Posts tagged saber
Posts tagged saber
The scythe sword (Sensenschwert) was a type of single-edged sword of the German Renaissance, related to the Dussack. It consisted of the blade of a scythe to which a sword hilt was attached. Like the falx or falcata of antiquity, it was thus a curved sword with the cutting edge on the inside (as opposed to the scimitar or sabre type with the edge on the outside).
The only known surviving example of a true scythe sword (its blade being made from an actual scythe), is that of Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), kept in the Historical Museum, Dresden. This sword has a representation of a runic calendar incised on the blade. Demmin (1893) notes the existence of other sword blades of the early 16th century bearing runic calendars in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Munich, Graz and Luxembourg.
The Model 1860 Light Cavalry Sabre (also known as the M1862 as this was when the first 800 were issued) was used by US cavalry from the American Civil War until the end of the Indian wars; some were still in use during the Spanish-American War. It was 41in long with a 35in by 1in blade and weighed 2 lb 4oz alone or 3 lb 10oz with iron scabbard.
During the Civil War there was no light or heavy cavalry in the US army. Instead there were “Dragoons” (founded 1830) “Mounted Riflemen”, (founded c.1840) and “Cavalry” (founded 1856), distinguished by the orange, green or yellow piping on their uniforms. In 1861 these mounted regiments were renamed cavalry and given yellow piping.
The M1860 sabre received its name to distinguish it from the larger and heavier Model 1840 Heavy Cavalry Sabre that it replaced. Like its predecessor it had a brass guard, leather-wrapped grip and steel scabbard but unlike the M1840 it was smaller and easier to handle.
By the end of the Civil War over 300,000 1860 sabres had been produced: 200,000 by Ames, 32,000 by Roby and many more by firms such as Tiffany and Co, Glaze, Justice, and Emerson and Silver. M1860s were carried not only by cavalry but also by many infantry and staff officers as the regulation Model 1850 Army Staff & Field Officers’ Sword had to be privately purchased. High-ranking officers, like their European counterparts, often had their swords ornately engraved with gilding and foliage. Famous users included George Armstrong Custer and J.E.B. Stuart.
Later in the Civil War large cavalry charges became less common and the cavalry took on the role of skirmishers. Many replaced their sabers with extra revolvers, or left it in the saddle while fighting on foot with their repeating Henry rifles and Spencer carbines.
This is the sword the cavalry use in Westerns, many being original antiques purchased by the movie industry in the 1920s when surplus Civil War equipment was cheap.
This model is currently used in some U.S. Army Cavalry units in Color Guards, or when in period type uniforms. Most are given as PCS (Permanent Change of Station) or ETS (Expiration of Term of Service) gifts to a departing Cavalry Trooper. Usually engraved on the scabbard with his name, rank and dates of service. Some are also worn, in full Dress Blues, (when earned on a “Spur Ride” or combat tour) with Stetson and Spurs.
A scimitar (ˈsɪmɨtər/ or /ˈsɪmɨtɑr/) is a backsword or sabre with a curved blade, originating in Southwest Asia (Middle East). The Arabic term saif (سيف) translates to “sword” in general, but is normally taken to refer to the scimitar type of curved backsword in particular.
The curved sword or “scimitar” was widespread throughout the Muslim world from at least the Ottoman period, with early examples dating to Abbasid era (9th century) Khurasan. The type harks back to the makhaira type of antiquity, but the Arabic term saif is a loan from Greek xiphos (the straight, double-edged sword of Greek antiquity). The Persian sword now called “shamshir” appears by the 12th century and was popularized in Persia by the early 16th century, and had “relatives” in Turkey (the kilij), the Mughal Empire (the talwar).
The name is thought to be derived from the Persian word shafsher which means “lion’s claw,” due to its long, curved design. The word has been translated through many languages to end at scimitar. Varieties of Persian shamshir have been created, including the Turkish kilij, Indian tulwar, Moroccan nimcha, Afghan pulwar, and Arabian saif.
