Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > The most recent two-handed swords Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
George Ashwell




Location: UK
Joined: 02 May 2014

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 3:58 am    Post subject: The most recent two-handed swords         Reply with quote

In Europe, when exactly did two-handed swords fall out of use, and which types of swords were they? I'm referring to both swords which could only be wielded in two hands (e.g. "true" two-handers such as the German zweihander) as well as swords which could held used in one hand, but were intended for two-handed use (such as the longsword and some "messer" swords). What were the last European swords to be wielded in both hands?
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,190

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 6:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Donald Lupton mentioned Swiss two-handed swords in his 1642 treatise against the pike. (He considered pikes ill-suited for warfare dominated by gunpowder weapons.) I don't know much beyond that as my research focuses on the 16th century and earlier.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Philip Melhop




Location: Wokingham, Berkshire, UK
Joined: 24 May 2008

Posts: 131

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe some two handed swords were carried during the 1745 Jacobite Rising that ended at Culloden. I say carried, it is unclear if they were actually used.
View user's profile Send private message
Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to some info in this thread, they remained in service for naval use at least well into 17th century.
There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Vincent C




Location: Northern VA
Joined: 24 Aug 2009

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The last works I know of are two from 1711, Carlo Giuseppe Colombani and Giuseppe Alessandro.
Honor, compassion, knowledge.
View user's profile Send private message
Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 428

PostPosted: Sat 03 May, 2014 11:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The most recent instance I remember, short of that guy they found in afghanistan trying to kill bin laden (he had a 2 handed sword with him for some reason, but the crazed are... well crazed) would be "The American Hercules" Peter francisco

http://www.historynet.com/peter-francisco-ame...r-hero.htm

below is a probably horrible recreation of the massive sword george washington commissioned for the American mountain, which at the Battle of Guilford Court House he used to decapitate a british regular from horseback.

View user's profile Send private message
George Ashwell




Location: UK
Joined: 02 May 2014

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2014 3:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom King wrote:
The most recent instance I remember, short of that guy they found in afghanistan trying to kill bin laden (he had a 2 handed sword with him for some reason, but the crazed are... well crazed) would be "The American Hercules" Peter francisco

http://www.historynet.com/peter-francisco-ame...r-hero.htm

below is a probably horrible recreation of the massive sword george washington commissioned for the American mountain, which at the Battle of Guilford Court House he used to decapitate a british regular from horseback.



Interesting! I'd never even heard accounts of cavalry using two-handed swords on horseback before - I'd assumed no one would bother when a sabre would do the job. Who's the guy wanting to kill Bin Laden who had a two-handed sword with him?
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,216

PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2014 3:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Melhop wrote:
I believe some two handed swords were carried during the 1745 Jacobite Rising that ended at Culloden. I say carried, it is unclear if they were actually used.


The last evidence of actual use of these swords dates to Killiecrankie in 1689. There is a tradition that some two-handers were carried during "the '45" but I know of no documentation of their actual use or even of their presence. The idea may come from mention of two handed swords in Scottish Swords from the Battlefield at Culloden by Lord Archibald Campbell. Campbell does discuss two-handers but does not state they were used at Culloden or elsewhere. He also discusses a lot of mythology, including the belief, during Campbell's time at least, that Andrea Ferara had actually worked at Banff. My personal belief is that most two-handers had, by that time, been cut down in to smaller swords or were hanging on castle walls around Scotland.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message
Neil Melville




Location: Scotland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009

Posts: 183

PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2014 4:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
The last evidence of actual use of these swords dates to Killiecrankie in 1689 [quote].

I have been doing some research on the history of 2-handed swords and am aware of the alleged use of such in the Jacobite rebellions. I haven't found any evidence for their use even at Killiecrankie, so I would be very grateful, Lin, if you could refer me to your evidence. General Mackay's memoirs describe Highlanders fighting typically with broad sword and targe, and when the term 'claymore' is used it clearly refers to the basket-hilt broad sword. References to 2-handers in 1679 and 1716 are to their being surrendered under the Disarming Acts, not to their use in battle. So I would be most interested in any evidence of battle/fighting use after c.1650. Thanks.
Neil

N Melville
View user's profile Send private message
Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 428

PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2014 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

George Ashwell wrote:
Interesting! I'd never even heard accounts of cavalry using two-handed swords on horseback before - I'd assumed no one would bother when a sabre would do the job. Who's the guy wanting to kill Bin Laden who had a two-handed sword with him?


He allegedly made a normal cavalry saber look like toy while wielding it. The man was probably close to 7 feet tall at the least.

as to the more "recent" case
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142...0143301092
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,216

PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2014 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Neil Melville"]Lin Robinson wrote:
The last evidence of actual use of these swords dates to Killiecrankie in 1689
Quote:
.

I have been doing some research on the history of 2-handed swords and am aware of the alleged use of such in the Jacobite rebellions. I haven't found any evidence for their use even at Killiecrankie, so I would be very grateful, Lin, if you could refer me to your evidence. General Mackay's memoirs describe Highlanders fighting typically with broad sword and targe, and when the term 'claymore' is used it clearly refers to the basket-hilt broad sword. References to 2-handers in 1679 and 1716 are to their being surrendered under the Disarming Acts, not to their use in battle. So I would be most interested in any evidence of battle/fighting use after c.1650. Thanks.
Neil


Neil...

