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Old 19th October 2020, 11:52 PM   #14
M ELEY
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: NC, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,885
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Excellent discussion, gentlemen! I have also always been drawn like a moth to the flame with these Spanish colonial pieces. What they may lack in their refinement (compared to their European brethren), they more than make up for in their colorful past! Will, it sounds like you've been bit by the Spanish colonial bug! Welcome to the club! We have our own hats!

Shayne, that is a fascinating approach to collecting! It is interesting, as noted, the differences in these New World pieces versus their more decorative cousins. It would seem that both use in the western hemisphere in the 'backwaters', such frivolities were not needed, so we see a munitions grade piece built for function and not necessarily to impress. As far as time period, as Jim has pointed out, they saw a long life on this side of the pond. Cup hilts probably started coming over as soon as the early 17th century, but the first types were probably the European versions. The true Caribbean models probably developed mid-17th? and used all the way up to the end of the 18th c. Harold Peterson covers their usage in the Americas in his volume "Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783, and of course there's Brincherhoff's "Swords and Blades in Colonial America" are great resource materials.

My blade has a lot of 'bend' to it when flexed and would work excellently as a thrusting weapon, but its edge could also slash. Although sword dueling on the deck ala Errol Flynn is a fantasy, as Jim states these would have been carried also by soldiers guarding port garrisons like St Augustine and San Juan. They undoubtedly saw sea service in that the Treasure Fleets had soldiers aboard guarding the specie. Strictly speaking, I feel they could have been used quite effectively, but not in overhand slashing (the decks of ships were too tight, the ropes and spars just waiting to catch a swung blade). When ships were about to be attacked and boarded, they almost always put up thick netting like curtains to discourage the boarding parties. The thick cordage attached to the rail and ran up to the upper spars, creating a weblike cover over the exposed deck. The nets often had wire enmeshed in it to add to its toughness. Aggressors clambering up over the side would thus be met with a protective screen with defenders armed with boarding pikes (short spears of 6-7' length) stabbing at them through the rigging. Now imagine these rapiers, with their long blades, thrusting through the gaps to "discourage" the onslaught! Make no mistakes, sea weapons, just like other weapon types (cavalry swords, briquets, gunner's stilettos) had their usages. Boarding axes were fire/deck cleaning tools first and weapons second. A belay pin held the rigging in place, but made an excellent club in combat. I feel the cup hilts could hold their own in these very concentrated, very unique battle settings.
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