The term saif in Arabic can refer to any Middle Eastern (or North African, South Asian) curved sword. The Arabic word is ultimately cognate with the ancient Greek xiphos, but it is not necessarily a direct loan from the Greek, it may have entered Arabic from another source, as both saif and xiphosgo back to an old (Bronze Age) Wanderwort of the eastern Mediterranean, of unknown ultimate origin.
The English term scimitar is attested from the mid-16th century, derives from either the Middle French cimeterre (15c.) or from the Italian scimitarra. The ultimate source of these terms is unknown. Perhaps they are corruptions of the Persian shamshir, but the OED finds this explanation “unsatisfactory”.
The following are regional terms for the scimitar:
The curved sword, the sabre, is called muhaddab in Arabia and occurred after the Turkish Seljuk migration from Central Asia to Anatolia, popularizing the pre-existing Byzantine sabre designs for cavalry use, which influenced the entire region. The word shamshir is Persian and refers to a straight-edged sword as well as to a curved-edged sword, depending on the era of usage.
The Indian talwar is a sword similar to the shamshir, with the exception of a broader blade, mild curve and a disk shaped pommel which provides a very secure grip. The sword is made from very hard wootz steel. The word “tulwar” literally means “sword” in Urdu/Hindi. The tulwar is unusual in that it can be used for thrusting as well as cutting.
The kilij is a scimitar used by the Turks and the Ottoman Empire; it appeared around the 15th century. The kilij is a unique kind of scimitar that has a slight taper down the straight of the blade until the last third of the sword, when it angles sharply and becomes deeper. After the First Barbary War, a bejeweled kilij was presented to the commanding Marine officer, thus beginning the tradition of granting, to all United States Marine Corps officers, the right to carry the ceremonial weapon as part of that tradition.
The Moroccan nimcha is a scimitar used in the late 18th century, and is usually forged using the blades of older swords, dating from as early as the 17th century, and with blades from countries as distant as Germany. This created a wide variety of nimcha, and almost no two are the same.
The Afghan pulwar is similar in blade design to the tulwar, but the cross guard on the pulwar angles in towards the blade to catch swords. Many pulwar hilts are engraved with ornamental inscriptions and
Scimitars were used in horse warfare because of their relatively light weight when compared to larger swords and their curved design, good for slashing opponents while riding on a horse. Mongols, Rajputs and Sikhs used scimitars in warfare, among many other peoples.
Many Islamic traditions adopted scimitars, as attested by their symbolic occurrence, e.g. on the Coat of arms of Saudi Arabia.
The earliest known use of scimitars is from around the 8th century, when it was used among Turkic and Tungusic soldiers in Central Asia.
The scimitar is also used in Saudi Arabia as an executioner’s tool for beheading.
The main feature of a szabla is a curved one-edged blade, often with a yelmen (called feather in Poland).
As in most swords, Polish sabres were composed of a variety of parts, each bearing a different name (Polish terms in parentheses):
The forte and foible could be visually separated by two claws on the non-sharp side of the blade, the threshold (próg) and the martle (młotek). Both sides of the blade could be shaped in a variety of ways and were often decorated with ornaments or inscriptions. Other signs featured on the flats include producer’s marks and coats of arms.
The greatest diversity is found in various types of the hilt, which define the purpose of the sabre. The Polish sabres could usually be divided onto:
The curved saber of José de San Martín is a historic weapon used by Jose de San Martín.
The curved saber of San Martín was acquired during his stay in London, shortly after he left Spain and before embarking to South America. Later, San Martin would arm his cavalries of granaderos with similar weapons, which he deemed ideal for cavalry charge attacks.
Following the withdrawal of San Martín to Europe, after the Guayaquil conference, the weapon stayed in the city of Mendoza in the hands of a friend family. In a subsequent letter written to his son-in-law Mariano Balcarce, Merceditas asked to send him the sword to Europe, which remained in his possession until his death on August 17, 1850.
Before dying, San Martín bequeathed his sword to Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas. Mariano Balcarce Rosas wrote the following to give the news.
