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fernando 4th September 2008 08:06 PM

A corroded XIX century sword
6 Attachment(s)
It is known that corrosion or excavation evolution is not necessarily relative to age. I was aware that climate, as well as a number of other conditions, may acelerate (or slow down) things, but i didn't realise it could happen in such a tragic manner.
Attached are pictures of a sabre, brought to Portugal from Angola in 1972. The condition i have found it when they offered to me, was such that i would think this could only happen in pieces from rather earlier times (centuries). Well, its aspect is not so dramatic now, due to a strong cleaning operation and a varnish coating.
Its shape resembles the 1796 light cavalry sabre or its 1806 Portuguese derivative. However, not being an expert, i would say that it is neither one ... strict version considered. Could it be that the blade is original ( trade?) and the guard was locally made ?
Anybody here within (or without) this area, to offer their coments?

TVV 4th September 2008 08:28 PM

Given the condition of this sword, we can only make guesses. My first thought was that this may be German. What are the measurements?

fernando 4th September 2008 10:31 PM

Thank you Teodor,
My fault not having mentioned the measurements.
Blade length 84 cms. (33").
Thickness 8,5 m/m. (.33").
Width 34 m/m. (1.33").
Weight 758 grams ... without grip ( wood?)

Jim McDougall 4th September 2008 11:28 PM

It certainly looks like the standard British M1796 to me, though the tip of the blade does not have the characteristic hatchet point.
I wonder what this was doing in Angola?
Fernando, you mention a Portuguese version of 1806 of the British light cavalry M1796. Did Portugal actually produce these?

I recall earlier discussions where it was noted that British small arms were shipped to Portugal from latter 18th century into the 19th.
I did some checking in "The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic Wars"(Rene Chartrand and William Younghusband, 2000, p.18 ) and it is noted that the British army sent a force to Portugal in 1808 to expel French from Lisbon, and they remained for about 6 years.
It also is noted that the cavalry was badly armed and in June 1809, about 6000 swords were received from England along with other equipment. The swords were M1796 for both light and heavy cavalry.

The corrosion on this example does seem dramatic, but as noted, much depends on the environment in which it is encased.

It is definitely hard to tell the British M1796 light cavalry sabre from the Blucher sabre M1811 of Germany.....any key hints out there on telling the difference?

TVV 5th September 2008 02:31 AM

I checked into my books and there are the measurements of the Prussian Cavalry M1811 "Blucher" pattern and the blades were 835 mm long and 38 mm, which is very close to the measurements of the sword in question.
However, both the Blucher and 1796LC have langets, and this sword does not. And I think the way the ricasso is shaped is later and more similar to later German models. I do not have a picture of the 1857 model which replaced the Blucher in the Prussian army, but if someone does, a comparison would be interesting.
Best regards,

Jim McDougall 5th September 2008 04:20 AM

I totally missed the absence of langet Teodor!! Thanks. The M1796 British most definitely had them. Back to the books.

Fernando, still curious about the Portuguese 1806 form. I recall some years ago a paper was written discussing how widely copied these stirrup hilt cavalry sabres were, and it would be interesting to learn more on that.

fernando 5th September 2008 12:53 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Hi Jim,
It is a fact that the British poured into Portugal lots of small arms in the quoted period, with an emphasis to the Peninsular war first years, when the quanties of firearms and other military gear brought in reached astronomic numbers. We must remember that Portugal had been military castrated by the first French invasion and consequent demilitarization ordered by their ocupying General (Junot). Also not to forget that Britain was already an industrialized nation and, besides their facility and (let's say) convenience to produce massive quantities of equipment, needed at all costs to avoid Napoleon from totaly controlling all peripherical continental countries, which would result in Britain's confinement to their territory.
However Portugal had kept a certain activity in the area so, for the period, you had weapons originated from Britain, locally copied from British patterns and also a determined quantity of genuine Portuguese stuff. Connoisseurs may easily distinguish the three sorts.
I have done some reading and also scanned a coulple pages from "AS ARMAS E OS BARÕES", written by Eduardo Nobre.
Here can be seen pictures of Portuguese pattern 1806, both in basic and variation versions.
One of these variations is the so called "trigger saber", distributed to officers comissioned to Army head staff, as well as to Engineers and Scouts.
The other variant with the brass hilt, has the legend VIVA PORTUGAL and is signed by a Portuguese (unlisted) smith.
The two sheathed ones are the basic light cavalry sabres, as per the 1806 armament regulation, which denote the following Portuguese characteristics:
The iron knuckle guard departs from the same level as the curved helmet (pommel). The langets are the only decoration in these weapons of plain lines. However their orientalist profile confirms a moorish inspiration.
Another typology of Portuguese sabres is the tang, that screws to the helmet (pommel), instead of being peened, was it was current in other models.
It is said that Europeans adopted the concept of curved blades from Moor cimitars, which were adapted to rapid horse combat.
In Portugal this type of sabre has achieved peculiar characteristics and was extensively produced and used both in the Peninsular war and various Portuguese civil wars during the first half of the XIX century.
It is also said, which is not new to you, that the blade curvature was essencial in a horse combat, often dealt with the opponents side by side. E. Nobre reminds us that the curvature of certain sabres was so exagerated that, when the soldier raised his armed hand to the level of his left shoulder, the sabre point would touch his right shoulder.
I hope i made myself understood ... and with good manners :) .

fernando 5th September 2008 05:59 PM

Originally Posted by TVV
... I do not have a picture of the 1857 model which replaced the Blucher in the Prussian army, but if someone does, a comparison would be interesting ...

I have browsed the Net looking for a 1857 Prussian pattern, but no luck. However i spoted a certain 1856 Guard Field Artillery pattern. There are also langets in this one.
On the other hand, there are no signs in my example showing that the langets were sawed off. Still i have this feeling that the guard might be a home made job ... in any case the whole sword an atypical specimen.
I wish i knew.

fernando 5th September 2008 06:03 PM

Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I wonder what this was doing in Angola? ...

That's the riddle. But after finding its origin, we (you) would develop a theory for that, in no time :cool:

Jim McDougall 5th September 2008 06:22 PM

Outstanding Fernando!!! What a beautifully explained report on Portuguese swords of the Peninsular period, and valuable information to have here as there is extremely little published in English on these weapons. The photos are great too, and I have never seen one of those 'trigger' hilts (and I've seen many, many stirrup hilts from various countries!).

I really appreciate you taking the time to present this detail, and exactly the kind of informative posts I am hoping for here, that will serve as a standing resource for further research and collectors information.

As far as the weapon found in Angola, without some sort of documented provenance all we can assume is that it may have ended up there with a collector...I recall years ago a Hounslow hanger that was found in South Africa, and any number of cases of unusual occurrence of weapons in improbable locations. I suppose globalization has dramatically compounded the historical research on weapons!

All the best,

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