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Old 29th August 2017, 09:03 PM   #1
kronckew
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Default American or British?

picked up this horseman's sword (sic.) which looks a lot like an american revolutionary war era (latter half 18c) dragoon horseman's sword, much the same blade, and 4-slot brass guard. the grip however has a backstrap/pommel more like a british sword and the blade is less curved. i obtained it thru a prominent and knowledgeable arms and armour dealer who said he bought a scottish estate, the collection of a man who only collected american weapons, the dealer also wasn't too sure what it was. a loyalist smith named potter made the american ones for the loyalists, and the continentals liked to capture and use them. i've read a potter sword was sent to the continental congress as a sample for them to duplicate.

there are no markings at all apparent. the 4 slot brass guard is fairly crudely & unevenly made, like they were in a hurry to crank out a bunch of them, no scabbard, wood grip used to have a twisted wire wrap, leather is quite dry, worm holes and the bit near the guard is a bit rotten. needs some tlc and he components need tightening up. blade a bit distressed tho cleaned of active rust and appears stabilised. it feels very light and nimble to the hand. springy blade. an old veteran.

540 gm. 29 in. blade, 1.5 in wide at guard. single fuller, last 8 in. double edged.34.5 in. overall, still service sharp and deadly.


anyone have an idea what it really is? thanks in advance for any info.
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Last edited by kronckew : 29th August 2017 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 29th August 2017, 11:42 PM   #2
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The guard looks American to me especially since you said it looks to have been made in a hurry and the collector it came from specialized in American weapons. Unless someone has a very similar one that has been positively identified it may be another enigma piece. Big help eh?
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Old 30th August 2017, 04:31 AM   #3
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I think the thing about trying to classify swords of the Revolutionary War is that the colonists were in fact British, therefore were used to British forms and often components in the fabrication of weapons. As noted, James Potter of New York was a staunch loyalist, and did produce for British ranks. His swords were however somewhat crude, but usually using sheet iron, and usually had the four slot guard and British style olive or spherical pommels.
He used imported blades as his shop does not seem to have had the required equipment for forging at first at least.

It does seem American fabricators in general did produce hilts in both iron and brass, but most of the brass examples in Neumann (1973) seem to be different than this four slot type.

The 'birdhead' pommel/backstrap on this example seems more 1780+ in fact much more like hilts in 1790s. It seems like I have seen spadroons or hilts with these kinds of slotted guards with these open circles in officers swords (possibly Scottish regiments). Most of the Revolutionary War swords have lion or dog head pommels (these were components openly traded among fabricators).

This might well be American from War of 1812.

As always, I hope Glen can offer final resolution as few know these American weapons as well as him.
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Old 30th August 2017, 05:14 PM   #4
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I don't believe it is British made because of the pommel. Danish, Swedish I;m not sure as I collect British.
It appears there is a loss to the guard, slightly irregular shape of the guard on the one side suggests two guard bars were once present. These soft brass hilts tended to have their bars crack and break over time or usage.
Someone in the past has smoothed down the guard to remove protrusions of the broken bars.
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Old 30th August 2017, 05:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M
I don't believe it is British made because of the pommel. Danish, Swedish I;m not sure as I collect British.
It appears there is a loss to the guard, slightly irregular shape of the guard on the one side suggests two guard bars were once present. These soft brass hilts tended to have their bars crack and break over time or usage.
Someone in the past has smoothed down the guard to remove protrusions of the broken bars.


that side bar branches theory is a possibility. the thicker bit where the knuckle bow re-enters the pommel has two well smoothed bumps on the bottom, tho not the side, that correspond to the two smoothed bumps on the main flat face.

can't find any similar looking for danish/swedish examples.

so many variants are one reason the brits went to a standardised pattern in 1796, not long after the brit light dragoons were renamed to became the light cavalry. tho officers on all sides maintained a bit of obstinate variance with their private purchase swords well after the napoleonic/american rev./war of 1812/crimea, etc. makes it all more fun for us.

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Old 30th August 2017, 06:18 PM   #6
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The pommel is not typical British, possibly French, the blade appears to have a thin upper fuller to suggest this.http://www.antiqueswordtrader.co.uk...re-de-bord.html
excuse the sales link, only for showing very similar sword
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Old 30th August 2017, 06:31 PM   #7
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Here is a dead ringer for the pommel and guard. Having different blades is not unusual since no set patterns were at this time.
http://www.michaeldlong.com/Catalog...80-ML12269.aspx
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Old 30th August 2017, 06:41 PM   #8
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that hilt, side branches removed looks exactly like mine, even down to the minor details, including the wire wrap impressions on mine matching the wire on the french one. i noted some indistinct roughness at the blade/guard junction i thought may have been some small markings on mine too. i won't remove the stable black gunk covering the area tho.

the french sent a large number of troops to aid the american continentals, and were present in large numbers at yorktown in 1781. possible it was damaged and repaired and reissued to the continentals who couldn't afford to waste it. my blade is 5 in. longer and fullered of course, but could be a dragoon/light cavalry variant.

ah, if only they could talk....

you may have cracked the enigma open. or at least part of it. thanks.
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Old 30th August 2017, 07:02 PM   #9
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The time period fits and Americans did have shortages of arms and not the tech to make good blades so they imported these mostly.
Could very well be used as you suggest.
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Old 30th August 2017, 07:48 PM   #10
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i was an american Coast Guard officer, took 3 months training in search and rescue and marine safety at the USG facility at yorktown, drove thru the battlefield every day morning and evening, you could feel the presence. especially if it was a tad foggy. i also spent a lot of time crtawling all over it and the remaining fortifications when i could get away from the wife (she was british). the war didn't finish until 4 years after yorktown, so they still needed supplies of weapons. it took a while after yorktown for them to figure out that it was costing them a fortune, and that they'd never win, they finally bit the bullet and pulled out. took the war of 1812 for them to finally get the message tho. they still thought they could whup us in new orleans with the finest troops in europe that had just defeated nappy.

after yorktown, i then went to NOLA where i spent 3 years as a marine inspector at the USCG marine safety office there. spent a few days roaming over the chalmette battle field there where we (and some more frenchies) whupped the brits again in newyears 1814/15, due to communications lag, it was fought actually AFTER the war ended... it may have wended it's way down to there as well.

however, i'll think of this sword as my 'yorktown' sword.