“As his executor, and pursuant to his last will, it is my sad duty to inform Your Excellency this painful news, and the honor to inform Your Excellency the following provision in his will: “3rd The saber that has accompanied me throughout the War of Independence of South America will be handed to the General of the Argentine Republic, Don Juan Manuel de Rosas, as evidence of the satisfaction that as an Argentine I had when seeing the firmness with which he has held the honor of the Republic against the unjust pretensions of the foreigners who tried to humiliate her””
Rosas in turn bequeathed the sword to his friend Juan Nepomuceno Terrero, and after his death his wife and then their sons and daughter in order of age. The sword thus passes into the possession of Maximo Terrero and Manuela Rosas after the death of Rosas, with Juan Terrero had died earlier.
In 1896 Adolfo Carranza, director of the National Historical Museum, requested both of them the donation of the saber of San Martín, to which they accessed. It was sent back from London to Buenos Aires, arriving on 4 March 1897 and kept in the National History Museum.
The sword remained there until 2 August 1963, when it was stolen by members of the Peronist Youth. It was recovered a few days later, and temporarily placed in the custody of the Mounted Grenadiers Regiment, until its return to the museum.
The sword was stolen again on 19 August 1965 and also recovered a few days later. However, at that time the Regiment was granted definitive custody, being placed inside a screened gazebo which was built for this purpose and was a donation of the City of Buenos Aires. The curved saber has been there since then.
The yatagan or yataghan (from Turkish yatağan) is a type of Ottoman knife or short sabre used from the mid-16th to late 19th centuries. The yatagan was extensively used in Ottoman Turkey and in areas under immediate Ottoman influence, such as the Balkans.
It consisted of a single-edged blade with a marked forward curve and a hilt formed of two grip plaques attached through the tang, the end of the hilt being shaped like large ears. The gap between the grips is covered by a metal strap, which is often decorated. The blade varies from 60 to 80 cm in length and is curved forward (like the Iberian falcata, or Greek kopis), sometimes reclining backwards again towards the very end. This blade form is often referred to as being ‘recurved.’ While the back of the blade is made of softer steel, the sharp edge is made of hard, tempered steel for durability.
The majority of yatagans date from the period 1750-1860, and from the number of plain, wooden-hilted weapons they were honest fighting weapons as well as ornate parade weapons. The more ornate examples were often worn as a status symbol by civilians, as well as military men, much in the way small-swords were worn in 18th century Western Europe. Occasionally blades were cut down from broadswords or cavalry swords, but in general the forward-curving single-edged blade was used. Verses in gold or silver are often laid along the blade. Silver hilts mounted with filigree and coral, for example, are associated with Turkish Yataghans; many of these are dated around 1800, although it wasn’t uncommon for the blades to be dated much ealrier. The most flamboyant scabbards are of wood, encased entirely with silver.The hilt has no guard, ‘bolsters’ of metal connect the grips to the shoulder of the blade. The grip plaques are typically made from bone, ivory, horn or silver, and spread out in two ‘wings’ or ‘ears’ to either side at the pommel (a feature which prevents the hilt slipping out of the hand when used to cut). Regional variations in the hilts have been noted: Balkan yatagans tend to have larger ears and are often of bone or ivory, whilst Anatolian yatagans characteristically have smaller ears which are more often made of horn or silver. Sophisticated artwork on both the hilt and the blade can be seen on many yatagans displayed today, indicating considerable symbolic value. Having no guard, the yatagan fitted closely into the top of the scabbard; this was customarily worn thrust into a waist sash, retained by hook.
By contrast, in the later half of the 1800s, the prevalence of sword bayonets on military rifles gave rise to an entire style of mass-produced military bayonets known as “Yataghan style”.
The yatagans used by janissaries (called varsak) and other infantry soldiers were smaller and lighter than ordinary swords so as not to hinder them when carried at the waist on the march.
The town of Yatağan in southwest Turkey (now in Denizli province) was famous for its yataghansmithing and is considered folclorically as the birthplace of yataghans. According to legend, town was conquered by a Seljuk commander and blacksmith named Osman Bey, whose cognomen was Yatağan Baba (Father Yataghan). Yatağan Baba later settled there and invented the yataghan type blades, and gave his name not only to the town, but to the weapon he invented and produced there.
But today scholars indicate yataghan type blades were used by Turks earlier than 12th century. Recurve blades and “eared” handles can be traced back to Central Asia, where this type of bronze knives were found in several Bronze Age archaeological sites.
Etymology of the term “yataghan” is considered to come from Uzbek tribe of Kataghan or given because of the way the knife was carried in “lying down” fashion in the belt (yatağan means the one which lies down in Turkish)
In Ottoman period, yatagans were also made in all the major cities of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Istanbul, Bursa and Filibe.
One of the finest and earliest examples of the type was the weapon made for Suleyman the Magnificent, who ruled over the Ottoman Empire from 1522 to 1566. This specimen now lies in the treasury of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and is of particular interest since it is not only dated 1526/7, but also has the name of the artist who made it, Ahmed Tekelü, on the back of the blade. The hilt is of ivory overlaid with gold delicately carved with cloudbands and scrolls.
Balkan war museums display many examples dating from the decline of the Ottoman Empire (late 19th century).
That is a tough choice. A saber is a thicker and stronger sword, but I would have to say a rapier because I prefer a thrusting sword over a slicing sword.
I’m going to say saber.
Szabla (Polish pronunciation: [ˈʂabla]; plural: szable) is the Polish word for sabre. It specifically refers to an Eastern European one-edged sabre-like mêlée weapon with a curved blade and, in most cases, a two-bladed tip called a feather (pióro). Initially used by light cavalry, with time it also evolved into a variety of arms used both for martial and ceremonial purposes. Until the 19th century, it also served as one of the symbols of the nobility (szlachta) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, who considered it to be one of the most important pieces of men’s traditional attire.
The Polish word szabla ”sword, saber”, may derive from the Hungarian word szablya ”saber”, literally “tool to cut with”, from szabni ”to cut.”
Various types of sabre-like arms were first brought to Eastern Europe by the nomads as early as the 6th century. However, it was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that a curved sword was adopted in European warfare. Initially the sabres used in Hungary and Kievan Rus were but local copies of their eastern predecessors used by the Turkic and Arabic peoples: the kilij, pulwar, talwar, saif, shamshiror scimitar. It is often assumed that all of these were in turn descendants of the ubiquitous parent sword, the Turko-Mongol saber used by the nomadic tribes of Asia and then brought to the Middle Eastduring their migration out of Central Asia.
Although by early 16th century such weapons were used both in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Hungary, in most cases these were but examples of captured weapons issued to peasants and serfs in case of a dire need. As such, they were considered plebeian weapons unworthy of the nobility. The higher classes and the knights at that time still preferred straight-bladed swords, much like their western European counterparts. However, with time the advent of firearms and artillery, as well as constant pressure from the Ottoman Empire and the Tatars, who used light cavalry in large numbers, prompted a movement away from the old paradigm of heavily-armored medieval men-at-arms—a movement that also manifested itself in a changing preference for sword blade types.. It was in the 15th century that curved swords were adopted in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Hungary, both countries being having had the most extensive contacts (largely hostile) with the Mongols, Turks and Tatars.
The following century, after the election of Transylvanian-Hungarian noble Stefan Batory as king of Poland, the entire Polish army was reformed to suit the new needs. The series of Polish-Lithuanian Union, as well as extensive contacts with Hungary and Transylvania, made the sabre one of the basic arms used by the nobility, formerly using the swords. With time the sabre evolved in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and gave birth to a variety of sabre-like weapons, fit for various tasks. In the following centuries, the ideas of Sarmatism as well as the Polish fascination with Eastern attire, customs, cuisine and warfare resulted in the szabla becoming an indispensable part of attire of the szlachta, as well as one of the symbols of nobility—and its alleged ancient roots.
