Civil war swords history

The history of US civil war swords

The American Civil War was not a test for arms and military superiority. Soldiers were simple farmers and working fathers rooted out of their homes to fight for the ideals and values they believe in.

The battles were not always won by guns and bullets, but with crude edged swords and knives that anyone can use easily.

Civil War Swords: Pre-1830

Curators and collectors have been particularly interested in the history of Civil War swords before 1830. This is because most of the swords produced at this time were imports from European smelting centers. Design and prevailing American taste on weaponry were largely influenced by smiths from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. American production was small and the blades produced bore strong European influences.

Civil War swords were a badge of honor. They were awarded by the federal government to soldiers who have done exceptional military service. Markings etched on the blades and their form can tell the rank and the branch of the military of the soldier.

American artillery swordCivil War Swords: 1830-1840

Sweeping changes in American military swords took place in 1830. Enlisted swords of the time were becoming less effective for combat, especially those used by cavalrymen. Model 1832 Foot Artillery Sword was issued and received with approval. Model 1833 Dragoon saber however did not gain the nod of several officers due to its unreliable length and fighting power. The American military realized the increasing need for more powerful blades. A group was sent to Europe to survey and assess several swords in 1838.

It was then that Civil War swords were standardized. Specifications were set with regards to the standard length, design, forging, and ornaments. Orders were placed for the swords to be imported. The Model 1840 Cavalry Sword, also called Old Wristbreaker, was imported from Solingen, Germany. This model is the most popular style that is copied for production by the Confederacy.

Civil War Swords: 1840-1850

Domestic production for Civil War words reached its height in the 1840s. American manufacturers like Ames Mfg. Company entered contracts with the government to produce the Model 1840 Noncommissioned (NCO) officers and light artillery swords. Naval cutlasses were produced as well. The medical and pay departments of the military were also issued swords. Some of the blades forged in this era were still serviceable to the 20th century.

These Civil War swords were first employed when Mexican-American War sparked in 1846-1848. To keep with the demand, the federal government continued to import European swords in aid to resolve the conflict. Some of the most famous and rarest swords during this period were 1845 heavy cavalry sabers.

Civil War Swords: 1851-1860

During this decade, three additional Civil War swords were introduced to the army: one for Staff and Field Officers, another for Foot Officers, and another for Marine Noncommissioned Officers. Perhaps the most popular among all other swords, the Staff and Field Officers swords were carried by Field Grade members in Artillery and Infantry. The Foot Officers swords were carried by Company Grade members in Artillery and Infantry. The Marine Noncommissioned Officers swords were introduced in 1859. All of the swords mentioned above have almost similar features and design.

Civil War Swords: 1860 and beyond

As early as 1859, the Army again opted to reform the swords of all officers and enlisted soldiers. One example is the 1840 cavalry saber; it was remodeled to a lighter blade and labeled Model 1860 cavalry saber. The Naval cutlass was also remodeled to a new design that resembles closely to the French Navy sword. Other Civil War swords from different branches of the army were likewise updated.

All the swords of the previous era were used in the opening years of hostilities. As the conflict escalated to a full-blown war, both the Unions and Confederates were using the same sets of sword for weaponry. It is this situation that makes it hard for curators to classify any Civil War swords according to the faction that they belong.

Collecting American Civil War swords

Finding antique American Civil War swords is not hard to do. Appraising is. It is because, aside from evaluating the condition of the blade, there is a need to ascertain the provenance (or authentic history) of the sword. This entails the need to classify the blade according to what faction it was used during the war.

Hence, the most famous and most expensive antique Civil War swords in the antique market are those that have traceable link to famous officers and architects of the war. Such a choice is logical: there will be less doubts to clear in proving the sword’s history, and therefore its price tag. Below is the list of some of the finest American war memorabilia:

Ulysses Grant presentation sword• Ulysses S. Grant presentation sword contains 28 diamonds and intricately designed, curators have lauded the sword as the peak of American silversmith. It was given to Grant by the people of Kentucky months before the end of the war. Its worth when auctioned in 2007 was 1.6million dollars. Grant was the General-in-Chief of the Union in 1864 and masterminded the defeat of Confederates. He later on became the 18th president of America.

• The sword of General Jesse Reno is considered the second most important and most expensive Civil War sword ever auctioned. The blade has intricate markings and bear classic motifs. When it was auctioned in 2001, its price was over $100,000.

• Many people find it fascinating to have a replica of the Confederate sword of a famous general of Confederates, General Joseph O. Shelby. Shelby is known for his march towards Mexico, refusing to surrender to advancing Union troops. He and his group of soldiers are now known as “the Undefeated.” Today, there are a lot of sword manufacturing companies who are selling the replica.



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