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Old 11th September 2020, 07:49 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default British dragoon sword

This sword is a 'dragoon' sword of mid 18th century in intact but heavily pitted and patinated condition. It is unusual to see leather grip wrap still intact but then it has been static since 1970s at least.
The straight blade with slight curve has clipped point popular on German blades of the time. The hilt is of the 'four slot' type which seems to have begun around 1760 and lasted into 1780s.

From research I believe this type sword with straight (or nominally so) blade was a type favored by 15th Light Dragoons. Typically British dragoon units were more 'heavy cavalry' and favored heavier basket type hilts, so this was quite unusual as noted, for light dragoons.
Cavalry of the 18th century was going through changes, and while the dragoons typically dismounted and fought as infantry on foot, these became known as heavy cavalry as combat called for remaining mounted with the light dragoon.
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Old 12th September 2020, 08:26 AM   #2
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Cool. Reminds me of my American (ex-French) Dragoon sword with a similar 4-slot guard, way different grip & pommel tho.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ghlight=dragoon

Dragoons, mounted infantry, were popular with most European (and American) armies in the 17/early 19c. As Jim notes, the latter years they were mostly used more and more as heavy cavalry, highly mobile shock troops, and US Cavalry morphed into the US 7h Cavalry(Think Custer) 1st Air Cavalry Divn. to fulfill the same role up to the present.

Are you going to clean it up a bit? If so, of course you will update us with pics.
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Old 12th September 2020, 12:33 PM   #3
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Wayne, thank you so much for responding! I can always count on you, and thank you for linking that apparently French slotted guard brass hilt of Revolutionary War period. Naturally the French were keenly involved as our allies so the presence of French weapons was quite notable.
There was a tremendous push for ersatz weaponry in which very much a remarkable spectrum of arms from many European countries was present.
This is why "Swords and Blades of the American Revolution" (Neumann, 1973) is such an important 'general' reference for all types of swords of this period.

I got this sword in London about 1978 (I think), and have always admired its profoundly aged appearance, old and solid. I must confess I am very much more historian than collector, so my perspectives of appearance and condition are quite different. One of the reasons I was able to find and acquire examples which were historically important is that they were in condition scoffed at by most collectors, and I could get them despite my meager budget.

For me, I knew that these pieces had not been tampered with, so the 'history' remained in situ without compromise.

What I liked most on this sword is that through the years I discovered how unique a style it was, and as noted, one of the earliest units of 'light dragoons' favored the style, which I believe was sort of a prototype of the four slot guard. I would presume this sword to have come from Birmingham in about late 1750s into 1760s, and German blades were prevalent then to the sword furbishers active. There were remarkably few British blade makers at this time so that was common practice.

While the appearance of my sword will not be changing, I am hoping to get my notes together to regain some of the material regarding the use of similar forms by the 15th Light Dragoons (it seems like Robson, 1975 might have had some).
In the meantime would really like to hear if anyone has seen similar examples of four slot guards with straight clipped point blades.
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Old 12th September 2020, 01:43 PM   #4
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Jim if you haven't seen this sword MDL has it currently listed but it's not a slotted hilt but is a 15 LD sword
https://www.michaeldlong.com/produc...s-sword-c-1763/
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Old 12th September 2020, 03:36 PM   #5
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Thank you very much Will! That was the exact clue I needed!
In looking at this sword linked, it was such an odd pattern I had not seen such a hilt. I found an article, "An Unusual Sword in the Royal Armouries" by Philip Lankester ('Arms & Armour" Royal Armouries Vo.1, #1, 2004) in which one of these, but with lion head (p.56, #11) is shown. It has the same guard with alternating quillons. This sword (identified by the late AVB Norman) apparently belonged to George Heathfield who formed the 15th Light Dragoons in 1759. It is at Royal Collection, Windsor Castle (RCIN 61509, Laking #874).

