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Old 17th May 2021, 10:36 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: NC, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,893
Default A 19th century American boarding pike

Here we have a mid-19th century American boarding pike. This is the Pattern III type as illustrated in Gilkerson's "Boarders Away". Earlier pikes (such as the Revolutionary War pike hanging behind the one being discussed) mostly had diamond or leaf-shaped points, whereas the later (War of 1812 and onwards) had the classic spike point, which was usually 4-sided, although some I'm told were triangular.

Pikes date back over a thousand years, coming from a period when they were used by land armies to 'de-saddle' heavy cavalry charges. During the Age of Fighting Sail, the powers that be saw the worth of such a simple, but effective weapon. The poles were thus shortened down from 15' to approximately 8-9', making it managable on the crowded, confining deck of a ship. The pike was a great weapon to use for both boarding attacks and a ship's defense. Little or no training was involved with their use. They worked well in repelling boarders in that they could easily slide through gaps in the sheets of defensive netting strung over the defending ship. They were frequently stored in ranks surrounding the main and missen masts where they could be easily retrieved during a conflict.

This specimen represents one of the last patterns (often erroneously referred to as the 'm1816'). Gilkerson and others have dispelled this rumor, saying this pattern was nothing more than the 1812 verion with minor nuances to the shaft over the years. Indeed, I place mine in the mid-19th, but as the head could be reused and wood shafts be replaced, there's no exact date to put on these. Mine does have the later swollen head that finally solved the problem of thrusting too deeply into an opponent (to the point where one might lose their weapon!). The thickened head prevented excessive penetration. Another refinement was a thickening towards the mid-section of the shaft. This allowed for the two narrowest arreas to be just below the swollen top and near the bottom to serve as perfect hand holds. "Boarders Away" speaks of this last pattern and states it is pictured in post #16, but there is no picture!! Apparently, the editors forgot to include it in the final publication! So...if you need to see one, here it is!

This specimen is 8', the head (not counting the langets) measures 7" and the side straps are held by three pins. You will note the ball 'butt', which served the purpose of not gouging or scraping the deck. This ball pattern is also seen in earlier pikes and on American-pattern axes of this era. This specimen still has the original black paint with tracings of red on the iron tip. Note the weathering/wear and nice patina near the swelling. Wow, if she could only talk!!!
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Last edited by M ELEY; 17th May 2021 at 11:11 PM. Reason: Added pics
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