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Thread: NJ Surcharged M1861 Naval Cutlass

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    NJ Surcharged M1861 Naval Cutlass

    Another question re the M1861 Naval cutlass: I have seen at least 10 of these cutlasses surcharged with an “N.J” stamped over the Ames name on the reverse ricasso. Most are on blades dated 1861 or 1862, but I have seen one surcharged 1864 blade. About half have “U.S.N./D.R./(year)” inspection marks, the others have only the year date. The serial numbers have ranged from 6M/857 to 20M/518 with no discernible grouping. This “N.J” marking presumably indicates use/ownership by New Jersey, and is identical to the “N.J” marks seen on a wide range of CW edged weapons and firearms. (See M1840 Horstmann Cavalry with “N.J” surcharge posted yesterday by Ron Goos in the M1840 Horstmann Cavalry thread.)

    My question is, for which units were these “N.J” surcharged cutlasses intended? Although many of the States had navies during the Revolutionary War, these were not continued into the 19th century – too expensive. Jefferson proposed establishing State naval militias consisting of able-bodied men whose normal occupations involved primarily maritime-related work, but the proposal was never adopted – again, too expensive. So if New Jersey did not have a Navy or Naval militia, why and for whom did they require cutlasses? Did New Jersey use these cutlasses in a similar manner as the 300 M1861 cutlasses produced for the Army in 1864? These Army cutlasses were issued Col. William A. Howard’s New York Volunteer Artillery Regiment’s “marine artillery” units manning gun boats used on the James River and other streams. (See Charles Pate’s excellent article “The Army Naval Cutlass and Howard’s Marine Artillery” in Man at Arms December 2014 issue for a detailed history.) If so, what units/where? If not, by whom and why were they used?

    Attached are photos are of my M1861 cutlass SN 13M/110 with NJ surcharge.

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  2. #2
    Hello Richard,

    I ran across an NJ surcharged M1861 cutlass for sale on the internet, and also wondered when the state of N.J. ever had a navy, particularly since I was born in N.J. and never heard of it.

    I dropped a line to Mr. Joseph Bilby a noted N.J. historian with whom I corresponded with in the past re: N.J. participation in the Civil War. He informed me that the state had a very honored and active naval militia that served the state and country well not only during the Civil War, but during both World Wars and after.

    If you Google up N.J. Naval Militia you'll be surprised at how much information pops up about it. It's worth looking into and a very surprising bit of naval history.

    Good luck,
    Ron Goos

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Goos View Post
    Hello Richard,

    I ran across an NJ surcharged M1861 cutlass for sale on the internet, and also wondered when the state of N.J. ever had a navy, particularly since I was born in N.J. and never heard of it.

    I dropped a line to Mr. Joseph Bilby a noted N.J. historian with whom I corresponded with in the past re: N.J. participation in the Civil War. He informed me that the state had a very honored and active naval militia that served the state and country well not only during the Civil War, but during both World Wars and after.

    If you Google up N.J. Naval Militia you'll be surprised at how much information pops up about it. It's worth looking into and a very surprising bit of naval history.

    Good luck,
    Ron Goos
    Ron,

    Thanks for the input. Based on your note, I again googled N.J. Naval Militia, but everything I found on line supported my previous understanding that the N.J. Naval Militia was founded in 1895. There is info on its service in the Spanish-American and both World Wars, however I could find nothing about New Jersey having a Naval Militia or other Naval entity during the Civil War. Did Mr Bilby provide any particulars about the N.J. Naval militia during the CW or mention any books or other reference where such info could be found? If I could find evidence of a NJ naval element active during the CW, it would resolve the question about N.J surcharged cutlasses. I'll keep looking.

    Dick

    P,S, I read Mr Bilby's write-up of NJ role in the CW which he did for the NJ Civil War 150th Committee. Unfortunately he didn't mention anything about a Naval Militia.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 03-31-2015 at 05:31 PM.

  4. #4
    Hello Dick,

    Since the NJNM was only formally organized as part of the NJ Militia in 1895, info and genuine stats. are to say at the least vague. If they existed during the Civil War their duty probably would have been coastal patrol and anti-smuggling activities, but not as a combat unit. Considering the vast amount of effort put into the sphere of the Civil War, a minor bit such as this could easily be lost to history.