In this article, it is noted that Jeffries, who worked in the Strand at corner of Villiers Street from 1739-until succeeded by Drury in 1772, in 1759 produced a number of basket hilt swords for the cavalry, several thousand actually, but these were used by the 'heavy cavalry, dragoon regts).
He also produced a number of swords of this tall olive pommel form with this four slot guard for other ranks.
About 140 of these survive at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire (one also at Royal Armouries, IX 2130, purchased 1981).
The author states it is unclear which regiments used this 'pattern' .

It is known that the tests for creating light dragoon units similar to Hungarian cavalry took place in 1756, and were successful so it was proposed to begin these units in 1759. The swords used for the 'test' were light sabers with brass heart shaped guards (bilobate form as earlier hangers).

As has been noted, the 15th Light Dragoons were created in 1759, the same year Jeffries produced an undetermined number of this 'pattern' sword, so it is quite plausible that the 15th received a number of them.
It would appear that the clipped tip blades noted, as on this example, were indeed made in England by Jeffries and later others, and copied from the German types.

By 1773, the 15th had adopted stirrup hilts (flat knucklebow guard), so we know these early four slot guard forms were from c. 1759-70s. The later examples had two branches out of the knuckleguard, putting this example in probably 1759 if by Jeffries, to 1760s .
It is not possible with pitting to see blade marks which would show Jeffries
EFRIS under crown.
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Old 12th September 2020, 07:54 PM   #6
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Looking further, in the remarkable work by Richard Dellar, "The British Cavalry Sword 1788-1912"(2013), on pp.2-3 the 15th Light Dragoons swords are noted.
The illustration (1.2) is similar to my example, and is shown as simply a light dragoon sword of the period 1760-70. As I had noted, these units were begun in 1759. We know that Jeffries made an identical sword of the one I have as the example from Royal Armouries is marked by him, and I have suggested that perhaps this type was one of the number produced by him in 1759.

There were however a number of other regiments as light dragoons, so it is possible these swords might have gone to them in degree as well.

In the example noted in Robson (1996), a 15th L.D. sword of 1763, the one with recurved quillons, it appears these were also made by Jeffries, and that while officers seem to have had chiseled lion head pommels on thier hilts, with troopers carrying similar but with these plain pommels. These must be incredibly rare (as noted in the MDL link and the price it sold for).

By 1780, the 15th Light Dragoons had gone to a simple knuckleguard stirrup hilt (illustration 1.3) shown as c. 1780. These swords were considered rare when I acquired one back in the 70s.
We know they were used by the 15th Light dragoons as examples in Dellar have blades made by Cullum (Charing Cross) and were marked 'Kings Light Dragoons' (the regiment official title).

So it would seem that my example may be one of the number of light dragoon swords produced in 1759 by Jeffries, as by 1763 he was producing the recurved quillon type. It is unclear if this regiment used the four slot type with two branches of 1770s, but by 1780, it was the stirrup hilt.

Attached : the founding colonel of the 15th light dragoons,
The two illustrations from Dellar (op.cit.)

The one in Royal Armouries purchased by them 1981. This and the 140 in Belvoir Castle are known, uncertain of others.
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Old 14th September 2020, 08:09 PM   #7
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Just an update for those with interest in British cavalry swords and who might be reading here.
Apparently the sword described as 1763 (presumably by comparison to artwork representing the 15th LD with that date as benchmark) was only the officers version with chiseled lion head. The sword offered in the link appears to be 'presumed' to be 15th LD based on an identification of that officers sword of this form. I am not aware of evidence suggesting the 15th LD 'other ranks' actually carried this hilt form from 1763.
The fact that the plain hilt example in the link is similar in form to the lion head officers sword, along with having the 'E' rack number is what is the 'other ranks' suggestion is based on.

Returning to my sword (OP) I had thought that the 1759 contract by Jeffries where he is known to have produced an indeterminate number of swords FOR the new light dragoon regiments (he was also producing basket hilts which were the standard dragoon types of the time).
While I thought this might strongly suggest the link to 15th LD, formed that year, it appears there were four other regiments of light dragoons as well.


Just as in 1780, the use of the 'flat D' (stirrup hilt) swords as evidenced by straight blade examples with 'Kings Light Dragoons' (15th LD) on a couple of them, does not signify that there was an exclusive use of these to the 15th either.