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Old 30th August 2017, 11:33 PM   #11
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Luckily for the US the British had expended much to beat Napoleon and the public after all these years wanted peace. Had Napoleon not been active then the British could put all their force towards keeping America.
I don't think it was lack of capability that prevented the British, parliament had other reasons and issues at the time. Looking back had the British realized the value of America things may have turned out differently? Britain was the largest sea power at the time.
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Old 31st August 2017, 07:43 AM   #12
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it was the french king that helped american revolutionaries, nappy came well after the brits lost america. by the time of the war of 1812, they'd pretty much accepted our independence, tho they still, as the greatest sea power, ran roughshod over us just like they did to most other nations and would, amongst other provocations, 'impress' seamen from american ships if they appeared to have british accents. the french king essentially bankrupted his country to strengthen his fleet to thumb his nose at the english by helping the revolution and diverting resources that the brits could have used in the americas. it did not turn out well for the french king, leading up to their own far more bloody revolution and eventually nappy one thru three.

the revolution in america hung on a knife edge the whole time up to yorktown, the arrival of a french fleet that the english had no hope of matching while maintaining the continental french blockade. many times, a single bullet or lack thereof was the difference between ultimate strategic victory for the brits. fate can be very fickle.

maj. ferguson, the british sniper/rifleman had washington in his sights once, but refused to shoot an officer in the back. if he'd shot, the war would have petered out and america would have been reclaimed. most americans were loyalist or neutral at the time of course.

an american rifleman killed the commanding general at saratoga with a shot taken at about 300 yds. he did not shoot him in the back tho. the brits 'knew' no one could hit them at that range. if they had not lost at saratoga, the french would not have decided to help the revolution.

a bit like a famous american general john sedgwick in the american war between the states 50 yrs. later who stood up while visiting his front line, and when warned, said "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." and dropped dead from a head shot.

...and the american navy, while small, beat the british essentially every time they fought their frigate duels at sea, leading the brits to order their frigate captains to never engage the US frigates, who kept mostly near home. even the time two british frigates met a lone american one, they lost both. John Paul Jones' raids on england with his obsolete wreck of a hulk the 'bonhomme richard' (a french hand-me-down) so outraged parliament they sent their best to find and teach the colonial a lesson. they lost that one too off the coast of france. JPJ was a jacobite scot who had a bit of a grudge against the brits and their german king.

we actually lost the war of 1812 on points and signed a treaty with the UK at the end of 1814 where we backed down on everything we'd had as goals during the initiation of it. they'd looted and burnt washington DC to the ground after all. the messages of the signing didn't arrive in the states until just after the new orleans debacle, which thereafter gave the british a more healthy respect for the american armed forces. the overwhelming force they sent to capture new orleans and the louisiana territory would have ended the 'colonies' expansion to the west as they would have ruled from mexico to canada.

the UK's regiments that fought at chalmette were the troops that had defeated napoleon at waterloo a bit earlier. they almost won there too. they came at the american lines in the same old continental fashion that had overwhelmed nappy, and the americans whupped them in their same old way of shooting the officers first. paying inordinate attention to shooting the officers as not cricket of course. one scots company is famous for their 'bravery' in that when they attacked the main american line, their officer was shot, and, having no orders they just stopped and stood there getting massacred, until a passing officer told them to get the heck outta there. that officer continued his advance but when they reached the ditch in front of the american line discovered the officer who'd been ordered to bring the ladders needed to cross had forgotten them. another point that could have changed things.

brit flank attacks almost turned the tide as the drove back the americans on the west bank and were about to turn their own cannons on the amercan main line's flank when they got the word packenham and all the other generals and most of the colonels were dead. they essentially stopped fighting and didn't run away like the popular americn song about the battle. after processing their dead and wounded they retreated in order to the british fleet and went home. what was left of them. gen. packenham in a barrel of brandy. the brits gave up trying after that. the americans gave up trying to add canada to their expansion too, as their expenditions there did not turn out well. they were actually a disaster. thus y'all up there are still in the commonwealth, except maybe the froggy ones.

most disasters in war and history hinge on a knife edged of a chain of small coincidences, which if one had been different, would have changed history. it's called the butterfly effect.

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Old 2nd September 2017, 03:12 AM   #13
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Nice piece, Wayne! Don't know how I missed this one! I support the others that believe the original brass slot hilt to be French. This pattern was used on the French naval officer's pattern slotted sword with the 'swinging' knuckle bow as well as the French cavalry piece. It had the same circular decoration to the slot openings and same stark angle to where the guard and knuckle bow meet. American Rev War swords were predominantly parts-swords, made from European blades and often salvaged parts. As already pointed out, it is evident that this brass guard once had branches cut away (if it were the French naval officer's sword guard I mentioned, that would make sense.) I feel this is absolutely of the period and a weapon assembled by the Colonists in the desperate times of war.

Here's an old thread featuring one I used to own-

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18540
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