    I've sent an inquiry off to the NJNM Foundation to see if they can shed light on the topic. I'll let you know what I get back.

    Good luck,
    Ron

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    Gentlemen, I don't know a thing about the NJ Naval Militia, but what about this simple explanation: when they were formally established in 1895, they were issued old surplus weapons from the Navy, including these cutlasses, and as such they were restamped. Not being a front-line unit, it seems sensible to me. It has happened everywhere, in any time.

    Juan J.
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    NO, NON

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    I think Juan is on to something with his reply. The Federal Government did supply State Militia units with arms, including edged weapons of all sorts. I have a Foot Artillery short sword with Mass (MS) property markings on the guard. So, the State of New Jersey could have requested these Naval Cutlass at any time and they would have been supplied from Federal stores upon approval of the request. The States would have property marked them in all probability.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Juan J. Perez View Post
    Gentlemen, I don't know a thing about the NJ Naval Militia, but what about this simple explanation: when they were formally established in 1895, they were issued old surplus weapons from the Navy, including these cutlasses, and as such they were restamped. Not being a front-line unit, it seems sensible to me. It has happened everywhere, in any time.

    Juan J.
    Charles Pate also suggested this possibility. Although it is possible, I doubt it for two reasons. First, the font, size, and style of the "N.J" mark is identical to that found on other small arms of undoubted CW vintage, e.g. M1861Springfield muskets and imported sword bayonets. Second, I know of no other "N.J" surcharged small arms from the 1890s. If NJ was surcharging small arms received from the government for its militia in the post-CW/1890s era, you would expect to see other weapons with this marking, e.g. trap door Springfields or Navy Remington rolling blocks, Krag bayonets, etc..
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 04-01-2015 at 10:34 AM.

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    I agree with Richard about the stamps but want to mention another important possible supply line.

    Francis Bannerman and Sons was the largest military surplus dealer in the USA, perhaps the world during the period. Bannerman supplied armies with surplus equipment and the store in NYC was crammed with weapons by the thousand. It was later forced to move up to and Island on the Hudson River because of the danger all the explosives posed.

    If not supplied direct from the US Government it would not be surprising if the swords were purchased from Bannerman and stamped. He would sell surplus military stamp sets as well.

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    NJ shores and Hoboken hardly exempt from the ACW.

  10. #10

    M 1861 Naval Cutlass

    Hello Dick,

    After attempts at getting info from various N.J. institutions, I contacted the N.J. Maritime Museum in South Jersey who were most helpful. I was put in touch with Mr. Tom Farner an excellent and cooperative N.J. and Civil War historian. The attached clippings and data are from period reports with respect to Confederate maritime activity off the coast of N.J. The New York Times correspondence really puts in perspective the genuine fear of N.J. residents of raids by the South. It also points out how ready, willing and able they were at the time to go into action and resist.

    This may not settle the timing question of the subject cutlass, but Mr. Farner will be forwarding any additional information that he finds with respect to N.J. organized naval resistance.

    The 3 clippings identify possible Confederate ship sightings and the Times article which is the earliest, sets the tone.

    Pardon the blurriness of the one clipping, but it's what I got. It appears to support continued activity in the Barnegat area.

    I hope that the Civil War buffs among us find this information useful and interesting.

    Ron Goos
    Attached Images Attached Images

  11. #11
    Sorry about the other 2 clippings. They got bounced because of file size limitations. Since they were confirming sightings, they aren't overly critical.

    Ron Goos

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Goos View Post

    The attached clippings and data are from period reports with respect to Confederate maritime activity off the coast of N.J. The New York Times correspondence really puts in perspective the genuine fear of N.J. residents of raids by the South. It also points out how ready, willing and able they were at the time to go into action and resist.
    Thanks Ron. These articles certainly show there may have been a perceived need for a maritime defense in NJ; now if we could find evidence the state acted on this need by establishing some Coast Guard-like element to provide this defense, our problem would be largely solved.

  13. #13
    Hi Dick,

    I hope that the various essays supplied by Tom Farner that I sent to you under separate cover(with his prior permission) prove informative. To summarize for those who may be interested, Mr. Farner documented the involvement of the N.J. Volunteer Militia Infantry from the earliest days of the war. Coastal defense was a major concern of General Burnside who, under operation "Anaconda", organized a flotilla of barges and gunboats to provide a floating force for protection as needed but also for possible offense against vulnerable southern targets.

