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Old 29th November 2022, 02:29 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Napoleonic saber-Naval ?

This saber of M1796 light cavalry form seems British of course, but it seems unusual in having been gilt bronze, ivory grip, and a strange fixture on the guard which seems to be to hold a sword knot.

When I see hilts of this character in this period I think of naval officers, knowing that often they favored cavalry sabers, though there is no evidence of the fouled anchor anywhere.

What do you guys think?
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Old 29th November 2022, 03:02 PM   #2
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Jim, are you intentionally posting this nice saber in the Ethno forum, and intentionally omitting pictures of the (quote) "strange fixture on the guard which seems to be to hold a sword knot" .
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Old 29th November 2022, 03:47 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando View Post
...the (quote) "strange fixture on the guard, which seems to be to hold a sword knot" .
he did, but it's not obvious. It's a 'staple'-like fitting on the bolster in the grip photo.
...and yes, better in your Euro forum.


Gold plating and white grip w/o the stirrups, presumably from a large grey African mammal, which for our purposes I will call a 'Walrus tooth', leads me towards a custom private purchase officer's model. I guess he didn't like using the slot near the pommel for some reason. Possibly fashion, or maybe it flopped about less if knocked out of his hand (Aboard ship? )
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Old 29th November 2022, 05:12 PM   #4
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[QUOTE=fernando;276659]Jim, are you intentionally posting this nice saber in the Ethno forum, and intentionally omitting pictures of the (quote) "strange fixture on the guard which seems to be to hold a sword knot" .[/QUOTE

Did it again! sorry Fernando, thank you for the nice words, and please transfer. Could be the years, or medication....
Wayne, thank you for your notes,
Jim]
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Old 29th November 2022, 06:05 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
...Could be the years, or medication....
Wayne, thank you for your notes,
Jim]

You are welcome. At our ages, I just blame Alois Alzheimer.
Who are you anyway. Where am I?


p.s.- I looked thru my UK Naval Swords/Cutlass ref. mtls. & couldn't find a sword, hanger, cutlass, or sabre with a similar fitting. could still be Army, cavalry or flank officers. If my memory recalls, Austria-Hungary scabbards had a similar strap staple in lieu of an upper ring.
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Old 29th November 2022, 08:12 PM   #6
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Moved.
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Old 29th November 2022, 08:19 PM   #7
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Default British saber-Napoleonic? Naval?

This is an officers saber of the stirrup hilt M1796 style and appears British, though the squared sword knot fixture on the guard apparently for sword knot seems unusual.
It seems to have been gilt bronze hilt with ivory grip which always seems to suggest naval to me, though there are no fouled anchors apparent anywhere.

This does not automatically exclude naval use, and naval officers often seem to have followed cavalry patterns in fighting swords.

I have attached a similar example from "Naval Swords & Dirks", Sim Comfort, 2008.

I would very much appreciate comments, especially on this curious fixture for sword knot which is different than anything I have seen. The gilt is mostly gone, as is the bluing and gilt motif on the blade.

In "Naval Swords", P.G.W.Annis, 1970, on p.43 (#24) is another similar example, which shows the typical manner of showing the sword knot,in the traditional manner.
As these had become decorative and in many ways status oriented, possible this 'side mount' made for better display of the often highly embellished knots Note that gilt brass was keenly preferred by officers, and they preferred longer blades than the usual hangers or small swords as noted in 'Annis'.
In remarks on this example he notes that when the M1796 cavalry saber was introduced, these were quickly copied by naval officers, and by 1805 a regulation pattern of the type was introduced.

These types with the 'birds head' pommel same as cavalry were likely the early and privately commissioned officers sabers prior to the 1805 pattern.
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Old 29th November 2022, 09:15 PM   #8
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What do you guys think?
A nice, high-grade, standard Georgian British officer's sabre is about all that can be said of it. Some general rules of thumb can be followed, such as the gilt hilt is more likely to be infantry/naval than cavalry, and curved sabres are more likely to have been carried by the 'Flank officers'.

But ultimately, with the prevalence of all the militia, volunteer and yeomanry units at the time, plus, with the habit of officers to 'do their own thing', without a solid province or identifying engravings, it is impossible to know what branch of service the original owner came from.

The lanyard 'ring' on the furrel is a common variant seen on 1796 Pattern light cavalry officers' sabres, with other another type being an integral part of the guard, extending out next to the langet.
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Old 29th November 2022, 09:29 PM   #9
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It would be nice to see more of the blade markings from Jim's sabre, but from what I can see, they look similar to the ones supplied by J J Runkel. If true, this would date it to pre-1808.

This is one of my 1796 Pattern light cavalry Officers sabres, by Orsborn dated to pre-1800, with the same lanyard loop.
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Old 29th November 2022, 10:12 PM   #10
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Moved.
At same time Jim has reopened a new thread in the Euro forum not noticing the original one was already moved; what we can do now is merging both.
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Old 29th November 2022, 11:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando View Post
At same time Jim has reopened a new thread in the Euro forum not noticing the original one was already moved; what we can do now is merging both.
Thank you so much for fixing Jims mistake, actually I opened the new thread as the misplaced one was not yet moved. Your skills at these technical adjustments are amazing. Now I'll go take another pill.

Radboud and Wayne, thank you guys for these very helpful notes!! Its amazing to dig out a sword that I have had since the 70s and never really pursued more on it.
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Old 30th November 2022, 12:37 AM   #12
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1796p swords with brass hilts are commonly described as yeomanry officers swords. The sword knot loop is not uncommon. I would not go so far as to say it's naval though could have been used by that branch on an individual basis.
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Old 30th November 2022, 01:51 AM   #13
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I would not go so far as to say it's naval though could have been used by that branch on an individual basis.
I think the ivory = navy notion is just another of those misconceptions created by early collectors and then spread by less-than-scrupulous dealers looking to cash in on a "navy premium".

It's a nice sword Jim. Is it still in your collection? Do you have the scabbard, and are there any manufacturer's marks on it?
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Old 30th November 2022, 02:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
I think the ivory = navy notion is just another of those misconceptions created by early collectors and then spread by less-than-scrupulous dealers looking to cash in on a "navy premium".

It's a nice sword Jim. Is it still in your collection? Do you have the scabbard, and are there any manufacturer's marks on it?
I agree, there are many 'notions' in the collecting game, and the dealers poured gas on those fires to cash in just as you say. As with most cases of items whose provenance has been compromised, and we can only speculate the true character of the weapon, that status must remain standing, speculative.

As agreed, officers had carte blanche in the swords they commissioned, and fashion was extremely competitive so anything was possible. From what little I recall when I got this back in the 70s, I thought it was probably yeomanry as it was so different from most cavalry forms, but honestly cannot recall details.
I still have it, but not handy to examine presently, these photos are it for now. It did not have a scabbard. When I can I will get to it unless there are more photos.

I am hoping with this thread we might see 'cavalry' sabers of the M1796 form with ivory hilts. Clearly ivory was used on the mameluke sabers but cannot recall any of these stirrup hilts with it. Also, that curious sword knot fixture on other examples......that example on your Osborn is most telling.

Thank you again for the great observations and comments! Much appreciated.

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Old 30th November 2022, 11:04 AM   #15
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I am hoping with this thread we might see 'cavalry' sabers of the M1796 form with ivory hilts. Clearly ivory was used on the mameluke sabers but cannot recall any of these stirrup hilts with it.
I think that really depends on your definition of the 1796 pattern (the Europeans use model, not the British) form.

It is not uncommon to find them, many of the Lloyds Patriotic funds swords are sabres with a simple guard and langets.

Just yesterday a nice one by Woolley and Deakin with ivory grip sold at auction and another earlier in the month. Nick Thomas from the Academy of Historical Fencing also featured one in his Sword Studies series
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Old 30th November 2022, 04:00 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
I think that really depends on your definition of the 1796 pattern (the Europeans use model, not the British) form.

It is not uncommon to find them, many of the Lloyds Patriotic funds swords are sabres with a simple guard and langets.

Just yesterday a nice one by Woolley and Deakin with ivory grip sold at auction and another earlier in the month. Nick Thomas from the Academy of Historical Fencing also featured one in his Sword Studies series
Good points, while I am of course thinking of the British model 1796 temporally, I should elaborate and qualify exactly which nationality, model etc. despite the context of the discussion.
I had also not thought of the Lloyds swords (that is 'Patriotic Fund) and other presentation type sabers, and of course the M1803 (Infantry officers sabre with lion head) which seemed to have a wide scope of variant details, up to becoming almost a setting for artistic detail.

