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Old 19th May 2021, 06:33 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The M1913 Patton Sword

While the sword had become effectively obsolete in warfare by the second half of the 19th century, it still remained stubbornly present in armies, primarily cavalry. There are many versions of the 'last cavalry charge with swords', and campaigns and battles where the sword was still in use.

However, ironically, what many have seen as the 'magnum opus' of the sword in the American context was designed and advocated by then lieutenant George S. Patton in 1913. Although our study of swords and edged weapons ends at the close of the 19th century, this sword serves as sort of a swan song for the weapon form as intended for combat.

General Patton was a brilliant swordsman, though of course more well known for his exploits in tanks and armored divisions in WWII. His love for the sword was what prompted him to join the cavalry upon graduating from West Point.

It appears that these straight bladed sword with large sheet steel guards were produced by the Springfield Armory from 1913-1918 in a number of about 35,000. An additional 93,000 were ordered from the firm of LF&C (Landers, Frery & Clark). While these were produced 1917-1918, they date mostly 1918 and 1919.

Despite the accolades for the swords' design, these never went to the front in WWI, and in fact were only ever carried once in conflict, a civil disturbance in 1934. These apparantly in later years and into WWII were cut down into fighting knives, some with regular style knife hilts, but some with the huge guard retained.

It would seem that these swords, effectively the final chapter in the cavalry sword, ended their careers as knives, but it is unclear how many. There was I believe an 'Anderson company' who did many conversions, but cannot recall details.

The M1913 sword has become a kind of uniquely desirable collectible, as it seems to have a notable rarity. I am wondering about how many of these remain out there in the arms community, and whether most were either destroyed or converted and subsequently lost.

It is believed that the M1913 sword was designed primarily after the Swedish M1893 cavalry sword, so hopefully this will be regarded chronologically as an extension of the 19th century form and not as 20th c. militaria, which is an entirely different field outside the scope of this forum.
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Old 20th May 2021, 04:20 AM   #2
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I don't think these are rare. A regional arms and militaria show will probably have at least one vendor who has an example for sale.
This saber, ironically, is straight...
I like it, as swords go. Used to wonder about the massive basket, the need for it. Odds of a US cavalry soldier engaging a mounted enemy with swords were almost non-existent in 1913.
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Old 20th May 2021, 04:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dmitry View Post
I don't think these are rare. A regional arms and militaria show will probably have at least one vendor who has an example for sale.
This saber, ironically, is straight...
I like it, as swords go. Used to wonder about the massive basket, the need for it. Odds of a US cavalry soldier engaging a mounted enemy with swords were almost non-existent in 1913.
Thank you Dmitry.
I agree, I dont consider them rare either, however they do seem desirable if nothing else for their unusual heft and design. They were designed to be carried attached to saddle mounts, much as the British cavalry swords of 1899, 1908.
You are right, there was little chance of these being actually used in combat, in fact they were entirely left behind in WWI and never saw combat.

It is also odd that the term saber is often used for these straight blade swords, and most probably a term simply used as it was aligned with cavalry intent.

As far as 'rarity' it does seem that these never had the commonality of for example the Civil War swords. In the old days you could find 1840, 1860s all over the place, but hardly ever did anyone see one of these.

I am mostly wondering just how many of these were cut down, or simply disposed of.

Again, thank you for answering Dmitry, its a bit of an unusual topic, so very much appreciated.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 11:03 AM   #4
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The cut versus thrust argument looks to have gone on throughout the entire time swords were in use. By the end of the 19th C thrust was winning out but if swords had carried on in use longer, cut might have gained ground again.
It certainly did in the Imperial Japanese Military, who in the 1930s abandoned the Western style sabre and appeared to go back to their traditional style sword for both Army and Navy.
The funny thing is that it seems to have not been the nostalgia for tradition that is so often put forward, but a practical decision based on experience in Manchuria.There was considerable research done, field testing, and a lot of to and fro between the various arms... Tradition and familiarity undoubtedly played a part though.
Below archive pictures from the development process, and fuller discussions in great detail here https://www.warrelics.eu/forum/japan...komiya-691796/
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Old 22nd May 2021, 05:01 PM   #5
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That is some most interesting perspective David, thank you. It is well noted that the cut vs. thrust thing was a most active debate throughout the last centuries of the sword, and the 'Patton' as well as the British 1908 were of course distinctly thrusting swords.