    In it's formative stages, the flotilla ran into real difficulties off the Jersey coast because of the treacherous conditions and the lack of knowledge of the USN regarding the waters involved. As a result, NJVM infantrymen were seconded to man USN gunboats because many of the men were from the 9th N.J., consisting of quantities of south Jersey volunteers noted for their nautical skills, seamanship, and knowledge of the area. These initial transfers may have been the start of many, but as yet I haven't received detail to that point.

    Considering the chaos at the beginning of the war, who knows what ordnance may have come into the hands of N.J. infantry/seamen either by chance or via state issue. I doubt that any of the above info could be considered "smoking gun" evidence of cutlasses being issued to N.J. Militiamen, but certainly they had ample involvement for the next several years, organized as naval militia or not.

    If anything else pops up, I'll pass it along.

    Ron Goos

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Goos View Post
    Coastal defense was a major concern of General Burnside who, under operation "Anaconda", organized a flotilla of barges and gunboats to provide a floating force for protection as needed but also for possible offense against vulnerable southern targets.

    In it's formative stages, the flotilla ran into real difficulties off the Jersey coast because of the treacherous conditions and the lack of knowledge of the USN regarding the waters involved. As a result, NJVM infantrymen were seconded to man USN gunboats because many of the men were from the 9th N.J., consisting of quantities of south Jersey volunteers noted for their nautical skills, seamanship, and knowledge of the area. T

    Considering the chaos at the beginning of the war, who knows what ordnance may have come into the hands of N.J. infantry/seamen either by chance or via state issue. I doubt that any of the above info could be considered "smoking gun" evidence of cutlasses being issued to N.J. Militiamen, but certainly they had ample involvement for the next several years, organized as naval militia or not.
    Ron,

    Thanks much for the info. Although, as you say, it isn't a smoking gun, but it is almost exactly the same scenario which led the Army to issue cutlasses to New York Army militia men, i.e. using Army troops to man gun boats. Wouldn't be surprising to find NJ issued these folks Navy cutlasses.

    I understand the states that bought weapons to arms forces being mustered into federal service could be reimbursed for their expenses, and if New Jersey used these cutlasses for that purpose they probably submitted one or more claims for reimbursement. It would be great if we could find them!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Goos View Post
    Hi Dick,

    I hope that the various essays supplied by Tom Farner that I sent to you under separate cover(with his prior permission) prove informative. To summarize for those who may be interested, Mr. Farner documented the involvement of the N.J. Volunteer Militia Infantry from the earliest days of the war. Coastal defense was a major concern of General Burnside who, under operation "Anaconda", organized a flotilla of barges and gunboats to provide a floating force for protection as needed but also for possible offense against vulnerable southern targets.

    In it's formative stages, the flotilla ran into real difficulties off the Jersey coast because of the treacherous conditions and the lack of knowledge of the USN regarding the waters involved. As a result, NJVM infantrymen were seconded to man USN gunboats because many of the men were from the 9th N.J., consisting of quantities of south Jersey volunteers noted for their nautical skills, seamanship, and knowledge of the area. These initial transfers may have been the start of many, but as yet I haven't received detail to that point.

    Considering the chaos at the beginning of the war, who knows what ordnance may have come into the hands of N.J. infantry/seamen either by chance or via state issue. I doubt that any of the above info could be considered "smoking gun" evidence of cutlasses being issued to N.J. Militiamen, but certainly they had ample involvement for the next several years, organized as naval militia or not.

    If anything else pops up, I'll pass it along.

    Ron Goos
    Ron.

    - Thanks again to you and Tom Farner for the information. I incorporated it into my article on the M1861 cutlass which was just published in Man-at-Arms magazine. I believe this info will be of value to students and collectors interested in this aspect of the war, especially those who have N.J. sutcharged cutlasses.

    Dick Schenk

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    Dick,

    I noticed a Company of Military Historians (CMH) plate for the "Naval Militia, Massachusetts and New York, 1888-1910" showing their uniforms. In the uniform plate a NRASNY seaman is shown in whites wearing puttees and a M1860 Naval cutlass. I don't know if, or when, there was a CW period Naval Militia in New Jersey but this may be of interest and the cutlass could have been surplus that was supplied to New Jersey after the war.