The evidence of the use of the two-handed sword at Killiecrankie has to be considered anecdotal but some does appear in Rob Roy MacGregor, His Life and Times by W. H. Murray. This is a highly readable book which I recommend, if you have not seen it or read it already. In the chapter on Rob's participation at Killiecrankie is a quote which has as its source, an officer in the army (the author) Memoirs of The Lord Viscount Dundee, from 1714. That can probably be considered as a primary source on the subject. The quote is:

(Speaking of the assault by Dundee's Highlanders) ..."Mackay's men 'were cut down through the skull and neck to the breasts, others had skulls cut off above the ears like nightcaps; some had bodies and cross belts cut through at a blow; pikes and small swords were cut like willows.'"

Not knowing who wrote this, Mackay perhaps, I cannot say that this is a verbatim quote and I have seen these statements before in various works, worded slightly differently.

The above is a fairly well-known quote which you have seen before based on your comments. There is also in this work, a sentence just prior to the above quote which says, "Donald Glas (Macgregor), Alasdair Dubh (MacDonald) of Glengarry, and several others who wielded the two-handed claymore (sic) - its last appearance on a battlefield - did terrible execution." This comes from History of Highland Dress, by John Telfer Dunbar, 1962. This certainly is not a primary source and I would be curious, if I had a copy of this book, to see where Mr. Dunbar got his information. Perhaps a forumite does have a copy and can enlighten us.

The near-contemporary statements regarding the wounds which Mackay's casualties suffered in the battle, to me a least, indicate the presence of something a bit heavier than the basket-hilt claymore although as the owner of several of those things I can appreciate their capabilities as well. For a sword to cut a man's head open cleanly above the ears or to strike from the crown clear through to the breast there has to be considerable force behind the blow a lot of which must come from the mass of the blade. It just seems to me that if there were two-handers on the field that this is a description of their work. We know that Dundee's army was not well-equipped with firearms so there is a supportable case for his troops bringing whatever weapons they could find. That could well have included two-handed swords which were probably still plentiful at that time.

The use of "claymore" to describe the two-hander has been discussed on this forum numerous times and there is very little likelihood that the sword was ever referred to in that manner during its heyday. I used to explain the difference to anyone who asked at a Highland gathering but have mostly given up since the word has been so firmly tied to the two-hander by the media.

Any way, I hope this does provide some support, no matter how nebulous, for the idea that a few two-handers were probably in use as late as Killiecrankie. Certainly, if there, they were in the hands of a very few.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message
Neil Melville




Location: Scotland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009

Posts: 183

PostPosted: Tue 06 May, 2014 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Lin, many thanks for for your speedy and detailed reply. I didn't know of the 'Officer in the Army' memoirs of Dundee, so that description is good material. Dunbar's book I know of but don't possess, but I should be able to find it in the library.
If I do, and if he gives his source, I'll let you know. I tend to agree with your inference about such savage wounds being inflicted by something more massive than a basket-hilt broadsword. I have Stevenson's 'Life of Rob Roy', but he is doubtful whether RR was even present at Killiecrankie, let alone what size of sword he was wielding.
But thanks again - your info is most useful.
Neil

N Melville
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,216

PostPosted: Wed 07 May, 2014 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neil Melville wrote:
I have Stevenson's 'Life of Rob Roy', but he is doubtful whether RR was even present at Killiecrankie, let alone what size of sword he was wielding.
Neil


Donald Glas Macgregor was Rob's father, a chieftain of the Clan Gregor. Rob was 18 at the time of Kiliecrankie and given the Highland custom of men fighting in family groups, it is likely that he was there. Murray does say that he was, along with his brother Duncan and other close relatives but does not cite a specific reference. There is also no mention of what Rob might have been carrying as weapons. The battle of Sheriffmuir, in 1715 was another matter as Rob and company showed up but only as spectators, for which he received some criticism from the Jacobites. Interestingly, at Glenshiel in 1718, a few Macgregors were present but not Rob, although the government went after him as if he was leading the troops. I would say that he was smart to stay out of the latter two fights.

I realize you know this Neil, but for the benefit of those forum members who don't, I thought I would mention it.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,216

PostPosted: Wed 07 May, 2014 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom King wrote:
George Ashwell wrote:
Interesting! I'd never even heard accounts of cavalry using two-handed swords on horseback before - I'd assumed no one would bother when a sabre would do the job. Who's the guy wanting to kill Bin Laden who had a two-handed sword with him?


He allegedly made a normal cavalry saber look like toy while wielding it. The man was probably close to 7 feet tall at the least.

as to the more "recent" case
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142...0143301092


There is so much out there about Peter Francisco that a careful check of records and memoirs does not support that I think we can discard the notion that he carried a two-handed sword on horseback. The story that George Washington had a sword of any kind made for Francisco also seems to be legend. A lot of what is purported about this man comes from his own recollections which were embellished - by him as well as others - until it seemed like he won the Revolution single-handedly. That he was a big man and a heck of a good fighter is without dispute. But then there were a lot of others with the same attributes who did not get quite as much press.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > The most recent two-handed swords
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum