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Old 4th March 2009, 06:41 PM   #1
fernando
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Default Please help on 1796 HC sword marks

I still have to clean the rust from this piece, but i can't wait to found out what the marks on it represent.
Anyone here familiar with these things?
Thanks a lot in advance
Fernando

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Old 4th March 2009, 08:11 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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WOW!!!
That is a beauty, the famed M1796 heavy cavalry disc hilt, as carried by the 2nd Dragoons ("Royal Scots Greys") at thier immortal charge at Waterloo.
The marking 'I. Gill' was of course John Gill, one of the more prominant swordmakers of Birmingham. Osborn & Gunby as seen on the scabbard was another purveyor of c.1800-10 and typically supplied M1796 patterns for both light and heavy cavalry.
In incongruent scabbard in my estimation has always suggested battlefield pickups, as these swords and scabbards were carried off fields of battle in the aftermath, and seldom were this disconnected pieces found together.
The swords which remained with original scabbards were of course with those survivors.
There is always of course the fact that many of these swords were collected into the Royal Armouries as they became obsolete in the 1820's, but it is my understanding that many, if not most of those were destroyed in a fire in the 1850's if I recall. There was a brief project at refurbishing these into other practice or cutlass type weapons I think, but cannot recall that distinctly either. It would seem unlikely that mismatches would occur in the case of weapons turned in.

The crowned 4 is an inspectors mark after the weapon was 'viewed' on acceptance for issue. Usually regimental marks are found on the underside of the disc, and include regiment numerics, rack and issue numbers.

This could very well have been one of these famed 'disc hilts' that was carried by the 'Greys' that day at Waterloo. I have seen examples of disc hilts that were indeed there, and also by this maker I. Gill.

This is what I can recall for now, but I'll have to find the references for the inspectors mark in Robson, but its buried someplace here in the bookmobile!!

All the best,
Jim




P.S. Please be ultra careful cleaning this, super fine steel wool and light grade oil...see if you can find those markings on the underside of the disc. This may be a real treasure!! Whether so marked or not, these disc hilts have become about as rare as hens teeth..so have profound value regardless.
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Old 5th March 2009, 06:36 PM   #3
Norman McCormick
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Hi Fernando,
The blade would have been made after 1801 as that was when the founder of the company Thomas Gill died and his sons Thomas, James and John took over. Many of these Heavy Cavalry swords were modified during their working lives usually the blade tip geometry was changed and sometimes the guard was cut to make it more comfortable and easier to draw. As Jim says good examples of this pattern are pretty scarce so a real nice find.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 5th March 2009, 07:50 PM   #4
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In research on these many years ago, I had found a reference somewhere that indicated that John Gill had a contract for a number of these swords in 1811. In subsequent years I tried everything to find that reference, and Annis & May, Wilkinson, and other references including communicating with Brian Robson himself revealed no further reference to that contract.

As for the modifications, I have understood that the Royal Scots Greys before leaving Gravesend for Belgium, were ordered to grind down the back edges of the blades on thier disc hilts. It is also my understanding that after Waterloo, the inner part of the discs were ground down and in many cases the langets removed (never quite understood the purpose of removing the langets).
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Old 6th March 2009, 07:04 PM   #5
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Hi guys,
I am not yet done with the investigation on this piece, but i will post some 'intermediary' stuff, to keep the thread warm.
First of all, many thanks for your contributions, Jim and Norman .
I have finished the cleaning of the blade and the scabbard (inside and outside); i was glad to find thqat the wooden plates are still there.
There are no more marks, except for a little V on the guard front; i wonder if this is the punction for viewed.
I don't think this sword was used by a Scot Dragoon at Waterloo. Judging by the circumstances, it should have instead being used by the British forces that were poured into Portugal by the time of Napoleonic invasions (1808-1814) or, most probably used by a Portuguese soldier.
Remember that Britain, at the time already an industrialized country, and with a strong need to stop Napoleon to occupy the peninsula and strangle the whole continent access, besides supplying armed forces, has equiped the Portuguese with staggering quantities of military equipment and all kinds of gear.

Between 1808 and 1814 the figures were:
160 000 Brown Bess
2 300 Baker carbines
3 000 Cavalry carbines
7 000 Pistols
15 000 Cavalry swords
150 000 Black leather gear
190 000 Uniforms
53 000 pairs of shoes
5 700 pairs of boots
10 000 Black leather provisions
30 000 plumed shakos.