    Here is an example of a New Jersey Militia Civil War contract Colt Special rifled musket that is "NJ" surcharged. These were purchased directly from Colt by the State of New Jersey during the war instead of being issued to them by the Federal Government. It is interesting to note that these rifled muskets were not inspected by Federal inspectors, as were those Colt Specials bought by the Federals, and bear no Federal Armory inspector markings. Instead, they bear the "NJ" markings where one would normally see the inspector stamps. Also, notice that the property stamps are quite similar with only a single full stop (period) between the N and the J (N.J).

    George
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    Last edited by George Wheeler; 04-25-2017 at 07:46 AM.
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    George,

    - Nice gun. One of my first purchases back in the 1950's was a Springfield M1861 musket bought from Martin Redding for $16.50. It had "N.J" markings just as on your Colt musket, but, of course, as an arsenal product it also had US inspection markings. I notice your musket also has a conjoined "VP" mark. Was that a State inspection mark, or perhaps an in-house Colt inspection mark?

    - As for whether the "N.J" on my cutlass was from the CW timeframe or from the 1890s after NJ established a Naval Militia, here is what I said in my MAA article:


    "It is uncertain for which units these “N.J” surcharged cutlasses were intended. New Jersey did not have naval forces during the Civil War. Although many of the States had navies during the Revolutionary War, these were not continued into the 19th century – too expensive. Jefferson proposed establishing State naval militias consisting of able-bodied men whose normal occupations involved primarily maritime-related work, but the proposal was never adopted – again, too expensive.

    "There are two theories to explain the “N.J” surcharged cutlasses:

    "- Coastal defense was a major concern of General Burnside who, under operation "Anaconda", organized a flotilla of barges and gunboats to provide a floating force for protection as well as for offensive operations against vulnerable southern targets. In its formative stages, the flotilla ran into real difficulties off the Jersey coast because of the treacherous conditions and the USN’s lack of knowledge of the local waters. The New Jersey Volunteer Militia (NJVM), however, especially the 9th N.J., included many volunteers from south Jersey who were noted for their nautical skills, seamanship, and knowledge of the area. As a result, NJVM infantrymen were seconded to man USN gunboats. It is possible New Jersey issued cutlasses to these seaborne NJVM infantrymen. Similar circumstances led to the Army procurement of cutlasses in 1864 to equip New York militiamen manning gunboats on and near the James River.

    "- The second theory is these cutlasses were procured by New Jersey in the 1890s after it had established the New Jersey Naval Militia. NJNM Quartermaster records show that in 1899 NJ had 300 cutlasses on hand, 150 aboard ships, and another 150 in storage.

    "I believe the first theory is more likely in that the surcharge is identical to that stamped on other small arms used by New Jersey units during the Civil War including muskets, bayonets and other sabers and swords."

    - It is weapons such as your Colt musket to which I was referring in my last sentence.

    Dick

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    Dick,

    I agree with your statements in your article. By giving both theories you can explain the markings without conjecture as to when the cutlasses were used. I did notice that your cutlass is dated "1862" as is my rifle. I think many cutlasses most probably stayed in state armories as well as on shipboard.

    I think my Colt Special was a "safe queen" that remained in an armory since it is in such pristine condition. The bright finish, lack of dents and dings, and sharp edges all seem to indicate that. Interestingly, the bayonet that came with it also has no inspection markings and it clearly has been fixed on the rifle for a very long time. Just the standard generic "US" marking as found on the lock plate and the butt plate of the rifle. This would be consistent with storing both pieces as a "Stand of Arms" so I believe the bayonet was most likely furnished with the rifle by Colt when NJ bought them. The "VP" is, as far as I know, an internal Colt proof along with the "STEEL" marking. Some of these very early Colt Specials had defective barrels and Colt quickly changed their supplier and marked the new ones with the "STEEL" marking. The barrel is also dated "1862" BTW.

    George
    Last edited by George Wheeler; 04-26-2017 at 08:31 AM.
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    Fellows: "VP" or some combination thereof was once used on US Weapons, as well as Colts. ""Viewed and Proofed" or some similar meaning is what the old timers told me in the 60's..

    Dale

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    There is a really nice article in Gun Collector by a Schenk guy on these. Eric
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