The first type of szabla, the Hungarian-Polish (węgiersko-polska), was popularized among the szlachta during the reign of the Transylvanian-Hungarian King of Poland Stefan Batory in the late 16th century. It featured a large, open hilt with a cross-shaped cross-guard and a heavy blade, either uncurved at all or curved only slightly. To protect the hand, at times a chain was attached to the cross-guard and the pommel. Since a number of such weapons were made by order of the king himself during his reform of the army and were engraved with his portrait, this kind of sabre is also referred to as batorówka - after Batory’s name.
In late 17th century the first notable modification of the sabre appeared. Unlike the early “Hungarian-Polish” type, it featured a protected hilt and resembled the curved sabres of the East. It was hence called the Armenian sabre, possibly after Armenian merchants and master swordsmiths who formed a large part of arms makers of the Commonwealth at those times. In fact the Armenian sabre developed into three almost completely distinct types of swords, each used for a different purpose. Their popularity and efficiency made the Polish nobles abandon the broadswords used in Western Europe.
The hussar sabre was perhaps the best-known type of szabla of its times and became a precursor to many other such European weapons. Introduced around 1630, it served as a Polish cavalry mêlée weapon, mostly used by heavy cavalry, or Polish Hussars. Much less curved than its Armenian predecessors, it was ideal for horseback fighting and allowed for much faster and stronger strikes. The heavier, almost fully closed hilt offered both good protection of the hand and much better control over the sabre during a skirmish. Two feather-shaped pieces of metal on both sides of the blade called moustache (wąsy) offered greater durability of the weapon by strengthening its weakest point: the joint between the blade and the hilt. The soldier fighting with such sabre could use it with his thumb extended along the back-strap of the grip for even greater control when ‘fencing’ either on foot or with other experienced horsemen, or by using the thumb-ring, a small ring of steel or brass at the junction of the grip and the cross-guard through which the thumb is placed, could give forceful downward swinging cuts from the shoulder and elbow with a ‘locked’ wrist against infantry and less experienced horsemen. This thumb ring also facilitated faster ‘recovery’ of the weapon for the next cut. A typical hussar szabla was relatively long, with the average blade of 85 centimetres in total. The tip of the blade, usually some 15 to 18 centimetres long, was in most cases double-edged. Such sabres were extremely durable yet stable, and were used in combat well into 19th century.
The Polish and Hungarian szabla’s design influenced a number of other designs in other parts of Europe and led to the introduction of the sabre in Western Europe. An example that bears a considerable resemblance is the famous British 1796 pattern Light Cavalry Sabre which was designed by Captain John Gaspard le Marchant after his visits “East” to Central and Eastern Europe and research into these and other nations’ cavalry tactics and weapons. Poland had ceased to exist as a separate nation by this time but their other co-nation from previous centuries, Hungary, was still an existing nation, and as this was the source of all things “Hussar”, it was the Polish-Hungarian szable of 150 years earlier rather than the oft quoted Indian tulwar that were the main source of inspiration for the first “mainly cutting” sabre in the British Army. This same “1796” sabre was taken up by the King’s Hanoverian troops and also by the Prussians under General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who attempted to give his name to the weapon, almost universally known as “the 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre” in the rest of Europe. This weapon also found its way into the cavalry of the newly formed United States of America in the war of 1812. Polish Hussar szabla is believed to be one of the finest cold weapons ever made.
A Mameluke sword (/ˈmæməluːk/) is a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically derived from sabres used by Mamluk warriors of Mamluk Egyptfrom whom the sword derives its name. It is related to the shamshir, which had its origins in Persia from where the style migrated to India, Egypt and North Africa and the Turkish kilij. It was adopted in the 19th century by several Western militaries, including the French Army, British Army and the United States Marine Corps. Although some genuine Ottoman sabres were used by Westerners, most “mameluke sabres” were manufactured in Europe or America; their hilts were very similar in form to the Ottoman prototype, but their blades tended to be longer, narrower and less curved than those of the true kilij, while being wider and also less curved than the Persian shamshir. In short, the hilt retained its original shape and the blade tended to resemble the blade-form typical of contemporary Western military sabres. The Mameluke sword remains the ceremonial side arm for some units to this day.
