Monday, March 17, 2014

A Non-regulation Staff and Field Officer's Sword

I like non-regulation civil war swords.  I had one of these years ago. It was in bad shape and some fool had spray painted it bronze.  I cleaned the paint off the best that I could, but it was still in bad shape. 

I came across another example offered in an online auction.  I thought about it for a long while, but in the end I couldn't resist. 

The nineteenth century US military was no different than any other nation.  Pattern weapons were the norm, but officers still deviated from the patterns.  Foot officers (captain and below) were required to carry the 1850 foot sword. 

1850 Foot Sword

Some, however, optioned for a more stylistic non-regulation pattern based upon the British pattern 1827 rifle officer's sword.  

British 1827

Instead of the stringed bugle (the symbol of light infantry, jaegers and riflemen), the sword marketed to US Civil War officers has an eagle incorporated into the guard. 

US Non-reg Foot Sword

Versions of this sword are also found with "US" above the eagle.  This sword is not uncommon and is popular with collectors.  A brass hilted version was also offered and is rather rare to find on the market today.  

Staff and field officers (major and higher) carried the longer 1850 staff and field sword or the absolutely useless 1860 staff and field sword. 

1850 Staff and Field

1860 Staff and Field

The 1850 staff and field features a more ornate hilt to denote the officer's elevated  rank. It is also longer than the foot officer's sword, because it's user was mounted on horseback.  The 1860 staff and field is pure decoration.   To me, it is useless to any officer that might have needed a sword for self-defense.  It was popular with Union generals.  I guess I'm not the only collector that doesn't like it. It is easily obtained on the market for a relatively low price.

The sword I purchased is identified in reference books as a non-regulation US cavalry officer's sword.  I think it is more likely a staff and field sword. The blade is just not long enough to be a cavalry sword.   

This sword was made by Clauberg of Solingen. Examples have been found stamped with the mark if the famous New York Jeweler Tiffany & Co.  Along with selling jewelry and fine glass, Tiffany also dabbled in the arms market as a military outfitter to Union officers. 

Clauberg Mark

The blade is nicely etched with ivy, scrollwork, stars and the important "US."

Without the US etching, the sword couldn't be linked to the United States or the Civil War.  The hilt is steel with a two branch guard and a steel backstrap reminiscent of the British 1821 cavalry sword. 

British 1821

The grip on the non-reg Clauberg is fishskin with one main strand of twisted copper wire flanked by two strands of thin steel wire. The sword was carried in a steel scabbard.  

I said at the start of this post that I like non-reg swords.  Part of the appeal to me is that collecting patterns gets to be a bit boring after a while.  I also like the mystic of why an officer would purchase a non-regulation sword. Was it less expensive?  Was he an individualist?  Did he feel more safe with the sturdy steel hilt of this sword as compared to the more ornate, but weaker brass hilt of the 1850 staff and field. Forget the 1860. The guy that carried this sword wouldn't have been interested in that daisy swatter.  Was this sword more fashionable and sold by a upscale retailer like Tiffany?  My sword doesn't bear the Tiffany mark, though.  Maybe this was just the last sword on the rack.  

For the collector, this sword is not commonly found.  When I made my purchase, I only found one other offered for sale online and two last auction sales. There may have been others, but certainly not many more. I also was unable to find any reproductions offered for sale, unlike the steel hilted foot sword which has been mass reproduced for reenactors.