While the distinct clipped point, virtually straight blades seem to have been favored to the 15th, we can only presume this was plausibly a favored type blade t o the light dragoon units of 1759-1780s.

I thought I would add this as noted pending further research.
Wayne and Will, thank you again for the supportive entries, and to those reading, thank you for your interest.
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Old 14th September 2020, 10:17 PM   #8
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G'day Jim,
As you say, there is plenty of evidence that the 15th Light Dragoons favoured this type of sword blade, but you can't rule out other regiments using them as well. The Royal Collection Trust have several examples marked to the 15 LD and also this painting of a trooper carrying a sword which does look similar to the one on the MDL website.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 15th September 2020, 04:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
G'day Jim,
As you say, there is plenty of evidence that the 15th Light Dragoons favoured this type of sword blade, but you can't rule out other regiments using them as well. The Royal Collection Trust have several examples marked to the 15 LD and also this painting of a trooper carrying a sword which does look similar to the one on the MDL website.
Cheers,
Bryce




Thanks for coming in Bryce! and exactly, my supposition would be that Jeffries' 'other' swords produced in 1759, aside from the 3500 basket hilts he made for the standard dragoon units, where these were for the 'new' L.D. units.
We know these were the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, but what they carried is unclear for this period.
What seems to be is that the 'light dragoons' were to carry a lighter sword than the basket hilts, and from what I have seen, they had a brass hilt with heart shape similar to the M1751 ? hangers.

I would venture that this painting is the source for AVB Normans identification of this mystery '1763 pattern'. We use the term loosely of course as there were no official 'patterns' in these times in G.B. .
Hangers such as the 1742 and 1751 were based on paintings of the troop uniforms of the types in use.
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Old 16th September 2020, 03:00 AM   #10
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G'day Jim,
Here is a photo of the "Elliot's Dragoons" officer's lion headed sword from the Royal Collection Trust you mentioned and a copy of the entry in the Carlton House Catalogue where it is described.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 16th September 2020, 03:51 AM   #11
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Here is another from the Royal Armouries collection, which by repute belonged to an officer of the 16th LD.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 16th September 2020, 03:26 PM   #12
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Hi Bryce,
Thank you so very much for these excellent examples, photos and material. It seems there is ample evidence that these recurved quillon examples were indeed used by the15th LD, and we know from 1763. While we do not know if these date from the 1759 raising of the regiment, it may be presumed so.

I had not been aware of the name Eliott's Horse for the 15th, but found that Gen. George Augustus Eliott was 1st Baron Heathfield, and did raise the 15th as one of the first of the 'new' light dragoon units. The 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th followed it seems in the same year.
Eliott seems to have been quite innovative and keyed to the arms of the unit, so it does not seem surprising that these apparently uniquely styled hilts were commissioned. He appears to have modified a pistol in use which became known as a pattern 1759.

The Light Dragoons were decided upon as result of testing the concept in 1756. It seems the swords used in this test were of the brass 'heart' shaped guard (as on the '1751' infantry hangers) but with longer blade.

In the article by Philip Lankester (Royal Armouries, op. cit.2004) he notes the sword which is virtually the same as my example (OP) in fig. 9, p.53.
It is noted that Jeffries supplied 3500 broad swords with iron basket hilts to the Board of Ordnance and discusses his characteristic markings IEF/RIS under GR and crown.
It is noted that this same mark was used on cavalry swords for 'other ranks' .
Here it says that 140 of a single 'pattern' are displayed at 'Guardroom' at Belvoir Castle, Leicesatershire and that the Royal Armouries has a single example of the same 'pattern'(ix2130) puchased in 1981.

"...the blade is 36.5" long and almost straight and the iron hilts have a knuckle-guard which widens slightly to form a slotted guard in front of the hand".

Further, '..it is not known which regiment or regiments used this 'pattern'."

