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Old 17th May 2021, 11:36 PM   #1
M ELEY
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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; 18th May 2021 at 12:11 AM. Reason: Added pics
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Old 18th May 2021, 12:04 AM   #2
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Default More pics...

The pike was indeed an austere plain-Jane when it comes to weapons, but still had a lot of character!
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Last edited by M ELEY; 18th May 2021 at 12:05 AM. Reason: Added comment
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Old 18th May 2021, 12:38 AM   #3
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Arrrrr, now don't be tellin' tell me ye picked that up at a Yaaard Sale Mate.
Great find!
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Old 18th May 2021, 01:00 AM   #4
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Thanks, Rick! Likewise, your trove of pikes,spears and polearms on your recent threat is amazing! Remember me in your will, buddy!
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Old 18th May 2021, 01:13 AM   #5
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Unhappy I Wish

Would that they were mine, Mark.
I picked up that image with no information included and my curiosity was piqued so I thought I'd put them up to get an idea of their age, type and origin from our membership.
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Old 18th May 2021, 01:06 AM   #6
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Thumbs up Nice!

I must say that I like the bulbous swelling on the end and the elegant tapering of the shaft. I acquired a pike with a very similar head, but a pole of uniform diameter with white and black paint in the early 1980s at a gun show in Georgia. The seller said that he had gotten it at Flayderman's and that it had come from a refitting of the Constitution. It seemed so expensive at the time - if I remember correctly it set me back about $300. (I'll post a picture of it in a few days.)
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Old 18th May 2021, 01:16 AM   #7
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Thank you, Lee, for posting pics of your pike when you can! It does sound like it is War of 1812 era that pre-dated the swell at the end of the pole. I know many of the pikes from that era "came from the Constitution" as Bannermann loved to advertise in his catalog. Undoubtedly, some of them did when they de-commissioned the weapons. Now if you had paperwork to prove that provenance...

Ahh, Rick, you had me going there!!! I see some great early 19th c. pikes in that grouping! Also, some British Lancer's, etc. Whoever he is, he's a lucky bloke!
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Old 18th May 2021, 01:58 AM   #8
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Cap,n, This is amazing!! and what displays! (you know that basket hilt gets my Drambuie bubblin')
What ship is the model?

What have you on this amazing pike so far?
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