United States Marine Corps
Marine Corps history states that a sword of this type was presented to Marine First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon by the Ottoman Empire viceroy, Prince Hamet, on December 8, 1805, during the First Barbary War, as a gesture of respect and praise for the Marines’ actions at the Battle of Derne. Upon his return to the United States, the state of Virginia presented him with a silver-hilted sword featuring an eaglehead hilt and a curved blade modeled after the original Mameluke sword given him by Hamet. Its blade is inscribed with his name and a commemoration of the Battle of Tripoli Harbor.
Perhaps due to the Marines’ distinguished record during this campaign, including the capture of the Tripolitan city of Derna after a long and dangerous desertmarch, Marine Corps Commandant Archibald Henderson adopted the Mameluke sword in 1825 for wear by Marine officers. After initial distribution in 1826, Mameluke swords have been worn except for the years 1859-75 (when Marine officers were required to wear the U.S. Model 1850 Army foot officers’ sword), and a brief period when swords were suspended during World War II. Since that time, Mameluke swords have been worn by Marine officers in a continuing tradition to the present day.
Mameluke swords were carried as dress or levée swords by officers of most light cavalry and hussar, and someheavy cavalry regiments in the British Army at various points during the 19th century, starting in the period afterWaterloo. The current regulation sword for generals, the 1831 Pattern, is a Mameluke-style sword, as were various Army Band swords.
There are a number of factors which influenced the fashion for Mameluke swords in the British Army.
The talwar (Urdu, Pashto: تلوار, Bengali:তলোয়ার, Hindi: तलवार, Panjabi: ਤਲਵਾਰ) is a type of curved sword or sabre from the South asian sub-continent, and is found in the modern countries of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The word is also spelled talwaar and tulwar.
The talwar originated alongside other curved swords such as the Arab saif, the Persian shamshir, the Turkish kilij and the Afghan pulwar, all such swords being originally derived from earlier curved swords developed in Turkic Central Asia.
The use of talwar became more widespread under the Mughal Dynasty who were of Turko-Mongol origins. The Mughal Emperor Akbar is known to have built large foundries producing the best quality sword blades; Akbar himself is known to have preferred Damascus steel talwars, which were considered the sharpest blades ever used in battle in South Asia.
The blade profile of the British Pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre is similar to some examples of the Mysore talwar utilized by the forces of Tipu Sultan, and expert opinion has suggested that the talwar, due to its effectiveness and successful use in battle in the Indian subcontinent, may have contributed to the design of the British sabre.
Though strongly influenced by Middle Eastern swords, the typical talwar has a wider blade than the shamshir, and lacks the expanded yelman (false-edge) of the kilij. Late examples often had European-made blades, set into distinctive Indian-made hilts. The hilt of the typical talwar is termed a “disc hilt” from the prominent disc-shaped flange surrounding the pommel. The pommel often has a short spike projecting from its centre, sometimes pierced for a cord to secure the sword to the wrist. The hilt incorporates a simple cross-guard which frequently has a slender knucklebow attached. The hilt is usually entirely of iron, though brass and silver hilts are found, and is connected to the tang of the blade by a very powerful adhesive resin. More ornate examples of the talwar often show silver or gilt decoration in a form called koftigari.
