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Thread: Possible War of 1812 Sword "Honneur et Patrie"

  1. #1

    Possible War of 1812 Sword "Honneur et Patrie"

    As a young child I was given a family heirloom to look after. I was told that it was the sword of Captain John Skelton, my 4th great-grandfather (from Pennsylvania) who had fought in the War of 1812. Unfortunately anyone who might have known more about the history of the sword has passed away. I have been able to trace my ancestry to John and beyond (on Ancestry.com), but now I would like to find out more about the sword itself.

    The sword has an elaborate scabbard and its blade contains the phrase "Honneur et Patrie."

    Extensive photographs of the sword's details are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brad-da...7629840449346/

    Hoping someone might have some insight into this heirloom.

    Many thanks!
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  2. #2
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    Hi Darren

    Welcome To Sword Forum International

    The sword appears to be a French sabre of honor from the Napoleon's first empire. I am not well versed on these and I could easily be wrong in pointing it to the Infantry type but here is a lead to a start.
    http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...infarmes1.html

    Although the pictures are kind of dark, they show detail enough that I would think it would have been presented to a superior officer type, rather than lesser rank presentations.

    I can suggest that you take another set of pictures that show fewer bits and pieces of elements but better overall.. Straight on profile shots of the sword beside the scabbard, shots of the entire hilt from the pommel to blade (both sides). A lot of the detail will show better in good light, such as light overcast skies.

    As I say, I am not at all well versed on these but it appears to be as I describe and certainly could have been carried in the War of 1812 but the link to how it was acquire by the (then) owner still reads as a mystery. So, I would think there is still some research to do in order to truly link it to the family but it is still a great sword and what appears to be fairly ok and tended well over the years. Brighter pictures might say a lot more.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; iirc, Napoleon himself had such a sabre so I would think at least general officer level

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    Although the pictures are kind of dark, they show detail enough that I would think it would have been presented to a superior officer type, rather than lesser rank presentations.

    Hotspur; iirc, Napoleon himself had such a sabre so I would think at least general officer level
    I beg to differ. Though the basic style is as stated, the quality of the casting/chasing of the brass hilt components are of a relatively low level, common when sword cutlers were widely copying various styles for less-endowed customers. ( Like all the FAKE "Mameluke" sabres sold then to give the impression the owner had taken part in the "romantic" Egyptian Campaign! ) Since this was NOT a regulation pattern, it was likewise fair game for copying. For example, among my epees is a low-grade "general officer's" Mlle 1816 that has a poorly cast drum and crossed trumpets on the single counterguard; I imagine it was actually a later-period ( 1820's - 1830's ) MUSICIANS epee. Since virtually all 1812-period officers' swords and sabers were imported, mainly from England or France, this is very possibly one of them; the inscription is not unusual on imports, either, since everything French was all the rage!

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Neel View Post
    I beg to differ. Though the basic style is as stated, the quality of the casting/chasing of the brass hilt components are of a relatively low level, common when sword cutlers were widely copying various styles for less-endowed customers. ( Like all the FAKE "Mameluke" sabres sold then to give the impression the owner had taken part in the "romantic" Egyptian Campaign! ) Since this was NOT a regulation pattern, it was likewise fair game for copying. For example, among my epees is a low-grade "general officer's" Mlle 1816 that has a poorly cast drum and crossed trumpets on the single counterguard; I imagine it was actually a later-period ( 1820's - 1830's ) MUSICIANS epee. Since virtually all 1812-period officers' swords and sabers were imported, mainly from England or France, this is very possibly one of them; the inscription is not unusual on imports, either, since everything French was all the rage!
    As I say, I am not at all well versed on these but it appears to be as I describe

    How about this one James? Thoughts?
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    Glen,

    This LOOKS like some imposition made up of unrelated parts; such a piece is still VERY plausible! I had a grenadiere/legere officer's short sabre with a similar pommel but on a forward-canted grip and curved blade; obviously this knucklebow looks like it belongs on a period eaglehead or British sword. This "shell"-type counterguard was coming into vogue around the end of the Empire or beginning of the Restoration ca. 1815, but they USUALLY have political ( eagles, fleur-de-lis, crowns, etc. ) or branch designations ( crossed cannon, breastplates, etc. ). I have a similar "mystery" piece: it appears to be a dragoon officer's sabre ( and for some reason, French dragoons often have "seashell" motifs worked into their hilts ), with a large clamshell counterguard which is totally BLANK. The Christian Airies plates of French swords show a virtually identical hilt, but with Royallist crossed flags, fleur-de-lis, etc. on the "shell" and an attribution to a regiment de Monsoiur. ( That was a designation of Louis XVIII's detested younger brother Charles who later ruled as Charles X, the last Bourbon, overthrown in the Revolution of 1830, made memorable by Les Miserables! ) My theory on my OWN sword is that it has no political designation because it may date ca. 1815 when the political climate was unstable following Napoleon's brief return during the Hundred Days.

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    Thanks James

    One thought was this one was probably meant as an infantry dress type. The three sided blade is a little shorter than it once was. In some other discussions on French oddity, I had at one time considered this next one an epee de ville and the consensus was that it was probably a naval connection.

    One batch of book pages had been shared at one point that show some of these weird first empire patterns. I don't recall the text title of the top of my head but could retrace to the discussion elsewhere.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; I seem to get some strange ones from time to time
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    Glen,

    If I'm "preaching to the choir", please excuse me! After looking at quite a few French swords, sabres, and epees over the years, I think that with the exception of purely regulation pieces there is more diversity than conformity to detail in them, as if the cutlers were vying to create "unique" designs. I think the ones illustrated in your planche should be viewed as "typical examples" of the period rather than anything like absolute "models" or designs. As such, yours above is probably just a la mode l'anglais and could've been purchased for wear by any officer looking for a dress epee, though the winged horse/sea serpent certainly suggests naval use. Since after Copenhagen, the Nile, and Trafalgar England continued to "rule the seas", an English style would appeal, even if as backhanded tribute, not only to French midshipmen but to those of France's allies as well.

    Edit: I enjoyed looking at the examples in the plate; I have several similar examples, particularly the more common epees a'la Francaise, both Revolution and Empire, plus four late-Empire/Restoration epees de cour, but my favorites are the completely regulation Mlle An XII for generals and another for officers of the General Staff and two Mlle 1817 for Generaux d'Brigade, both Louis-Phillippe and 2d Empire.
    Last edited by James Neel; 05-27-2012 at 09:20 AM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    Hi Darren

    Welcome To Sword Forum International

    The sword appears to be a French sabre of honor from the Napoleon's first empire. I am not well versed on these and I could easily be wrong in pointing it to the Infantry type but here is a lead to a start.
    http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...infarmes1.html
    [/i]


    I really strongly doubt this is a sabre d´honneur. The sabres d´honneur awarded prior the creation of the legion d´honneur are a completly different pattern!
    The pattern for officers sabre d´honneur looks like this and they are engraved with the name of the owner:
    http://www.bertrand-malvaux.fr/p/567...-consulat.html

    The words "honneur et patrie" are quite common as motto on french blades of that time.

    best regards
    Peter
    Last edited by Peter Gr.; 05-28-2012 at 06:10 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Gr. View Post
    I really strongly doubt this is a sabre d´honneur. The sabres d´honneur awarded prior the creation of the legion d´honneur are a completly different pattern!
    The pattern for officers sabre d´honneur looks like this and they are engraved with the name of the owner:
    http://www.bertrand-malvaux.fr/p/567...-consulat.html

    The words "honneur et patrie" are quite common as motto on french blades of that time.

    best regards
    Peter
    Hi Peter

    Great point about the presentation swords being marked to a recipient but aren't there a number of patterns and arms (not just swords) associated with this era and presentations? I am surely the first to admit I know very little about them and pointed to a page that describes some of the varied types..

    As the original poster has not returned, I would still look forward to clearer pictures of the overall and any other marks (such as poincons) that might be revealed. In reviewing the pictures so far, I see a couple of other things that puzzle me but my own wonders are certainly nothing new and I appreciate any feedback at all, as I am sure the original poster does. Little things like the flower design in the pommel.

    Considering the tenure expressed by many in collecting swords and continental forms especially, I am truly not much further along than many babes in the woods as far as connecting the dots for my own acquisitions and findings. A good many later turn up in one book or another I have on my own shelves, while threads I have started here regarding them go somewhat unanswered. I am sure many are traveling rather obscure paths on their own and sometimes overlooking the obvious. I am lucky if I can ever truly get my mind around information regarding a few brief years of early American sword import and manufacturing.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; I often find that finding a matching pair or even distinct similarities amongst a group can sometimes tie together more than a single example to a broader source and explanation
    Last edited by Glen C.; 05-28-2012 at 11:19 AM.

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    Armes d'Honneur were awarded to deserving, often ENLISTED, soldiers ( and sailors ) by the Revolutionary government which had abolished orders and distinctions related to the monarchy. They were intended to be carried in actual service afterwards, both for practical use as well as badges of distinction, so included: sabres, sabre-briquets, muskets, and musketoons. In my 1890 translation, The Narrative of Captain Coignet ( Soldier of the Empire ) 1776 - 1850, the author relates how he intended in his very first battle ( Marengo, 1800 ) to "win a golden gun". ( He was a common line infantryman ) He did so by singlehandedly charging an Austrian cannon and bayonetting its crew, then fiercely "protecting" it so no one else could claim the distinction.

    Muskets and cavalry musketoons had brass furniture ( barrel bands, buttplates, trigger guards, and nosecap ) and a large gilt brass shield-shaped plate inset in the right of the stock with the reciepient's name, place, and date he earned it, hence a "golden gun". Sabres and sabre-briquets were of superior quality and finish, made only in the shops at Versailles ( NOT Klingenthal ), probably by Boutet, and were engraved on the top mounts with the same information. ( I forget if there were BOTH heavy and light models of sabre, but think there were. ) As you can see, these superficially resembled the regular issue arms. The practice came to an end with the Empire and Napoleon's 1804 creation of the Legion of Honor, intended as a bourgeois replacement of the Royal orders of Nobility. As the holder of a "golden gun" and by then a member of the Consular ( soon to be renamed Imperial ) Grenadier Guard, Coignet says he was the first soldier decorated by the Emperor with the medal of the new order!
    Last edited by James Neel; 05-28-2012 at 03:06 PM. Reason: sp.

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