Confederate Bowie Knives of the Georgia State Arsenal
by Josh Phillips
118 pages, softbound
Available from selected dealers
Review by Charlie Harris,
American Digger Magazine
This is an informative and well researched book, both by use of bibliographic references (3 pages) and, perhaps even more importantly, years of on the spot, first hand intuitive study of all known examples of the Georgia State Arsenal bowie knives. Throughout his years of research, Josh Phillips has positively identified 6 different varieties, but has not been able to tie all of them to definitive makers, though types 1 and 4, by means of logic and intuition, are good educated guesses as to their actual manufacturers.
High quality photos by noted photographer Jack Melton abound throughout this book with critical angles and details well illustrated. Not only does the author cover individual types, but where needed, he also provides photos of other examples to further illustrate.
As far as relic hunters are concerned, they definitely have not been ignored. Excavated examples abound throughout the book and help support Josh’s theories. I personally photographed a recently recovered example that has a 21½ inch blade, that may tie even another manufactory to the list of known contractors, this one located in Graysville, Georgia, where the blade was found by a road crew. Concerning that knife, Josh says, “I’ve never seen a Milledgeville (Georgia Arsenal knife) with a blade longer that 18½”, but J.D. Gray made some 600 knives under contract and as I recall, his large enterprise was located in Graysville and the town was named after him. It’s a fair bet that the knife was made by Gray.” This blade was shown in Just Dug in the March-April 2009 issue of American Digger.
One of the most significant revelations put forth in this book is that the highly prized “Richmond” bowie knives are not a Richmond, Virginia product, as has long been thought, but actually a Milledgeville, Georgia product. It is an interesting and refreshing read when the author explains how this misconception almost became the undisputed truth. It personally reminds me of the famous “Confederate” Swiss Chasseur bullet that is now positively identified as 100% Federal.
By showing excavated examples along with non excavated pieces, it once again proves the value of the Civil War relic hunter. Without them, many artifacts would remain lost in the “Black Hole” of identification, never to be recognized for what they really are.
If there is any downside to this book, it’s that it focuses on only one subject: Georgia bowie knives. But then again, that was the book’s target and it hits this subject dead on.
(American Digger Vol 5 Issue 3)
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