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Mark Kalina





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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 12:41 pm    Post subject: cutting potential of the US 1860 Light Cavalry saber?         Reply with quote

Does anyone have any notion of how well a properly sharpened US 1860 light cavalry saber could cut?

I've read several accounts of this saber's poor cutting ability in battle in the American Civil War, but I wonder if this was a matter of the blades not being properly sharpened, or if the blade shape and geometry was unsuitable for good cutting performance?

If anyone has experience test-cutting with this sort of saber, or has read anything that might give an answer, I'd be grateful to hear it.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Please list the accounts you have read and the contexts of the statements.

Sharpened well, they did what was expected of them. Numbers of bladed wounds and casualties were negligible compared to other wholesale slaughter from munitions and disease.

FWIW, despite general acceptance, there was/is no such designation as the 1860. There was the m1840 and the light version requested. Nowhere in any ordnance paperwork will you find the term 1860 or m1860. Both US models were derived of the French swords, so it is always a bit amusing to me when the subjects about the American swords somehow tend to write of them as less or more than swords. In response to a request by the ordnance board for a lighter version of the m1840, Ames delivered the first light version examples in 1858.

American production of the swords showed the bulk of them shipping blunt, with final sharpening left to the discretion of the commanding officers. Some felt sharpened swords to be ungentlemanly.

To your original question;

"Does anyone have any notion of how well a properly sharpened US 1860 light cavalry saber could cut?"

I have to ask in return; "compared to what?"

Before we write them off, keep in mind a service tenure of half a century and more for the US and the French 1822 still being worn. As far as effectiveness of the parent form in the French 1822, Prussia was still recycling captured French 1822 blades into the 20t century.

The lighter US sword is narrower and straighter than the m1840 without being a great deal lighter. Both are heavier than the predecessor m1833 and earlier Starr contract swords.

Soooooo.......compared to what?

Cheers

GC
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Mark Kalina





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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 6:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The account that stands out in my memory is a comment attributed to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who noted that he was struck by blows from a Union Cavalryman, but was not badly hurt, and speculated that if the Union man had used the point, he (Forrest) would have been badly injured or killed.

(I cannot recall precisely where I read this, though. It may have been in a survey of Civil War cavalry actions called The Last Cavaliers, by Samuel Carter III, but I'm not sure.)

As for "compared to what" I suppose I mean compared to earlier cavalry sabers. I'd expect that it did not cut as well as, say, the British 1796 Light Cavalry. But I do wonder how it compared to, say, the 1840 "heavy" saber, or to the French anXI... or to the French 1822, for that matter? (And for that matter, if you know, how close a copy of the French 1822 was the American m1840?)

I had not known that the "1860" was not an official designation, but that does make some things more clear; I had seen pictures that described the weapon as originating in 1858, and that had confused me, so thanks for clearing that up for me.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Please list the accounts you have read and the contexts of the statements.

Sharpened well, they did what was expected of them. Numbers of bladed wounds and casualties were negligible compared to other wholesale slaughter from munitions and disease.

FWIW, despite general acceptance, there was/is no such designation as the 1860. There was the m1840 and the light version requested. Nowhere in any ordnance paperwork will you find the term 1860 or m1860. Both US models were derived of the French swords, so it is always a bit amusing to me when the subjects about the American swords somehow tend to write of them as less or more than swords. In response to a request by the ordnance board for a lighter version of the m1840, Ames delivered the first light version examples in 1858.

American production of the swords showed the bulk of them shipping blunt, with final sharpening left to the discretion of the commanding officers. Some felt sharpened swords to be ungentlemanly.

To your original question;

"Does anyone have any notion of how well a properly sharpened US 1860 light cavalry saber could cut?"

I have to ask in return; "compared to what?"

Before we write them off, keep in mind a service tenure of half a century and more for the US and the French 1822 still being worn. As far as effectiveness of the parent form in the French 1822, Prussia was still recycling captured French 1822 blades into the 20t century.

The lighter US sword is narrower and straighter than the m1840 without being a great deal lighter. Both are heavier than the predecessor m1833 and earlier Starr contract swords.

Soooooo.......compared to what?

Cheers

GC

Ungentlemanly to sharpen up a sword??!! What, they though bashing blood out of their enemy to somehow be more refined. I don't get the logic at all in that sentiment.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I haven't used the model you specified but I am a classically trained sabreur and I have used an Italian m1888 artillery saber, which has a lighter quilback blade, to cut tatami omote. I had no trouble cutting a single mat with a molinet from the elbow, my teacher did it on his first try(never cut tatami before) with a small molinet from the wrist. You could definitely lop off somebody's hand or head with such a thing. OTOH a wool greatcoat provides a surprising amount of protection against a cut so a thrust is more likely to pierce it. You'll notice that many bayonets from the era when such coats were commonly worn took the form of spikes rather than blades with cutting edges, possibly for that reason.
Historical fencing on Florida's Treasure Coast!
www.tcfencers.com
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 8:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Kalina wrote:
The account that stands out in my memory is a comment attributed to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who noted that he was struck by blows from a Union Cavalryman, but was not badly hurt, and speculated that if the Union man had used the point, he (Forrest) would have been badly injured or killed.