The implication here is that this mysterious 'pattern' appears to have been made by Jeffries in 1759? or thereabouts. We know the example shown is by Jeffries, the mark is shown (fig. 8).
As previously mentioned my example is deeply pitted so marks cannot be seen. Interestingly, the example in the Royal Armouries is specifically noted as not 'cleaned or conserved' as purchased (1981).
As I purchased my example in 1977, it would seem coincidental that these 'rough' examples were circulating in this period at least in small quantity.

So we have no proof of this being a 15th LD sword (it is simply termed cavalry sword 1760-70 in the literature), but speculation based on the blade style with clipped point from the D guard example of c. 1780 .

It would seem that it is certain this curious 'pattern' was indeed a cavalry sword of 1760-70 (in 1770s branches were added to these guards).
We know Jeffries made them (as per examples with marked blades), but that he indeed made the recurved blade examples for the 15th as discussed.

Here is where the comparisons become muddled. It would seem the olive pommel and slotted guard were features that became popular more toward 1770. It seems that these clipped point blades also were notable in these swords for light dragoons in this later period.

Given those facts, it seems probable at this point that my sword may be later than the 1759 date I had hoped for because of these features, but does seem to correspond to the single 'pattern' mentioned in the Lankester article and certainly 1760-70 period as noted for 'cavalry'.

Whatever the case, it seems a relatively rare pattern (though not regulation of course) as it does not appear in the most comprehensive reference (Neumann, 1973) and is noted to be represented in Belvoir castle by the 140 examples (as of 2004) and single example Royal Armouries.
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Old 17th September 2020, 03:10 AM   #13
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G'day Jim,
I came across a photo of the swords displayed at Belvoir Castle. Given that it is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland and that this family raised the 21st Light Dragoons in 1760, it is likely that these swords were for that regiment. The 21st LD's were disbanded in 1763 and this may explain why there are so many still present in the castle. These swords all have straight blades that taper down to an asymmetrical point, unlike your own clipped point example.
Cheers,
Bryce

PS I just noticed the difference in pommel and guard attachment between these swords and your own. As you said this may mean yours is later than 1760.
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Old 17th September 2020, 03:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
G'day Jim,
I came across a photo of the swords displayed at Belvoir Castle. Given that it is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland and that this family raised the 21st Light Dragoons in 1760, it is likely that these swords were for that regiment. The 21st LD's were disbanded in 1763 and this may explain why there are so many still present in the castle. These swords all have straight blades that taper down to an asymmetrical point, unlike your own clipped point example.
Cheers,
Bryce

PS I just noticed the difference in pommel and guard attachment between these swords and your own. As you said this may mean yours is later than 1760.



Wow Bryce, I had not noticed this..........mine has the ring around base of pommel......kinda looks Scottish? Is that not like placed on basket hilts?
The others all seem to go into aperture in pommel.
What pushes me toward post 1760 is the pommel shape, and the slotted guard with this clipped point blade. That pommel ring just threw me a curve.
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Old 17th September 2020, 06:53 AM   #15
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Old 17th September 2020, 07:32 AM   #16
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Here is another like yours I found on the web.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 17th September 2020, 02:39 PM   #17
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Hello Bryce I take it you are saying "pommel and guard attachment" can date these swords and post 1760 would have the guard with a ring just forward of the pommel?
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Old 17th September 2020, 07:40 PM   #18
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Bryce thank you!!! I had heard of Potters's but had no idea. I think I have been obsessed with the clipped point.
In this incredible article (again I cannot thank you enough), it is noted that the 'Potter' was based on the British 'pattern' 1756 ?
Could this have been a 'light dragoon' design with the ring around pommel base often seen on basket hilts?

Could this be a 'Potter'....but I found it in London ?
The article shows a trooper with a 'captured' one.
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Old 17th September 2020, 07:58 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
Here is another like yours I found on the web.
Cheers,
Bryce

This looks almost identical! Is it identified?
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Old 17th September 2020, 11:55 PM   #20
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G'day Will,
I don't know. I am just speculating that these swords with the ring attachment may be later, as this type of sword seems to have been in use during the American war of independence.

