Not long after the Civil War ended, Abel Leavenworth could be seen on the Castleton campus doing military drills with students while brandishing his Civil War sword.
Leavenworth, for which Leavenworth Hall was named, was principal of what was then the Castleton Normal School after serving as captain in the 9th Vermont Infantry Regiment. Thanks to his grandson, that sword is now back at Castleton and will soon reside on display in the library.
“I think it is really exciting, it is amazing we are going to have it, a visual part of history,” Library Director Sandy Duling said.
Abel Leavenworth, a farm boy from Charlotte, Vt., started teaching at age 18, after moving to Missouri where he would find the love of his life. After marrying her, he would then come back to Vermont to teach here, and would later enlist in the U.S. military at the age of 33 as a private, according to excerpts from “Big Heart,” a book chronicling Castleton University’s history.
Although his regiment didn’t see much action, they were at one point captured and then let go. On the night of April 2-3 1865, however, he found himself waiting for the order to march toward the Confederate lines for the capture of Richmond. As they marched, accounts of the day said he could be seen with sword held high running toward Richmond, according to the book.
When he got back from the war, the sword was handed down in the Leavenworth family eventually ending up in the hands of William Leavenworth, the great-great grandson of Abel.
Recently, he contacted history department chair Andre Fleche saying he wanted to donate it to the college as its final resting place, where he said it belonged.
“I was excited because the sword is an important piece of Castleton’s history and it is great to have it back on Campus,” Fleche said.
After emails back and forth, the duo arranged to meet on Oct. 26 to pass the sword. When Leavenworth arrived at the school, he went and got Fleche and Duling and had them come to his car in the parking lot.
“He didn’t feel comfortable walking across campus with a sword,” Fleche said.
The sword is back on campus now and there are plans to have it displayed prominently in the library. The display is being set up over winter break and will likely be ready by the time the spring semester begins.
“It will help us to reconnect to our roots, and remind us of the very long and important history of Castleton University,” said Dean Jonathan Spiro, a former history professor.