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Old 24th March 2011, 05:39 AM   #1
M ELEY
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Default Boarding cutlass on eBay

Very nice piece that was a little too rich for my blood. If you click on the picture, you will see all the pics from this closed auction.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISABI.dll...=STRK:MEWAX:IT

A very nice m1803 style boarding piece, obviously private purchase and of the 1810-20 period, based on the sentiment on the blade (English privateers lurking for Napoleanic ships, no doubt). Variations of the m1803 pattern are common as with this cut-out hilt. My question, though, is with the raised etching. I have never seen this type on a piece this early. I've seen this type of etching on post-1850's swords, Civil War, Masonic, etc. Is this type of blade decor ("Death to the French" raised lettering) of the period, or do I smell a rat??
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Old 24th March 2011, 06:08 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Hi Mark,
I really have to agree, Ive never seen this kind of etched lettering on one of these cutlasses, and the phrase along with the lettering style seem rather out of place. For one thing, the provacative phrase is placed on one side of the blade only, as if it was to be seen in being displayed. Since most shipboard cutlasses were rack items rather than personal issue, it would seem unusual that such an addition would be made to a single weapon.

It does seem that the lettering has been on the sword for some time however, and perhaps it was a personal heirloom item where the owner had served during the Napoleonic wars. There were hard feelings and mistrust harbored toward the French by the British far into the 19th century. Perhaps this was a later addition by an embittered veteran? It does seem ironic though as the British were allied with the French during the Crimean War and of course on good diplomatic relations later as well.

In looking further though, I am wondering if possibly there might be Civil War associations here. France was officially neutral however they were, like England, involved in intrigues. In 1864 the French blocked the sale of the ironclad CSS Stonewall to the Confederacy, and the ship was sold to Denmark. It was subsequently refused and finally by 1865 sold to the Confederacy as planned.
Since England was supplying weapons to the Confederacy, maybe this could have ended up there, and possibly the sentiments etched during such events with naval associated theme. Naturally it begs the question, why would there not be the usual Confederate motif along with it, and why only on one side. Regardless, it seemed worthy of consideration.

Interesting cutlass though.

All the best,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 24th March 2011 at 06:20 AM.
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Old 24th March 2011, 08:08 AM   #3
M ELEY
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Jim, you ole' night-owl, you!

Thanks for responding on this piece. It seems you have the same concerns as I do about the marking. No doubt the expression is what sent the bidding so high. I had not considered the implications of the sentiment being from another conflict and this could explain things quite nicely. The etching seemed later than the time-period, but boarding pieces were often refitted and used long after their initial manufacture. I also wasn't paying attention to the very well-pointed out inscription on one side of the blade (what can I say. I'm ADHD- ), so it does seem like this was placed on the blade later as a form of display. Old sentiments do indeed die hard. Perhaps this was nothing more than a refurbished cutlass with a still-burning hatred that some might have found offensive, but none-the-less might have sat in a place of honor on some Englishman's mantle.
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Old 24th March 2011, 09:00 PM   #4
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...might have sat in a place of honor on some Englishman's mantle.

...or a place of honour in a Pub! we had a pub not too far away where the publican was a veteran, he had the wall behind the bar decorated with his sword and a couple of khukuris and a few other sharp pointy things he'd picked up here and there...

that cutlass would have looked mighty fine amidst the paintings of british warships and other nautical memorabilia decorating the 'Jolly Tar', another pub in a nearby village, sadly no sharp pointy things in that pub.

...and finally, just a slight trip aside into how the cutlass was normally stored aboard ship. (HMS Warrior - 1860)

cutlass racks in the more senior areas.


overhead racks in the crews quarters above the muzzle loading cannon.


cutlass racks in context: Gun Deck.

note racks overhead upper right in photo

boarding pike racks, just for the heck of it.


pike, use of:


and for the officers: (you can just make out the cutlass racks on the right background)

a few zillion dollars worth of navy colts.

Last edited by kronckew; 24th March 2011 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 25th March 2011, 01:39 AM   #5
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I know there are some swords that receive later embellishments to with the intent to deceive and in an attempt to increase their value (CSA weaponry comes to mind). While my exposure pales in comparison to your own (that's a collective "your," BTW ), in my own humble opinion, the letters in the etching seem just too perfect... too uniform, without any visible regularity or variability.
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Old 25th March 2011, 09:18 AM   #6
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Wow, thanks for those pics of the ship, my friend. Always nice to see the actual storage/racking of these boarding items. Very cool!

laEspada, my point exactly. Too bad that this blade isn't the real thing, but a later embellishment or, as you say, a down-right fake. Too hard to say without actually handling the blade, though...
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Old 25th March 2011, 11:52 AM   #7
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Wow, thanks for those pics of the ship, my friend. Always nice to see the actual storage/racking of these boarding items. Very cool!
...
you're welcome.

if any of y'all ever get to the UK, a day at the Historic Dockyard in portsmouth is well worth it (it's NOT free, see linky), there is the HMS Warrior, and HMS Victory as well as the Mary Rose, and a lot more, quite a few sharp pointy things if you keep your eyes open. the harbour tour is also worthwhile, you get to see not only the royal navy ships that are docked, but the old victorian forts and even a quite intact roman fort on your trip around the harbour. couple hours by train from london...
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Old 26th March 2011, 03:07 AM   #8
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Sounds like an invite to me! If I ever get a chance to make it over the pond, I will most certainly visit the dockyard, along with the Tower, castles in Scotland, and my grandfather's old homestead in Redruth, Cornwall. Ahhh, one of these days!
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