Again, here I would emphasize that these two patterns were effectively the 'end game' in regulation military swords, along undoubtedly with certain variation in some other countries. I wanted to touch on them only as a 'closing look' at swords that evolved out of the 19th century efforts to establish a close to these debates, but without moving into analysis of 20th century swords.

Again, thank you so much for this detailed input, very well presented!
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Old 22nd May 2021, 11:25 PM   #6
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I would also point out the British 1897 infantry officers sword as a dedicated thrusting sword, and a variant of this was adopted as a cavalry sword by the City of London Yeomanry.
As late as the 1920's British Imperial Officers webbing had a frog for the sword. What is often missed is that in combat a pistol can not parry a sword attack, and this matters if your primary enemy (Afghanistan) is a dedicated sword user. The P1897 is as much a parrying bar as it is a thrusting blade.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 11:47 PM   #7
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That is well noted David, and I had forgotten about that sword with my concentration on cavalry swords.
With the M1913 Patton sword, at the time Patton was advocating its design focused on the thrust, the war department was intent on redeveloping the M1906 Ames cavalry sword with a more curved blade.

I suppose that if being attacked by a sword wielding opponent, if you had a pistol you would presumably fire and have no need to parry. However in remote circumstances, lack of ammunition or serviceable firearm, clearly the edged weapon would become primary.
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Old 23rd May 2021, 05:25 PM   #8
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There is no doubt, but that I would like a Patton sword, it looks a damn sight handier than the British equivalent. Living in the UK I have to accept that this would be very unlikely.
Regarding shooting your blade wielding assailant, look up the US experience in the Philippines. In the end, they had to invent/adopt a new pistol 45.ACP, because a 38 revolver did not do the job!
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Old 31st May 2021, 02:50 PM   #9
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I have one of those things. The blade looks like coming from a 1600 ritterschwert. Patton was at Sweden in 1912 for the Summer Olympics, so the similitude to Swedish 1893 could be more than casual.

I think I read somewhere of the sword being used in the 1914 Veracruz campaign.

The basket seems more intended to protect the hand from hitting something in the cutting arc than from an enemy weapon.
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Old 31st May 2021, 04:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midelburgo View Post
I have one of those things. The blade looks like coming from a 1600 ritterschwert. Patton was at Sweden in 1912 for the Summer Olympics, so the similitude to Swedish 1893 could be more than casual.

I think I read somewhere of the sword being used in the 1914 Veracruz campaign.

The basket seems more intended to protect the hand from hitting something in the cutting arc than from an enemy weapon.

Very well noted, Patton was one of the foremost swordsmen in the US, and was indeed in Sweden. When he designed his sword it was based on British, French and Swedish preference for the thrust.
In Patton's view, the thrust was keenly an 'attack' movement , so of course he deemed this militarily essential.

I am not aware of any presence of these in the Vera Cruz events, and it seems this area of the Mexican campaigns was mostly with US naval and Marine forces.

However, 2nd Lt. Patton, with Pershing's forces, then with the 8th cavalry out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, in 1914 was to lead an attack on Mexican forces on American side of Rio Grande R. He had planned a sabre (the Patton swords were collectively termed that) attack, but superiors ordered the swords left at the fort. The Mexican forces had left before he got there.

It seems the only use of the M1913 as a weapon in 'action' was in the previously mentioned Washington D.C. riots in 1934, and then only using flat side of blades as crowd control prods.

Regarding the huge guard, I think this was to protect the user's wrist. Patton was well aware of 'duelling' cuts to the wrist thus impairing the users hold on the weapon. He fought with epee's and sabers in his fencing, and on one occasion deliberately struck his opponent on the wrist thus disabling him. The Scots were well aware of this action also, and applied guard extensions on their basket hilts to defend from wrist blows.
With these swords, I am not sure that they were expected to meet sword to sword combat, but protecting the hand and wrist from injury was essential to retain grip on the sword.
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