Also according to some sources were further supplied in 1809:
30 000 coats
40 000 shirts
40 000 socks
40 000 sacks
20 000 blankets
5 000 saddles
84 bundles of surgery equipment.

(These tremendous supplies were rather strategical; we must remember that Junot, in his first invasion, had immediately demilitarized and disarmed the country, which was already in a critical condition.)

So it wouldn't be a surprise that this sword was distributed to a Portuguese dragoon or even footman; although local infantry officers were equiped with the Portuguese sword version model 1806, the majority of the 1796 swords supplied to Portuguese were shortened by four inches, due to their small stature. But then this fact somehow puts aside the hipothesis that this example was used by a Portuguese, as its blade seems to be entire (34 1/ 2"). I mean 'somehow', as the source i am quoting has come across some ten specimens with a shortened blade and one with its entire length, which belonged to a guy that served in a militia regiment.
It should be added that the 1796 pattern was used by Portuguese cavalry until as late as 1851.
By the way, Jim and Norman, did you know that the British called this sword, woodchopper?
You say Jim, that that John Gill has supplied a numer of these swords in his 1811 contract ? Might he have made prior supllies?
In April 1811 Massena was defeated by the allied forces near Lisbon and started his painfull retreat.
The Osborn scabbard that comes now with this sword is marked with the Osborn & Gunby society name , which has been active between 1808-1821.
We may even have the fantasy that, once the British transferred to Portugal bulk quanties of weaponry, maybe the inspection control was also 'bulky wise' and this sword was already supllied with an unmarried scabbard; but this is only a fantasy as i said.
When i visit again the seller, i have a promise that he will tel me something about this sword provenance.
However there is a difference between owner's provenance and user's provenance.
Let's see if i can find out about its original user, rather than only its last owner .

By the way Jim, do you think the inspector's mark (crowned 4) could drive us to a determined inspector's name and or a date of inspection ?

All the best
Fernando

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Old 6th March 2009, 07:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
...Many of these Heavy Cavalry swords were modified during their working lives usually the blade tip geometry was changed and sometimes the guard was cut to make it more comfortable and easier to draw ...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
As for the modifications, I have understood that the Royal Scots Greys before leaving Gravesend for Belgium, were ordered to grind down the back edges of the blades on thier disc hilts. It is also my understanding that after Waterloo, the inner part of the discs were ground down and in many cases the langets removed (never quite understood the purpose of removing the langets) ...


I have read the following:
... There were a number of slight variations made in service including modifying the point from hatchet to spear point, removing the langets, and cutting away the inside of the disc to prevent wear on the uniform ... The change from hatchet point to spear point was believed to be a result of experiences in the Peninsula and one diary account by Cornet James Smithies makes reference to this being undertaken before Waterloo ... Modifications to the disc edge seem to be immediate with reference to 364 swords of the 2nd Dragoon Guards being altered by 'cutting the hilts' in 1797 ... The removal of langets was more frequently a field based operation and the result of the swords being difficult to quickly replace in the scabbard...
(from the "Swords and Pistols Website").

Fernando
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Old 6th March 2009, 07:58 PM   #7
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Hi Fernando,
Seeing the photographs of the hilt and blade you appear to have a complete unmodified example. Having handled a few of these I wonder just how long one could wield such a sword in a battle situation. I suspect a lot of hours in practice would be needed before you could confidently handle a 'beefy' blade like this in actual combat. I wonder if, like the draw arm on longbowmen, the sword arm was noticeably more muscle intensive than its counterpart, I suppose it must have been. I look forward to more info on this most distinctive sabre.
My Regards,
Norman.

P.S. Wouldn't mind being let loose in the store that housed that list of equipment.
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Old 6th March 2009, 09:33 PM   #8
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Pretty amazing 'intermediary' stuff Fernando ! and thank you for the note on the field modifications you added as well. It is amazing how much info is available these days with the computer, as opposed to how we did things in the old days...lots of letter writing, and waiting...(no more cracks about parchment Andrew!!! )

Actually I had heard about the term 'woodchopper' which was sort of derisively used describing both the M1796 swords for British cavalry. I recall that from an article written by John Morgan in "Classic Arms and Militaria" back in the 90's about the M1796 swords, and I think it was titled 'chopping wood' or to that effect. At that time I was very fascinated by these huge British disc hilts, and was talking with him a great deal on the ancestry of these swords to the M1769-1775 Austrian disc hilts, handled by then Capt. LeMarchant on campaign in Flanders. He was a brilliant officer and wanted to bring standardization of swords to the British army and proposed both the light and heavy patterns based on these and other European examples.
He was deemed the 'scientific soldier' and was killed in cavalry combat at Salamanca during the campaigns there.

The stamped crown with number was the mark used when the weapon was viewed, and this configuration was used up to about 1820, when a letter was also added. According to Robson ("Swords of the British Army", p.191) individual viewers used different numbers at different times, so it would likely be hard to determine with any certainty. The 'V' is puzzling, as it does not seem that letter was ever used to denote 'viewing', and it seemed that it would be rather indiscriminate, although it would seem that organized control in those times were somewhat irregular. The crowned number stamp would seem to negate the need for the V as a view mark. I had thought perhaps it might be an arrow, which of course were ordnance marks then, but this seems more the letter V rather than the phaeon, and there is no BO (board of ordnance initials).

The Gill contract I referred to remains completely unsubstantiated so I can only presume my memory, or mind was sound concerning this reference.
The Gill family was profoundly one of the key producers of swords for the service, and I cannot imagine there were not other contracts. It seems there is a work in progress on the Gill swords, but I do not yet have further details.

Norman, you are right, these swords would have been horrendously consuming in actual combat, and the only driving force that enabled these troopers to use them as such was virtually pure adrenalin. The amount of skill in the average troopers swordsmanship was limited, which was what drew the derisive comment from the French, and probably did resemble chopping action. The French cavalry were keen swordsmen, and adamantly preferred the thrust, emphasizing the conflict over that cut vs. thrust over the next century in many European armies.
From what little I recall of fencing (many many moons ago!) working at strengthening various muscle groups was essential before handling a blade, and even with the very light sabre, one was spent quickly in combat.
A great movie was "The Duellists" where the combatants in a heated duel were incredibly evenly matched swordsmen in the French cavalry, and fought until both were so exhausted they could barely left the sabres.It was often said that after combat in an engagement, and intense action, horsemen could be seen just sitting motionless in thier saddles with tears streaming down thier faces, strictly from the anticlimatic release of adrenalin.

Well, I didnt mean to write a book oops,

All the best,
Jim
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Old 6th March 2009, 11:11 PM   #9
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By the way, for how long was this 1796 pattern in service ... in Britain, i mean ? Did i hear 1821 ?

Fernando
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Old 6th March 2009, 11:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
By the way, for how long was this 1796 pattern in service ... in Britain, i mean ? Did i hear 1821 ?

Fernando


Interestingly, the disc hilts stayed in service in Austria considerably longer than the British....the British came up with the M1821 which was a sheet steel bowl guard and the rest of the hilt was essentially like the M1821 light cavalry sabre with three branch guard. There were apparantly problems in manufacture and issuance of these patterns so they did not effectively come out until 1829... thus they are often termed M1829's.
The disc hilt was around only for a short while as these were issued, and many of course went to yeomanry units.
As mentioned, these were turned in to the armouries where they were stored when many were destroyed in the 1850's (again if memory serves.....no...I wasn;t there!! ).


BTW, while the chopping wood remarks were loosely applied, it seems it was more intended for the M1796 heavy swords, while the light cavalry sabres received contrary reviews. It was said that Napoleon decried these sabres as 'barbaric' for the horrendous injuries they inflicted, and at Waterloo it is known that the heavy cavalry swords also inflicted terrible wounds and carnage. While the chopping connotation suggested ineffectiveness, it sounds like in at least may cases there were very effective.

All the best,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 6th March 2009 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 7th March 2009, 10:42 AM   #11
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Hi Fernando,
Great sword .Could the 'V' on the guard be the Roman numeral for 5 ?

Regards David
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Old 7th March 2009, 02:52 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
Hi Fernando,
Great sword .Could the 'V' on the guard be the Roman numeral for 5 ?

Regards David



Outstanding David!! You're always thinkin' !!! Very good question, did units in Portugal use Roman numerals in marking weapons?

All the best,
Jim
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Old 7th March 2009, 05:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Outstanding David!! You're always thinkin' !!! Very good question, did units in Portugal use Roman numerals in marking weapons?

All the best,
Jim


Don't you know Jim, David is a born thinker
Hi, i am glad you popped in, David

I don't think this is a roman five. Maybe some kind of symbol, even an owner's mark, to distinguish it from others; i wish i knew.
Regimental/rack numbers are composed of a few letters and numbers. In fact i have just learnt that the 1796 pattern swords that were distributed to Portuguese cavalry bear such regimental markings, eventually in the scabbard(see example attached), so the probabability that this specific one was used by my country fellows is now more remote, although surely many thousands were used by local regiments and even military police, so i have also learnt.
Definitely this was a popular weapon around here; even King Dom Pedro IV (who became Emperor of Brazil), used one of the kind.
Oh, i have forgotten to mention that my example came with a leather sword knot, in a very bad shape ... much too dry and braking in certain parts. I have soaked it in castor oil, to try and return some 'life' to it, and next Monday i will take it to the shoe maker to try and sew the broken parts.
This knot by could in a way define the age of the sword, assuming that the sword user would not mind to acquire a new one in case the original got lost or destroyed. It happens that a webpage that is selling sword knot replicas pretends that the knot version i have, with an optional brass button, is the second model for this sword and appeared in 1821. I am therefore a bit disapointed, as i presumed that this sword was an earlier example. I will try and double check this knot information.
Well, at least the scabbard can't be newer than 1821, as this is the date Osborn & Gunby partnership ceased.
Fernando

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Old 8th March 2009, 10:25 PM   #14
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5 minutes of physical combat can leave you utterly devastated, specially when the muscle's "oxygen debt" manifests itself...

The sword thrust is far more lethal than the slash, since a sword's point concentrates an incredible amount of energy, being able to slip through the ribs or even pierce flat bones. The slash is an incredibly effective psychological weapon, since its effects are ghastly and destroy survivor's morale.

M


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall


Norman, you are right, these swords would have been horrendously consuming in actual combat, and the only driving force that enabled these troopers to use them as such was virtually pure adrenalin. The amount of skill in the average troopers swordsmanship was limited, which was what drew the derisive comment from the French, and probably did resemble chopping action. The French cavalry were keen swordsmen, and adamantly preferred the thrust, emphasizing the conflict over that cut vs. thrust over the next century in many European armies.
From what little I recall of fencing (many many moons ago!) working at strengthening various muscle groups was essential before handling a blade, and even with the very light sabre, one was spent quickly in combat.
A great movie was "The Duellists" where the combatants in a heated duel were incredibly evenly matched swordsmen in the French cavalry, and fought until both were so exhausted they could barely left the sabres.It was often said that after combat in an engagement, and intense action, horsemen could be seen just sitting motionless in thier saddles with tears streaming down thier faces, strictly from the anticlimatic release of adrenalin.

Well, I didnt mean to write a book oops,

All the best,
Jim
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Old 9th March 2009, 02:39 PM   #15
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[QUOTE=celtan]5 minutes of physical combat can leave you utterly devastated, specially when the muscle's "oxygen debt" manifests itself...

The sword thrust is far more lethal than the slash, since a sword's point concentrates an incredible amount of energy, being able to slip through the ribs or even pierce flat bones. The slash is an incredibly effective psychological weapon, since its effects are ghastly and destroy survivor's morale.

M[/QUOTE


Most interesting perspective, Manuel, and I hadn't thought of those aspects, which are extremely well placed. The controversy over which was more effective, the cut vs. the thrust, carried through the entire 19th century, and ironically by the time the M1908 British and American M1913 huge bowlguard swords were introduced, the sword itself was essentially obsolete.

There was some intriguing study written by J.Christoph Amberger in his "Secret History of the Sword" concerning the medical aspects of sword combat, which despite sounding gruesome, was actually compelling when read objectively. There were some other similar studies done concerning the nature of warfare injuries revealed in archaeological discoveries that pertained mostly to Anglo-Saxon and Norse studies if I recall.