Jim,
The similar sword is for sale somewhere in the US. It is described as a revolutionary war dragoon sword. That article suggests that the "Potter" swords were based on British swords and also that some of the British forces were using "Potter" swords as well, so it wouldn't be surprising that you found your sword in London. Can you have a look at your sword to see if it has a Potter stamp?
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 18th September 2020, 09:59 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
G'day Will,
I don't know. I am just speculating that these swords with the ring attachment may be later, as this type of sword seems to have been in use during the American war of independence.

Jim,
The similar sword is for sale somewhere in the US. It is described as a revolutionary war dragoon sword. That article suggests that the "Potter" swords were based on British swords and also that some of the British forces were using "Potter" swords as well, so it wouldn't be surprising that you found your sword in London. Can you have a look at your sword to see if it has a Potter stamp?
Cheers,
Bryce



Thanks Bryce, apparently James Potter of New York City was a loyalist and making these swords for the British cavalry assigned in America. The swords were extremely favored and acquired by a number of the Patriot forces.
The term POTTER sword became sort of a standard.
I wish I could see the blade but the pitting is profuse overall unfortunately.
Potter began in 1778 and ceased in 1781 when he removed to Nova Scotia.
This material I found last night after digging through all the references I could find.

I think the type of ring attachment on my sword is more in line with those on basket hilts of c. 1750s including certain other dragoon sword types. It is most curious to see this type pommel ring with the tall olive pommel and four slot guard which seem more toward 1770.
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Old 19th September 2020, 01:44 AM   #22
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As noted in the ASAC article. there were other makers making similar swords. The Potter swords were made to a pattern satisfying British wants, so it stands to reason they mimic the English swords.

Look also to the Hanoverian influences to the egg shape pommels and slotted hilts.

Cheers
GC
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Old 19th September 2020, 07:08 AM   #23
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Here is one in the Royal Collection. Unfortunately it isn't marked and hasn't been further identified. We need to find one marked with a British maker to clear this up.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 21st September 2020, 06:39 PM   #24
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I thought it would be helpful to add some illustrations from Neumann, "Swords and Blades of the American Revolution" , 1973.
We now are reasonably certain that the 15th light dragoons, the first of the new regiments begun in 1759 were using a unique type of sword, the recurved guard form previously discussed.

The next two regiments were the 16th and 17th.
The 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st were in place by 1760.

It seems that a simple hilt, with 'four slot' guard was used by some of these units, with the 16th and 17th most likely and the tall olive pommel appears regularly associated with these hilts. The blades were essentially straight, slight curve, and 34" to 37". (279.S).

Note 282.S , the lionhead with recurved quillon , the blade is notably with clipped tip, the date noted suggests as early as 1759, the origin of the light dragoon units.

Note 280.S another light dragoon sword included in the mysterious 1759 to 1770 grouping, but this one has the pommel 'ring' feature as seen on my example.
The 'test' in 1756 for light dragoons used a brass, heart shape hilt (sim. to 1751 hangers) ...and this sword appears to have heart shape (also with quillon) but openwork rather than solid, two branches added and above all...note the pommel ring.

Post #16 shows a light dragoon like mine, with pommel ring, but is not identified. There appears to be a 16 on the blade at forte.

Is it possible this was a light dragoon to 16th (perhaps 17th) as with the swords produced 1759-into 60s for these units ?
The ring pommel as I had mentioned earlier, was of form used in basket hilts (1750s) as well as the dragoon sword (280.S).

So this put my example in the early forms of light dragoon, 1760s?

The clipped point seems around earlier as well (the lionhead, 15th? 282.S)

By the 1770s, the 16th still using the clipped point, four slot..........see image of a trooper where clipped point visible (these paintings are keen on detail).

So Nathaniel Potter in New York City in 1778 is making his famed 'POTTER' swords , BASED on British light dragoon swords in use.
It looks remarkably like my example but with globular pommel, no ring guard and much heavier.
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Old 21st September 2020, 07:11 PM   #25
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My example of OP,
The blade is 33" with clipped point.
The hilt is 7" from guard to top of capstan

Four slot guard, tall olive pommel and the pommel ring holding guard.
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Old 24th September 2020, 12:00 PM   #26
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Hi Jim,
Very cool sword, and the pitting doesn't detract from it at all!

