Famous sword back where ‘it should be’

It wasn’t illegal, but the parking lot arms swap was done surreptitiously because the item involved is worth upward of $100,000 and “absolutely priceless” to Georgia history.

The War of 1812 sword, awarded by the General Assembly to native son Daniel Appling for heroism, finally has been brought home to the Georgia Archives by Dianne Cannestra, president of the Friends of Georgia Archives and History, a nonprofit fundraising group, and Susan Lemesis, co-chair of the Appling Sword Campaign.

It had been lost since 1907 but was found by a fluke in 2010 by a former archivist while thumbing through Antiques magazine in a barbership. He reported the discovery to state archivist David Carmicheal, who enlisted the aid of FOGAH to help raise enough funds in a weak economy to purchase it from its owner, dealer Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pa.

Appling led a small band of riflemen who defeated a large force of British soldiers in the Battle of Sandy Creek in New York on May 29, 1814.

The Legislature honored him in 1814, voting to present “an elegant sword” for his “cool and deliberate valor.” But Appling died before the blade was presented and it became state property.

The state loaned it out for inclusion in Georgia’s 1907 exhibit at the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, but then it vanished.

No one knows where it was until Kinzle bought it from a trust that had owned it for 20 years. His initial asking price was $250,000 but he came down to $100,000 “because it should be in Georgia. It’s incredible, an American icon.”

The Georgia attorney general’s office determined the owner had no obligation to return it. That’s when Cannestra, Lemesis and 100 or so other volunteers went to work, holding fundraisers and finally accumulating the asking price.

Just recently, the two Roswell women checked into a Charlotte hotel. Kinzle showed up at their door, but without the sword, which was in a battered gun case in his car, which he didn’t take into the hotel because “it might have looked suspicious.” And Cannestra didn’t want to hand him the cashier’s check until the sword was in her hands.

“He pulled his vehicle beside ours, and it looked like a drug deal was going down,” she says. “I spooked.”

Lemesis says she’s surprised “no one called the police.”

Carmicheal says the sword now rests in a high security vault, and plans are to turn it over to the state, then move it to the Hall of Valor in the Capitol, hopefully before the 200th anniversary in June of the start of the war. Gov. Nathan Deal’s office says he will accept it in a ceremony in the next few months.

“It’s in a scabbard, which is fragile,’’ Carmicheal says. “FOGAH is going to raise more money to build an education module featuring the sword. It is very exciting to have it back.”

“The sword is special,” Lemesis says. “Now we need to raise more money for restoration and a plaque and box for the Capitol.”