Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Napoleonic Era Light Cavalry Officer's Sword

Last weekend,  a friend gave me a tip about some swords that she saw at an estate sale.  Typically, estate sales have not yielded many antique arms for me.  When, infrequently, antique guns and swords have been included in an estate sale, the specimens are usually not as described.  Face it, most of the companies that manage estate sales do not have workers who specialize in antique arms.  Often, when there are antique arms included in an estate, they are sent off with dealers or placed in specialty auctions for sale.  So, when my friend told me about three swords that she saw, I was a bit of a Doubting Thomas. 

Curiosity got the best if me.  My friend gave the number to the sale location and I called to inquire about the swords. Naturally, the person with whom I spoke knew nothing about swords.   I was told that that the swords were all from the Civil War. I asked some rudimentary questions and gave my thoughts on what I thought they were.  

The first sounded like an 1860 staff and field officer's sword. Nope.  Not interested in that one as it's a dress swords.  I don't like dress swords. The second sounded like a run of the mill 1840 heavy cavalry sword. Not really interested in it for my collection, but maybe for resale if the price is right.  The gentleman really could not describe the third one. He said that it was "fancy" and that the blade had some scrollwork.   I asked for pictures  and he agreed to send them. I asked the price. He wanted the same price for each sword, which per sword was not shockingly high or low. The asking price seemed to be good, but the gentleman said the magic words, "we are negotiable."   My interest level increased. 

While all this was taking place, I was at a craft show helping my wife with her booth. I was on the other side of town from the sale and needed to pick up our daughter from dance practice soon.  I decided to take a chance and go to the estate sale.  I picked up my daughter and informed her that we needed to run a quick errand.

I received pictures of the swords, but they didn't really tell me much.  Arriving at the sale, I asked my daughter to stay in the car. "This won't take long," I said. 

I went in and immediately found the gentleman who sent me the photos.  I was right about one sword  -- a US 1840. No makers marks, but it had its
scabbard.   If I could get it for the right price, I would buy it for resale.  The next was not an 1860 staff and field, but rather an 1840 NCO's sword. It lacked its scabbard, but was marked to a good maker. It was also overpriced, very overpriced, and I had just purchased another example during my recent trip to Chickamauga National Battlefield. Hence, my interest in the sword was negligible.   The third sword was clearly not of the Civil War vintage -- from an earlier era and I was very interested.  

I made an offer for all three -  a lowball price.  My salesman told me that he had to check with the manager.  He returned with a rather unfriendly looking woman who said "I'm not dealing today. You can come back tomorrow."   I told her that I was not coming back tomorrow. She had a cash offer and should consider it.  She said again, "I'm not dealing today.  You can submit a bid and we will consider it tomorrow."   "Nope," I said, "I'm not coming back down here tomorrow."  She was unrelenting, so I told her "oh, well," and asked that she please not offer the third sword as Civil War, because the description is blatantly untrue.  As I walked off,  the gentleman apologized to me and urged me to make an offer.  It was me this time that was unrelenting.   

I walked outside, got half way across the street and turned around.  I wanted the third sword. I walked back in and paid the asking price for it. I passed on the others. 

So what did I buy?   I'm not exactly sure.  I know that it dates from anywhere between 1790 and 1830 based upon the style of the hilt and the etching.  Beyond that, I don't know what it is, but I like it. 

The hilt is strongly French influenced. Based the shape of the hilt, lightness of the blade and the fact that it is etched, this is a light cavalry officer's sword. 

As I said, the etching dates the sword to the late 18th to early 19th centuries.   Blades of that time period are often found hand etched with flowers, stands of arms and banners.  The blade of my sword was at one time blued and the etching gold filled.  With it's gleaming brass hilt
and vibrant blue and gilt blade, it must have been something to behold. 

From where was the officer who carried this sword from?  I've seen the same etching hundreds of times on blades from Solingen.  The German cutlers in Solingen cranked out thousands if blades for export in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Germans sold to everyone. Even officers of the Napoleonic super powers, England and France, carried Solingen blades.  The etching style, being common, doesn't answer the question.  

My sword certainly resembles the French First Empire An IX light cavalry sword and it's russian counterpart.  It hasna three branch guard, a pronounced, curled  down quillion and diamond shaped languets (protrusions from the guard over the blade the purpose if which I have heard ranges from securing the sword in the scabbard to trapping and breaking opponents' blades).  

It's not exactly the same though.  My swords pommel is different.  In fact, the pommel looks British to me - like the 1821 light cavalry sabre. 

Maybe it's a Bavarian cheveaux-leger sabre, also known as the Rumsford sabre. 

Again, it's just not exactly the same. The Bavarian sword's hilt is more box shaped and, as with the French/Russian swords, the pommel is different. 

What makes identifying mybsword to a particular pattern and nation more difficult is its status as an Ifficer's sword.  Officers had lead way to individualize their edged weapons.  It could me any if the above -- stylized by the particular officer. 

So, for right now this is a Napoleonic era continental light cavalry officer's sword.  I can live with that.  At least until I get some more information.