I had one once with the lion head instead of having the flowing mane, had an Egyptian sphinx like headdress, probably of course signifying service in the the campaigns in Egypt. There again is another field of presentation or commemorative sword examples.

Clearly, ivory was a material which found decorative use in many British swords surrounding the Napoleonic, Georgian and Regency periods, but my attention here has been those which might apply to officers sabers of the British CAVALRY regiments of the M1796 stirrup hilt pattern.

I have no vested interest in trying to establish this particular example as being naval. However I thought comparing it to other similar examples of the British naval officers stirrup hilt sabers of M1796 form that WERE indeed such, typically noted as 'fighting sabers' and seemingly following the convention of naval officers adopting this cavalry pattern as described by Annis (1970) it might lend credence to the possibility this might be despite being without fouled anchor decoration.

Again, thank you so much for these great insights and noting of other possibilities.
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Old 30th November 2022, 10:41 PM   #17
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On reflection, I think it is telling just how few presentation or exceptionally high quality swords we see of the 1796 Pattern infantry / heavy cavalry officers (dress) type.

To my thinking it illustrates how popular, sabres were as exotic swords that represented wealth and fashion in that period. Unfortunately, this means that it is difficult to apply rules of thumb to them. Cavalry sabres typically had a blade length of 84 - 86cm while an infantry officer would normally favour 76 to 81cm.

But light cavalry officers often had a dress (and possibly full dress) sword that could be lighter and shorter.

Infantry officers had gilded hilts, while cavalry officers swords had steel hilts. Except there exist steel hilted sabres with province to The Rifles brigades and regulations for heavy cavalry dress swords with gilded hilts.

Mameluke sabres were worn as regimental dress swords before they became officially recognised in 1822 which is another example of British regiments being quite happy to ‘do their own thing’. And then there was the ‘home front’ who invented their own uniforms and ‘regulations’. During that era 1 in 4 men were in ‘military service’, many of them in militia, volunteer and yeomanry units. The yeomanry especially, were men of wealth that had an image to uphold.

To my mind, there can be no doubt that British cavalry officers (including the Yeomanry) of sufficient wealth could have carried a stirrup hilted, 1796 style sabre with an ivory hilt. Such a sword would most likely have been carried as part of their dress or full dress uniform.

Alas without something to tie a specific sword to any one branch of service or unit / troop (such as regimental markings or iconography) there is no way to know for certain.

Here we have a nice picture of British cavalry officers from 1806 showing a large variety of different swords and scabbards. We see 1796 types with various curvature and length, mamelukes, steel and leather scabbards with steel or gilt fittings. Unfortunately not all hilts are shown and the only ivory I can spot is on the mamelukes.
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Old 1st December 2022, 02:03 AM   #18
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Well said, those dress swords of the infantry and cavalry for officers, which were more of a 'heavy' version of civilian small sword type hilts, were not held in particularly high esteem by officers.

As you note, the saber was seen in the flamboyant (=exotic) hues of the 'hussar phenomenon' of Europe with the introduction of the 1796 pattern stirrup hilt for light cavalry. While this was the first 'regulation' pattern , however the so called M1788 had been in use already by light cavalry.

With this being the case, the saber was of course more attractive as carrying the highly fashionable 'hussar' image. The 'exotic' flair of these sabers, as previously noted, was not lost on naval officers, who though not cavalry, still had their own image to embellish.

With the British M1796 light cavalry stirrup hilt saber, there seem to have been numbers of variations overall. With those for troopers it seems that in some degree there were slight deviations with makers, possibly by their own takes on certain elements but still in the general image of the form.
I recall in my early days of collecting British patterns, there were a number of us trying to assemble the variant exemplars on the British M1796 light cavalry
sabers, as there was distinctly a spectrum of them.
It was obviously far more so with officers sabers, as we have noted.