All best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 9th March 2009 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 9th March 2009, 03:00 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Don't you know Jim, David is a born thinker
Hi, i am glad you popped in, David

I don't think this is a roman five. Maybe some kind of symbol, even an owner's mark, to distinguish it from others; i wish i knew.
Regimental/rack numbers are composed of a few letters and numbers. In fact i have just learnt that the 1796 pattern swords that were distributed to Portuguese cavalry bear such regimental markings, eventually in the scabbard(see example attached), so the probabability that this specific one was used by my country fellows is now more remote, although surely many thousands were used by local regiments and even military police, so i have also learnt.
Definitely this was a popular weapon around here; even King Dom Pedro IV (who became Emperor of Brazil), used one of the kind.
Oh, i have forgotten to mention that my example came with a leather sword knot, in a very bad shape ... much too dry and braking in certain parts. I have soaked it in castor oil, to try and return some 'life' to it, and next Monday i will take it to the shoe maker to try and sew the broken parts.
This knot by could in a way define the age of the sword, assuming that the sword user would not mind to acquire a new one in case the original got lost or destroyed. It happens that a webpage that is selling sword knot replicas pretends that the knot version i have, with an optional brass button, is the second model for this sword and appeared in 1821. I am therefore a bit disapointed, as i presumed that this sword was an earlier example. I will try and double check this knot information.
Well, at least the scabbard can't be newer than 1821, as this is the date Osborn & Gunby partnership ceased.
Fernando

.



Hi Fernando,
Indeed he is!!!! a true weapons forensics scholar!! He always has me thinking too.....the words, 'why didnt I think of that?'

Good notes on the 'V', and I agree that this mark/numeral seems quite 'sterile' in the sense of that possible application, but still was a very good idea. Perhaps it might be a mark of acceptance as the weapon entered Portuguese stores? I dont think it would be an owners mark, as these troopers weapons were somewhat impersonally issued as I understand.
I think the closest they got to personal issue was a rack number.

The sword knot sounds interesting, good tip on the castor oil...although the presence of an original sword knot seems almost miraculous! It is incredibly seldom that these survive with these older swords, and suggests that this one was likely collected originally a very long time ago, and has remained relatively static since then. Such weapons tend not to repeatedly change hands, and then more personally rather than the saleroom circuits, where they get passed around indiscriminately, tending to lose such components and provenance related information along the way.

Again, a fantastic weapon with outstanding history, and its great to have it here to discuss. Thank you so much for sharing it!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 9th March 2009, 07:19 PM   #17
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Hi Jim,

The medical aspects would make a very interesting sub-subject. Since you seem to have given a lot of thought to the subject, would you care to expound on same?

Best

Manolo



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
[QUOTE=celtan]5 minutes of physical combat can leave you utterly devastated, specially when the muscle's "oxygen debt" manifests itself...

The sword thrust is far more lethal than the slash, since a sword's point concentrates an incredible amount of energy, being able to slip through the ribs or even pierce flat bones. The slash is an incredibly effective psychological weapon, since its effects are ghastly and destroy survivor's morale.

M[/QUOTE


Most interesting perspective, Manuel, and I hadn't thought of those aspects, which are extremely well placed. The controversy over which was more effective, the cut vs. the thrust, carried through the entire 19th century, and ironically by the time the M1908 British and American M1913 huge bowlguard swords were introduced, the sword itself was essentially obsolete.

There was some intriguing study written by J.Christoph Amberger in his "Secret History of the Sword" concerning the medical aspects of sword combat, which despite sounding gruesome, was actually compelling when read objectively. There were some other similar studies done concerning the nature of warfare injuries revealed in archaeological discoveries that pertained mostly to Anglo-Saxon and Norse studies if I recall.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 9th March 2009, 08:13 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celtan
Hi Jim,

The medical aspects would make a very interesting sub-subject. Since you seem to have given a lot of thought to the subject, would you care to expound on same?

Best

Manolo



[QUOTE=Jim McDougall]



Hi Manolo,
It really is interesting, though I will confess, it is the least appealing aspect of studying weapons to me. It is of course obvious that swords were intended for a purpose, that is to kill and maim, and the results are not nearly as inspiring as the tradition and romantic aesthetics of the weapon.

I prefer to focus on the more subtle symbolism, history and developmental aspects of weapons, despite acknowledging some of the necessary recognition associated with thier use.

Thank you for your expressed confidence in my perspective though, received as a welcome compliment considering your own profound medical knowledge and its potential application in understanding the use of weapons. My observations would be cursory in comparison, as I've only briefly seen the references I mentioned.

