowner’s association that referenced a Hugh White—the great grandson of Maj. J.B. White.
Not only was Hugh White the great grandson of Maj. James B. White, I soon discovered that he was also a graduate of the Class of 1960, which made the news of the return of his great grandfather’s sword even more heartening. He and members of his family will attend the sword return ceremony at Daniel Library on Dec. 6, where he will also donate his great grandfather’s epaulets to the college.
Tim Keohane lives in Navarre, Florida, and is a member of The Citadel Class of 1973. He serves as the Florida chair for the Citadel Volunteer Recruiters.