Militaria collector putting Civil War items to bid


TOWNSHEND -- Bob Larson has been collecting militaria for about 25 years.

He picks up interesting items at public sales and auctions throughout the area, but he never thought a trip to see his parents would allow him to get to know a U.S. Navy rear admiral from the 1800s.

Larson, who lives in Connecticut, was visiting his mother and father in Newfane when he stopped by a tag sale. It was there he found a sword and several documents he believes once belonged to Rear Adm. Louis M. "Guts" Goldsborough, as well as an image of Goldsborourgh's father, Charles W. Goldsborough.

"For me, it's the holy grail. It is by far the most significant Civil War find I've ever made," Larson told the Reformer. "The whole time, it was sitting in Newfane. In the naval world, this guy was about as significant as it gets."

Larson has decided to put the items up for auction and they will go to bid at Townshend Auction Gallery on July 12. The auction is set to start at 9:30 a.m.

Larson told the Reformer he purchased the items from a man who bought his house from the family of John Goldsborough-Easton, Rear Adm. Goldsborough's great-nephew. The Reformer was not able to find any professional who could authenticate the items, but Larson said the fact that all the items came from the former Goldsborough-Easton homes, were found together and included a high-quality sword with a rear admiral's sword hanger and Rear Adm. Goldsborough's eulogy is enough in the collecting world to ensure historical linkage.

Larson e-mailed James Cheevers, the associate director/senior curator at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Md., to see if the museum was interested in participating but Cheevers told the Reformer it does not have the resources to do so. But Cheevers e-mailed Larson to thank him for considering the museum and said the image of Charles W. Goldsborough was particularly interesting because of his long association with the U.S. Department of the Navy.

According to research conducted by the New York State Library, Harper's Weekly reported in 1862 that Rear Adm. Goldsborough was born in Washington, D.C., and entered the Navy on June 13, 1812. The information states Goldsborough was in the Navy nearly 50 years, commanding ships that included the U.S.S. Marion, the U.S.S. Ohio and the U.S.S. Minnesota.

Larson said Goldsborough was to the Navy what Ulysses S. Grant was to the U.S. Army.

Kit Martin, the owner and auctioneer at Townshend Auction Gallery, said he is always happy to get old militaria because it is getting more and more difficult to find as the years go on.

"This is a pretty rare opportunity, actually, because it comes from a significant Civil War person," he said. "We're pretty excited. It's going to be a good sale."

He said Saturday's auction will also include many other items, including a rare Winchester rifle plaque.

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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