What is a civil war sword?

An introduction to civil war swords

The year was 1861. America’s wounds from revolution against British monarchy were yet fresh, like gashes that refuse to crust over immediately.

The brothers and sisters of the continent were not united in many things. The federal government of the North, with Abraham Lincoln at the helm, wanted to stop slavery and to recognize African-Americans as citizens befitting the same respect and rights as them.

The South however wanted it to be expanded, the slaves providing cheap labor for a booming cotton industry, and wishes to separate from the North. In April of 1861 the crisis peaked—a federal camp in South Carolina was bombed, and the American civil war erupted to history.

American Civil war swordWhat is an American Civil War sword?

It is generally agreed today collectible Civil war swords history started with manufacturing of sharpened blades in 1830. Many states in pre-war years began to hint the impending crisis, and had started to trained militias and stacked them with firearms and swords. About a hundred American smelting companies supplied the market, many of whom copied the classical form of European blades.

The rise of Civil War swords

Firearms were standard military weapons during this tumultuous time. But their loading and unloading was not as efficient as they are today. When enemies were engaging in close combats, guns and bullets were impractical and even risky to use. Here, the Civil War swords found their purpose: to decide the fate of soldiers on the ground at a crucial moment when their guns were mute and their bullets were of no help. They were the soldier’s last line of defense.

Historically speaking however, swords and other edged blades such as knives and lances were not heavily combative. Only one out of every 250 injuries was caused by saber or bayonet attacks, and majority of the cases were personal duels of honor.

Union Confederates Civil War swordsTypes of Civil War swords

There are two basic types of civil war swords: the battle ready and the ceremonial. Many of the existing antique Civil War swords were actually dress, ceremonial, or presentation swords. They served no other purpose than to decorate, recognize the rank or authority of, and award distinguished soldiers and officers during the war. The battle ready swords on the other hand were used for actual fight.

Union and Confederates Civil War swords

The Union (of the North) and the Confederates (of the South) used the same designs for weaponry. It is therefore very tricky to distinguish Union swords from Confederates swords; for instance, it is difficult to recognize Civil War cavalry sabers of the Union from that of the Confederates. During the opening months of the war, trade blockades were set up. Ambushes on supply routes and looting were frequent. The Confederates cornered many government-issued Union swords and used them. When the Union had gained some advances, the Confederates swords were made by local smiths from the South to produce their own American officer and presentation swords. But design and form were very similar to the Union’s. Thus, the antique American swords from the Civil War period are still hard to classify.

Civil war swords for troops

Antique American swords today have been grouped according to their designs and the position to which they are issued to. Some of the most famous civil war blades are:

Civil War Foot soldiers swordCivil War Foot soldiers sword/Foot Artillery Sword – is likened to the classical Roman swords. It features a fuller at the centerline of the blade, brass-hilted, and a the scabbard has brass fittings.

Civil War army Staff and Field Officer’s Sword – has a curved blade. The grip is leather-wrap and wound brass wire. The leaf-shaped hand guard has the midrib extending out towards a pommel, forming a knuckle guard.

Civil War artillery Officer’s saber – is similar to French model and has a more delineated curved blade longer than the Field Officer’s sword. Its scabbard is premium steel, the grip is leather-wrap and wound with brass wire.

Civil War cavalry saber – is different from the artillery Officer’s saber for its longer, but less curved blade. It has three-branched guard that extends toward the pommel to form a knuckle guard. The grip is leather-wrap and wound with brass wire.

Civil War US Naval cutlass – is patterned after the saber-liked European sword. It has a short blade, straight or sometimes slightly curving, with a broad face. The grip is leather-wrap and wound with brass wire.

Civil War NCO (noncommissioned officer) sword – has German influences. It has a long, straight, single-edged blade with a brass hilt. It has a round-plated hand guard, which extends to a small globe-shaped pommel. Some of the blades have leather scabbards instead of steel.

Collectible Civil War swords

Collecting antique American swords produced at the time of the Civil War is not just a hobby. For some collectors, it is a way of rediscovering the lessons of history. The United States of America is now considered a democracy at its prime. Its constitutional guarantees for equality, its people’s enjoyment of liberal rights, and the end of slavery and forced labor are all legacies of the scarring Civil War.

Thus, collectible Civil War swords are your ticket to America’s darkest, yet most enlightening, war. Starting your own small collection is probably the best way to learn history. After all, they are not just swords you are gathering. They are pieces of memory, the threads of the past, the stirring narratives of soldiers whose pains and triumphs have given to a bright promise of today.



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