An ardent collector of Civil War-era swords in Williamsburg, Va., was ordered by a Norfolk judge to give up a blade allegedly stolen from Brown University in the 1970s.
The sword first surfaced in 1979, when it was bought by an antique dealer for $6,250.
Donald Tharpe, the sword’s current owner, found it in Gettysburg, Pa., in the mid-1980s. He bought the Tiffany silver sword for $35,000 in 1992.
But in 2010, the university filed a lawsuit against him after he tried to loan the sword to Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News, Va. Judge Douglas Miller eventually ordered Tharpe to return the sword to Brown, reported the Providence Journal
“Although Brown could have pursued recovery with greater zeal, its delay in filing this action was primarily due to the deliberate efforts of Tharpe’s predecessor, who attempted to thwart its recovery when the sword first surfaced in 1992,” said Miller in his ruling.
Christopher Duggan, a Boston attorney for Brown, said he believes Brown was “entitled to get its property back.”
The sword was originally presented to Col. Rush C. Hawkins in 1863 for his contributions to the Union army during the Civil War. The sword is inscribed with the names of battles his regiment fought and its decorative scabbard has Hawkins’ name on it.
They were both part of a memorial Hawkins had built for his wife, Annmary Brown, which became a part of Brown University in 1948.
The school shut down the memorial in the mid-1970s due to budget concerns. When it tried to reopen the Annmary Brown Memorial, the sword was missing.
“Col. Hawkins was a true American hero, which was why he was presented with this Tiffany sword in 1863 by prominent citizens of New York,” said Duggan. “It belongs with the colonel’s collection at the Annmary Brown Memorial.”
It is not yet known whether Tharpe will appeal the ruling.
The sword was expected to be shipped to Providence, a Brown spokesman said earlier this month.