As can be seen in this great illustration, it was all quite a fashion show, so as you say, without distinct provenance or markings, what officers whim and what military, yeomanry or other unit he was in....it is anybodys guess, but clearly a Georgian or Regency period example.
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Old 1st December 2022, 03:23 AM   #19
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Unfortunately, I don't have any ivory hilted 1796 style sabres in my collection, but here are some examples I've previously come across on the web:

Probable Light Cavalry Officers frock (dress) sabre. Overall length 92cm blade length 78cm.
Name:  008 - 1796 Style Yeomanry Officers Sabre 01.jpg
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1796 Style sabre, this one is etched with cavalryman on the blade:
Name:  016 - 1796 Style Cavalry Officers Sabre 04.jpg
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Name:  016 - 1796 Style Cavalry Officers Sabre 09.jpg
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Another like it with an 82.5cm blade:
Name:  078 - Georgian 1796 Style Officers Sabre 01.jpg
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Another probable Frock sword with 71cm blade:
Name:  043 - Georgian Flank Officers Sabre 01.jpg
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Another, overall length is 93cm, the palm frond engraving on the grip is interesting as it's also seen on Hussar Mamelukes. A possible connection?
Name:  003 - Georgian Officers Sabre 01.jpg
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Name:  003 - Georgian Officers Sabre 04.jpg
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Another, possible Yeomanry sabre with 83cm blade:
Name:  031 - 1796 Style Infantry Officers Sabre 04.jpg
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Name:  031 - 1796 Style Infantry Officers Sabre 01.jpg
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As you can see, the type isn't that uncommon. Plus I've deliberately left out the ones with lions head pommels and embellished langets....
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Old 1st December 2022, 04:21 AM   #20
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As they say here in Texas, 'well,....there ya go!" !!
Stunning examples, and perfectly illustrating cavalry examples with ivory hilts.

The one with the deeply curved blade, rifle company?
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Old 1st December 2022, 04:48 AM   #21
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The one with the deeply curved blade, rifle company?
This is one of those grey areas. The steel scabbard would be more typical for a cavalry officer as it is harder wearing for when mounted. Leather is lighter and makes less noise when walking about. The blade is short at 71cm (28 inches), not suited to mounted combat. But I've seen dress swords with steel scabbards as well.

But then an officer that could afford an ivory-hilted sword is equally likely to be mounted regardless of service, it's anyone's guess really.

Given that the British had only three (four?) Rifles Regiments in the regular army at the time, I would say on the balance of probabilities that it belonged to a Cavalry Officer.
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Old 1st December 2022, 02:03 PM   #22
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So with that example with dramatic curved blade, then this one which is of course not with ivory grip etc, I have always thought was an officers, is likely cavalry ?
I got this back in those days trying to assemble M1796 anomalies, and it was actually included in an article by the Danish Arms & Armor Society on that topic over 20 years ago. I need to find that article in old notes.

I had seen rifle company or flank company M1803 sabers with these kinds of dramatically curved blades so thought perhaps this was one of that category.
I'd rather it was cavalry per my own fields of 'collecting' though.
But again....who knows?

What was interesting with this one is the pipe back on what is essentially a Persian 'shamshir' type blade. I know that when Osborn was considering options in developing the M1796, he was looking at various types of swords and features which included Indian tulwars and others according to some references. Also what I thought was odd, is the strangely canted hilt, a feature which brought to mind certain Caucasian sabers, to add to the 'exotic' features that seem to have been applied to the sabers of this period.

In the latter 18th into 19th c. it seems there were a number of anomalous British cavalry swords, if I recall one had a yataghan type blade; and some (which I think were East India Company associated) had a blade with stepped point (yelman) as seen on Indian tulwars often.
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Old 1st December 2022, 02:19 PM   #23
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Default 18th Century British dragoon swords-pommel ring

I posted this mid 18th century British dragoon sword a while back, and have had the opinion this may be an early version of the 'four slot guard' which became so well known on British cavalry swords of 1760s into 80s.,

It seems that examples of these, some by Jeffries, London, which are typically described as 1760-70 are seen as having the knuckle guard joining the side of the pommel. This one with the same tall olive type pommel however, has the distinct 'pommel' ring to which the guard elements are attached, and the ring rests just under the pommel.

This feature seems to be in accord with most British dragoon sword hilts of the 18th century with the many variations of basket, half basket guards, but seems to have ceased being used by about 1760.

Any ideas on just when this hilt element ceased, and is it a worthy factor in determining date on these British dragoon sword hilts?
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