The talwar was used by both cavalry and infantry. The grip of the talwar is cramped and the prominent disc of the pommel presses into the wrist if attempts are made to use it to cut like a conventional sabre. These features of the talwar hilt result in the hand having a very secure and rather inflexible hold on the weapon, enforcing the use of variations on the very effective “draw cut”. The fact that the talwar does not have the kind of radical curve of the shamshir indicates that it could be used for thrusting as well as cutting purposes. Unlike some similar blades which have a very radical curve at the lower half of the blade - which make them very good slashing weapons but limit their use as a thrusting or cutting blades - the talwar can be used effectively for all three purposes either by mounted warrior or by foot soldier. The blades of some examples of the Talwar widen towards the tip. This increases the momentum of the distal portion of the blade when used to cut; when a blow was struck by a skilled warrior limbs could be amputated and persons decapitated. The spike attached to the pommel could be used for striking the opponent in extreme close quarter circumstances when it was not always possible to use the blade. The talwar is held with fore finger wrapping around the lower cross guard. This weapon is still used for talwar zani or matam e talwar, (Arabic: tatbir) Shiite Muslim self-flagellation, on 10th of Muharram, marking the martydom of Imam Hussain. Today, the word talwar literally means sword or dagger in the majority of languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent.
The Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British Light Dragoons and hussars, and King’s German Legionlight cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians (as the 1811 pattern or “Blücher sabre”) and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.
During the early part of the French Revolutionary War, the British Army launched an expeditionary force into France. With the invading army was a young captain of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, serving as a brigade major, John Gaspard Le Marchant. Le Marchant noted the lack of professional skill displayed by the horsemen and the clumsy design of the heavy, over-long swords then in use and decided to do something about it. Among many other things Le Marchant did to improve the cavalry, he designed, in collaboration with the Birmingham sword cutler Henry Osborn, a new sabre. This was adopted by the British Army as the Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre.
An eastern influence can be detected in the blade form, and Le Marchant is recorded as saying that the “blades of the Turks, Mamalukes, Moors and Hungarians [were] preferable to any other”. The blade profile is similar to some examples of the Indian tulwar, and expert opinion has suggested that this sword may have contributed to the design of the British sabre. The 1796 sabre had a pronounced curve, making the kind of slashing attacks used in cavalry actions decidedly easier. Even cavalrymen trained to use the thrust, as the French were, in the confusion of a melee often reverted to instinctive hacking, which the 1796 accommodated. Its blade, unlike other European sabres of the period, widened near the point. This affected balance, but made slashes far more brutal; its action in the cut has been compared to a modern bacon slicer. It is said that this vicious design prompted unofficial complaints from French officers, but this is unconfirmed. The blade of the light cavalry sabre was from 32.5 to 33 inches in length and had a single broad fuller on each side. The sabre was lighter and easier to use than its heavy cavalry counterpart, the pattern 1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword, which had a less ‘scientific’ design. The hilt was of the simple ‘stirrup’ form with a single knucklebow, so as to be free of unnecessary weight; the intention of this was to make the sabre usable by all cavalrymen, not solely the largest and strongest. In common with the contemporary heavy cavalry sword, the iron backpiece of the grip had ears which were riveted through the tang of the blade to give the hilt and blade a very secure connection.
Officers carried fighting swords very similar in form to those of the trooper version, though they tended to be lighter in weight and show evidence of higher levels of finish and workmanship. Officers stationed in India sometimes had the hilts and scabbards of their swords silvered as a protection against the high humidity of the Monsoon season. Unlike the officers of the heavy cavalry, light cavalry officers did not have a pattern dress sword. As a result of this there were many swords made which copied elements of the 1796 pattern design but incorporated a high degree of decoration, such as blue and gilt or frost-etched blades, and gilt hilts. At their most showy, sabres with ivory grips and lion’s-head pommels are not unknown. These swords were obviously primarily intended for dress rather than battle.
The mounted swordsmanship training of the British emphasised the cut, at the face for maiming or killing, or at the arms to disable. This left masses of mutilated or disabled troops; the French, in contrast, favoured the thrust, which gave cleaner kills.
The blade is remembered today as one of the best of its time and has been described as the finest cutting sword ever manufactured in quantity. Outside of the cavalry swords with an identical hilt, but a lighter and shorter blade, were adopted as the officer’s sword in the famous 95th Rifles, other light infantry regiments and the “flank” companies of line regiments. It was also copied by the Prussians; indeed, some Imperial German troops were equipped with almost identical swords into the First World War. The Americans also adopted a pattern which was directly influenced by the British sword.