How do we know what sword the trooper was using, if it was sharp, etc, etc? When did this occur? The m1840 was by far more common in the early years of the war, Also keep in mind that thrusting was almost always considered a better tactic on horseback in a charge. In melee, we go back to cut vs thrust debates.
Quote:

As for "compared to what" I suppose I mean compared to earlier cavalry sabers. I'd expect that it did not cut as well as, say, the British 1796 Light Cavalry. But I do wonder how it compared to, say, the 1840 "heavy" saber, or to the French anXI... or to the French 1822, for that matter? (And for that matter, if you know, how close a copy of the French 1822 was the American m1840?)

Throughout history and more recently with the advent of the internet, we are faced with some realities and endless threads on what the best swords are. If the British 1796 light cavalry sword was determined to be the best, why was it replaced?

In looking at the history of the US m1840, you will see that the US ordnance board selected the French pattern but as to be supplied by S&K in Solingen. The Ames then copied from the Solingen examples. The French light 1822 (our 1840) had better mass distribution than either the Solingen or US manufacture. Does that make them horrible? No, just different. A bigger problem was training as many as carried them.

What was the ultimate sabre? Probably those best weilded.

Cheers

GC


Last edited by Glen A Cleeton on Sat 04 Feb, 2017 8:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2017 8:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

Ungentlemanly to sharpen up a sword??!! What, they though bashing blood out of their enemy to somehow be more refined. I don't get the logic at all in that sentiment.

http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...manly-quot
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Mark Kalina





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PostPosted: Sun 05 Feb, 2017 6:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen,

As to the 1796 LC, my understanding is that it was replaced because the British 1821 pattern was better at the thrust.

As for "ultimate sabers" I agree with you that there's not really any such thing. My curiosity was about the cutting capability specifically, rather than the trickier and more slippery question of "what the best sword/saber?"

But your point about not knowing what sort of sword the trooper was using is a really good one. I had assumed it was an "1860" sort, but there's no reason, now that I think of it, to make that assumption.

I had, though, heard about how some regiments deliberately kept their sabers dull. I doesn't sound too sensible to me, but I imagine that it made sense to the cavalry officers of that time and place; people aren't always rational in a way that makes sense 150 years later. (Though I also recall hearing that some Russian cavalry officers in the mid 19th century favored dull-edged swords, to force their men to thrust.)

At any rate, thanks for the replies. Very informative.
(Also, thanks to Mike Ruhala for his reply. I looked up the Italian m1888 artillery saber, and it does help put things in context.)
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Feb, 2017 11:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Kalina wrote:
I had, though, heard about how some regiments deliberately kept their sabers dull. I doesn't sound too sensible to me, but I imagine that it made sense to the cavalry officers of that time and place; people aren't always rational in a way that makes sense 150 years later.


I'm far from an expert on 19th century military sword, but I suspect this may have been due to safety concerns. By the time of the American Civil War, the pistol and carbine were replacing the sword as primary cavalry arms. Swords were used so little that field commanders may have felt it was better to leave then dull, rather than having sharps in the hands of poorly trained troops. By the Indian wars the sabre was routinely left in garrison when troops deployed. In his memoirs, George Custer mentioned the only time he ever used his sabre was once using it as a post to tie his horse to.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Mon 06 Feb, 2017 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark, I had hoped to convey the factors of training and ability, as well as having shown a difference between the French and other examples of the basic form. Your initial thoughts indicated that what you read is that the sabres were lacking in performance.

I guess I have to go back to my first statement in that well sharpened, they did the job they were meant for. One could do a test removing human activity and show that in a given context, the broader and thinner sabres are better cutters but to what end? Add momentum of a galloping horse. How many variables should we consider? Clothing? An added motion from the rider? A person familiar with the 1796 might find at first the later sword ungainly. It becomes a matter of subjectivity.

We do know that these later swords were a little bit heavier. With that, there is the potential the heavier, longer and stiffer blade might be the better cutter (in a practiced hand).

Cheers

GC

Patrick. Yes, Custer (heading for the end) had ordered the sabers to be packed and sent back to the fort, as pistols and carbines should rule the day.

In looking at such as the Battle of Centralia, mounted Confedrates overran dismounted federals with only their pistols at hand.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Feb, 2017 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Kalina wrote:
As to the 1796 LC, my understanding is that it was replaced because the British 1821 pattern was better at the thrust.


... and better hand protection, and it looked more French (the last one noted in Robson, Swords of the British Army).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Apr, 2017 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Kalina wrote:
I had, though, heard about how some regiments deliberately kept their sabers dull. I doesn't sound too sensible to me, but I imagine that it made sense to the cavalry officers of that time and place; people aren't always rational in a way that makes sense 150 years later. (Though I also recall hearing that some Russian cavalry officers in the mid 19th century favored dull-edged swords, to force their men to thrust.)


In the Russian case, it might have had something to do with the fact that they used their cavalry very extensively in internal security actions against rioters, demonstrators, and unruly crowds. Having blunt swords might have made it easier for them to do this job without having to resort to beating civilians with the flat (which would have required some adaptation by men who had been taught to strike with the edge during training).
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