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 9th March 2009, 08:25 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... it is the least appealing aspect of studying weapons to me. It is of course obvious that swords were intended for a purpose, that is to kill and maim, and the results are not nearly as inspiring as the tradition and romantic aesthetics of the weapon.
I prefer to focus on the more subtle symbolism, history and developmental aspects of weapons, despite acknowledging some of the necessary recognition associated with thier use...



Amen.

Fernando.
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Old 9th March 2009, 11:31 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
...Good notes on the 'V', and I agree that this mark/numeral seems quite 'sterile' in the sense of that possible application, but still was a very good idea. Perhaps it might be a mark of acceptance as the weapon entered Portuguese stores?

I guess maybe yes ... but quicker maybe not ... i don't know. One particularity is that this symbol is perfectly punched and in a very accurate position, like for a technical purpose ... just wondering.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I dont think it would be an owners mark, as these troopers weapons were somewhat impersonally issued as I understand.
I think the closest they got to personal issue was a rack number...

Maybe this is circumstancial; weapons would have rack numbers if they were used by personel residing in barracks and their weapons were stored in the racks in the end of the day or in other periodic context. Supposing they were distributed permanently to guys ? If you are on the field, in operational conditions, you tend to make a (micro) mark in your gear, not to be confused with that of your mates, or to avoid those that lost their items from grabing yours. I saw this happened (the marking), with gear that was not numbered ... bush knives, cartridge magazines and the like. What we consider impersonal is the heavy stuff we pick from the armoury to take in a operation and return by the end of the day, like the machine gun, the mortar and things like that; those that are not permanently distributed to you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... The sword knot sounds interesting, good tip on the castor oil...although the presence of an original sword knot seems almost miraculous! It is incredibly seldom that these survive with these older swords, and suggests that this one was likely collected originally a very long time ago, and has remained relatively static since then. Such weapons tend not to repeatedly change hands, and then more personally rather than the saleroom circuits, where they get passed around indiscriminately, tending to lose such components and provenance related information along the way ...

Yes, this knot is authentic but also very tired; and amazingly it has some faded letters painted on its reverse. (I will try and picture those letters, after i try and sew the broken parts). This would reinforce the fact that the weapon was marked by its owner/user, but it then places the V punch in a riddle position.
I don't think this piece has been in sales rooms or auction circuits; more probably from somebody´s colletion or ancestor, i would guess.
I am dead waiting to visit the seller and hear what he has to say about this sword provenance. I will surely come back here to tell you guys all that i gather.

All the best

Fernando
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Old 10th March 2009, 09:12 AM   #21
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Hmmm...I am also NOT a violent person, nor crave the bloodier aspects of edged weapons, but I do wish to argue the point of thrust being more deadly than slash. IN GENERAL, I would agree with you in that the sword, especially the rapier or heavy cavalry types used on horseback at full thrust, is mor lethal. BUT a skilled swordsman slashing at vital areas could be just as deadly or more. After all, a thrust to the thigh might be lethal, but a slash would more than likely sever the femoral artery. A thrust to the abdomen might puncture the liver, spleen or kidney, but the slash could disembowel or sever the mesenteric arteries. The thrust could puncture a lung or piece the heart, but the slash could sever the carotid arteries, lacerate the trachea or esophagus (a surprisingly fatal injury), plus it would seem that slashing injuries would be more prone to festering/sepsis/infection. I've been in the medical field for nearly 20 years and have seen my share of traumatic injuries from edged impliments (machetes, swords, switch blades, axes, etc) and can attest that it all comes down to the skill of the attacker. I did not mean to be so gruesome here, so I hope no one takes offense, but I do think this point needs to be made, especially in regards to fighting styles and different cultural forms of sword fighting. After all, nearly the entire samurai sword-fighting system relies on slashing/slicing blows and cuts vs the traditional thrust. I personally wouldn't want to be on the end of either one of them!
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Old 10th March 2009, 12:41 PM   #22
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....A few thoughts..

I think we have to consider a sword's effectiveness by the 'damage' it can do. The evolution of weapons would be dictated by this. Also understanding the swords primary function ie cut or thrust also gives clues to the 'style' in which it was used and whether it was effective against opponents....for instance the British Government favoured the thrust in the late 19th C but a number of their adversaries prefered the 'cut' ....Indian Tulwars springs to mind.
I would think that the thrust would be an easier technique to master and any 'deep' stab wound would at least debilitate your enemy. The slash would require more skill, would be aimed at specific areas of the body but would be easier to 'parry'.

I also feel, that although 'gruesome', understanding the injuries (fatal or otherwise) received in battle gives us an insight into the world of the individuals that once wielded the swords. A sword fight is 'upclose' and 'personal' and I often wonder about the thoughts of those, standing on the battlefield , waiting for the order to attack ..... especially if they were the second wave ...with their comrades laying, dead or dying on the 'field'.

The symbolism of the sword was 'annointed' with blood ....and wielded with courage....without fully understanding the gruesome-ness ...we cannot fully appreciate that courage.

Regards David
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Old 10th March 2009, 04:31 PM   #23
Jim McDougall
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Very good points Fernando, and I am really looking forward to seeing the knot as well as hearing more on provenance from the seller. I think there may be some good potential since as we agree, this weapon does not seem to have entered the 'general community' in antique arms salerooms.
What you note on the mysterious V stamp seems quite valid, and all the more puzzling as it seems far too professionally applied for a field mark that may have been placed by an individual trooper for identification. I know what you mean about a mans personal equipment, and trying to keep those items from being assimilated into others in the general population. As you note, the heavier and general items for distribution and return after use are quite another matter.
We will keep after the mystery on this as this sort of thing really gets me after a while, and I know there is surely some simple explanation out there!

Mark and David, outstanding perceptions on the actual effects of these weapons from the medical and observers standpoint, which as I noted are what I personally consider the most unsavory aspects of these studies.
It is indeed in some degree necessary to consider these in assessing the martial practicality of a weapon, how it is used, and of course does help us understand the dimension of the sheer horror, trauma and tragedy that these individuals faced.

I will admit, there is a certain 'train wreck' intrique within most of us in varying degree, which invariably draws our curiosity to reach into these depths in trying to gain dimensional understanding of what these battles and combats must have 'really' been like. As I noted, I have seen detailed studies that have dealt with the medical forensics of such things, and do provide an interesting , though disturbing approach. I think one of the most interesting treatments, which offered a great deal of the psychological effect of such trauma in battle, with some graphic detail, is "Face of Battle" by the late John Keegan. It is an outstanding view into these combats, that achieves, in my opinion, at least a good measure of what we are seeking in understanding these weapons and thier use, and one section is on Waterloo.

The comments by Mark on the thrust are well placed, and of course, the effects of cut vs. thrust were, as noted earlier, a controversy which was constantly debated in much the same technical approach in which modern weapons are often reviewed, quite impersonally. Concerning the matter of sepsis and the thrust, I will add that this was a factor well known, and that the lancers of cavalry units were much hated, due to the horrible and agonizing fate of thier victims, many of whom did not perish quickly and suffered the slowly fatal effects of septic thrust wounds. In battle and its aftermath, these troopers were given absolutely no quarter, and the rancor toward them typically brought immediate dispatch.

The symbolism of the sword is indeed multifaceted, and does represent the powerful elements of honor, tradition, chivalry and heroism, however, recognition of its annointment in blood presents the darker side of humanity and ironically recalls its unfortunate reason for being. In that perspective, we must of course, remember those who experienced the darkness and terror, and respect its sanctity in being held quietly at bay, in hopes that it need not go on.
I believe it was Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Civil War who said, it is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.

All best regards,
Jim

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Old 15th March 2009, 04:02 PM   #24
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I have talked with the seller.
Not much on the provenance; only that it was part of a collection, inherited and sold by the family of militaries in Oporto.
The sword knot is back from the shoe maker. It was glued and not sewn, according to his opinnion; not an everlasting job, to my view, but it will do for the time being.
I wish i could discern those stamped letters. Possibly the first and larger one is a B; maybe some day this wil be the track for an ID .
It seems as the I GILL trade mark was active between 1803-1817. I still feed the conviction that this sword was on the field in Portugal, during Napoleonic invasions.

Fernando

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Old 16th December 2009, 07:39 AM   #25
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Hello guys,
This is my first post on this Forum although I have been a member on Sword Forum International for a number of years.
Fernando, I believe that I have just purchased a British P1796 HC sabre with Portuguese markings on the knuckleguard. The markings seem to attribute the sword to the 11th Regiment of Dragoons, 2nd troop. There is also a rack number or trooper number 45. I believe that this regiment was present at the Battle of Salamanca.
The sword was actually originally bought together with a French AN XI scabbard which had been altered to allow the sword to fit.
A very interesting piece.
Ian
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Old 16th December 2009, 06:49 PM   #26
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Bump for Ian .
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Old 16th December 2009, 07:51 PM   #27
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Default Thrust or slash ?

Interesting thread, and congrats Fernando with this impressive sword !

Normally I go for the esthetics and beauty of weapons.
But some dicussion on usage and effects seems logical to me.

The "discussion" about thrust and slash intrigues me.
This is a HC (heavy cavalry) sword.
Straight, long, used for the thrust with a frontal attack.

Correct me if I am wrong, but in the same period armies would also have a "Light cavalry" ? The guys with the curved swords ie. mameluke sabres, being used for the slash.
So in a battle both techniques would be used.. Or not

Best regards,
Willem

Ps. excuse me for wandering of from the ethno forum. No offence intended
I have a 1908 pattern troopers sword in case you want me to change my avatar
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Old 16th December 2009, 09:05 PM   #28
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Ian, thank you so much for joining us here!!!! not only that, but thank you for reviving this fantastic thread I truly enjoyed the discussion on this one, and it brought forth some excellent details on these M1796 Heavy Cavalry swords.

As an interesting historical note, these huge cavalry swords were developed for the British cavalry from the Austrian M1769 disc hilt cavalry sword.
As a young officer serving with Austrian forces in Flanders, Major General John Gaspard LeMarchant saw the effective use of cavalry swords by the Austrians and sought to develop regulation sword patterns for the British cavalry.

The patterns of 1796 for light and heavy cavalry are of course known as the first officially recognized regulation pattern swords for the British cavalry, with the light cavalry sabre considered one of the deadliest sabres known in Europe at the time. The heavy cavalry sword was not so well received, but it cannot be denied that these were used with devastating effect.

While seemingly intended for thrusting, with the huge straight blades, the tips of the blades were radiused into a hatchet type point, which radiused into a deadly cutting profile intended for chopping type cuts.

The Battle of Salamanca was mentioned , and in a touch of tragic irony, Major General LeMarchant died at the head of his heavy cavalry brigade at this battle on 22 July 1812, with troopers of these regiments of dragoons carrying these very swords.

Again Ian, welcome!!! and Fernando, its great to see this fantastic sword again.
Ian could you please post photos of your M1796?

Willem, please do 'wander' here more often!!! and try to get some of the other guys to do the same These forums are meant to complement each other , and hopefully the important connections between all these forms of arms and armor will be realized in both ethnographic and European context.

Very good questions you post, and as you have astutely noted, the European cavalry's did operate both heavy and light regiments in different functions in battle. The heavy was the shock action, intended to batter into the enemy positions, while the light was used in flanking attack, pursuit and before combat in reconaissance missions. The huge straight swords of the heavy were intended as earlier noted for heavy chopping action, as well as the thrust as required....while the light cavalry using curved sabres utilized slashing cuts in fast moving combat.

All very best regards,
Jim


P.S. Willem, dont change your avatar but why not post your M1908?..a great pattern worthy of some interesting discussion

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Old 17th December 2009, 03:56 PM   #29
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Thanks Jim,
I don't have the sword in my possession at the moment, I am still awaiting delivery but I have a few photos.
As mentioned, when originally purchased from a dealer in the U.K. the sword was paired with a French AN XI MK 2 scabbard. Both the scabbard and sword had been altered slightly to enable the sword blade and langets to fit the scabbard. My reasoning is that they were probably paired after a Peninsular War action from items found on the field.
The sword has been re-fitted with a very basic wooden grip which is too big and a poor fit. I have recently fitted my own home made grips to two P1796 LC sabres. I may do the same to this P1796 HC sabre, I haven't yet decided. I have a photo of the markings which isn't too clear. I will re-photograph the grip when the sword is delivered to me.
The blade is maker marked: WOOLLEY DEAKIN & Co.
Unfortunately, the sword and scabbard have recently parted company after a marriage of 200 years. The scabbard has now been re-matched with a French AN XI sabre.
The first photo with the blue background is of a P1796 LC sabre which I recently fitted with a grip made by myself.
Ian
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Old 17th December 2009, 04:57 PM   #30
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Hi Ian, welcome to the EA.

The engravings in your sword could also mean 2nd Regiment, 2nd Company weapon #45, if it ever was in Spanish Hands.

Best

Manuel
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