I've got a similar sword, but mine has more of a bun-shaped pommel, and a 34" curved blade with the "standard" narrow and wide fullers. The slotted guard on mine is more rounded as well. Sadly. no photos to share - we were stuck here in Thailand due to Covid travel restrictions. This was an eBay find of about 10 years ago, and the whole sword was covered in white paint when I received it. What is it about antiques attracting white paint???

--ElJay
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Old 24th September 2020, 03:54 PM   #27
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Hi Eljay,
I am so glad to see you come in on this my friend! It is great to be returning to the study of these early British dragoon swords from all the years ago when I first got them, when we were putting together all the patterns.

I think the bun type pommel was one of the ones also seen with this distinct 'pommel ring' which seems to have paralleled the method of guard attachment to top of grip below pommel.

As the typical dragoon swords from c. 1707 had been basket hilts, and these were being produced by various cutlers usually using Solingen import blades, it would seem likely that this characteristic feature would be the inclination of many. As Jeffries , we know was producing basket hilts in 1759 when the light dragoon system was being initiated, and it seems plausible that he may have employed this ring type feature in his 'other' hilts for the new light units.

We have established that the 15th, the first unit, had chosen a recurved guard hilt favoring certain hunting hanger types of the period, but those for the subsequent units, the 16th and 17th are not clear at this point.

Thank you again for entering here, as your knowledge on British swords is unparalleled and I really look forward to your insights!!!!!

You're right on the white paint!!!!! That the ?????? Auugghh!

All the best, Godspeed and stay safe over there,
Jim
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Old 16th October 2020, 01:44 PM   #28
E.B. Erickson
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Found some photos of a dragoon in my collection that fits this thread.

Brass hilt, slotted guard, the knucklebow engraved with a rack(?) number. Original sharkskin grip bound with a single wire rope. Some damage to the grip right above the lower ferrule.

In the overall photo this looks proportioned like a hanger, but it's no hanger! The blade is 34" long, about 1.5" wide, and the hilt is 8" from grip base to capstan.
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Old 16th October 2020, 05:22 PM   #29
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By coincidence, the film 'The Patriot' was playing the other day, I looked carefully at the bad guy's sword. Col. Tavington and his dragoons were loosely based on Col. Banastre Tarllton, who was NOT the demon portrayed in the film (the murder of civilans in the church, etc. never happened). Hard to believe it was released 20 years ago.

If you look carefully at Tavington's sword you can see it is indeed a 4 slot cylindrical grip curved sabre like the one being discussed here, though presumably an officers model as the grip is ivory*. I managed to track down the company that made the sword, royal swordsmiths here in the UK, photo attached. Oil painting of the real Col. - later General - Tarlton as below. The film's historical accuracy is questionable at best, but someone got the swords fairly accurately.

*- You can see the ivory grip in the scene at Cornwallis' HQ as Mel was accosted by Tavington as Mel departed.
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Old 17th October 2020, 09:25 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E.B. Erickson
Found some photos of a dragoon in my collection that fits this thread.

Brass hilt, slotted guard, the knucklebow engraved with a rack(?) number. Original sharkskin grip bound with a single wire rope. Some damage to the grip right above the lower ferrule.

In the overall photo this looks proportioned like a hanger, but it's no hanger! The blade is 34" long, about 1.5" wide, and the hilt is 8" from grip base to capstan.


Thanks Eljay,
This is useful info as to the clear disparities with hanger hilts or their types found with obviously much larger dragoon blades. Blades were a highly trafficked commodity, while hilts with favored designs were not as readily handy. Clearly there are cases of either heirloom or presently owned swords which were either exchanged or times when someone entered another unit where type of sword might be different.
As in when a cavalryman went to infantry or flank unit or vise versa.

Also, while the colonists were 'American' colonists, they were still British. Hilt components were often a commodity produced by vendors abroad as much as in the colonies, and especially pommels were often acquired in lots by cutlers. It seems reasonable that cutlers would also mount either hanger blades or dragoon blades as specified by clients.
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