An Amazing Accident with Colonel Jones’ Sword*

One of the most valued possessions owned by Mrs. Mildred Atkins is a sword that was run through her husband’s body in a freak accident nearly 100 years ago.

Mrs. Adkins is the daughter of the late Henry Arthur James of Clinton and the sister of Arthur James who told us the story involving the sword and his father. The incident occurred on 27 April, 1887, a big day in the life of the small town of Clinton.

The coming of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was being celebrated in Clinton. The line from Clinton to Warsaw had just been completed and a gala celebration had been planned for the opening of the downtown depot.

The services of a Wilmington Reserve army unit had been secured for the occasion and a big parade was forming on Fayetteville Street. A large crowd had gathered for the parade, among them Henry Arthur James, who at that time was riding a horse.

The Wilmington Reserve army unit was headed by Colonel H. C. Jones. He was mounted atop his horse with the bridle reins in the same hand with which he held his sword, a rapier-type instrument about 30 inches long.

Suddenly the colonel’s horse became excited and started to run. Jones, in attempting to stop the horse, was holding the sword out straight in front of him. The horse ran up behind Henry Arthur James and the sword pierced his body, going entirely through his body on his right side about even with his heart. The sword broke off in Colonel Jones’ hand.

This generated plenty of excitement, as members of the crowd helped James from his horse while two doctors who were in the crowd came over to help. They were Dr. John A. Stevens and Dr. R. H. Holliday. The doctors initially had a sharp debate between themselves as they decided how best to handle their patient. It was decided that the sword blade would have to be removed by pulling it through the body and out of James’ chest. Someone was sent to a nearby blacksmith shop to borrow a pair of long-handled pliers. Upon his return, the two doctors pulled the broken sword shaft through James’ chest then and there. He was later taken to Dr. Holliday’s home on Fayetteville Street, and remained there until he was well enough to go home.

Soon after he recovered from his sword wound, James took a wooden walking stick and carved on it the date and the initials of the two doctors who attended him. This stick is now in the possession of his son, Arthur James.

* From the June 17, 1982 issue of the Sampson Independent, reprinted with permission

Here is a recent photo of Colonel Jones’ sword. Notice how the tip is broken. The sword is now in the possession of Mrs. Atkins’ grandson, James Atkins Prichard, who resides in Georgia.