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Thread: Variation Model 1861 Naval Cutlass Variation for the New York State Naval Militia

  1. #1

    Model 1861 Naval Cutlass Variation for the New York State Naval Militia

    I recently picked up this cutlass at auction. I knew that it was correct as I had seen pictures of another and at the Richmond Civil War show this past weekend discovered that there exists another in a New York collection. My example has the following engraved on the top scabbard mount "R.W.G. Welling / Master-at-arms / First Naval Battalion N.Y. / 1891 - 1897" On July 14 1898 Welling received a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and served onboard the Glacier and Niagara. He was discharged Sept 8 1898.
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    Last edited by GC Roxbury; 11-13-2017 at 04:51 PM. Reason: Wording

  2. #2
    Here is an excerpt from the book New York in the Spanish American War.
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    Last edited by GC Roxbury; 11-13-2017 at 04:52 PM. Reason: replace picture

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Very interesting! Until very recently it was believed Ames ceased production of the enlisted version of the M1861 cutlass in 1864, with the possible exception of the special-order Hartley Graham cutlasses made for the USS Niagara and the USS Aloha. Although not so marked, most collectors thought these were actually made by Ames. Recently, however, while researching Marine swords in the National Archives, I stumbled across an 1892 contract between the Navy Bureau of Provisions and Clothing and Horstmann to provide 95 new cutlasses for Naval Training Station, Newport, RI. Charlie Pate tells me his research on the Revenue Marine Service, a predecessor of the Coast Guard, shows they also ordered a number of new Cutlasses for their cutters in the 1890s/turn-of-the-century period. These late-century cutlasses were essentially the same as the Civil War versions with the exception of their markings and the grips, which had only 11 turns of the wire wrapping as opposed to the 19 on the CW models.

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    Although the Medicus collection included an officer’s cutlass marked “Ames Sword Co”, a name first used in 1883, this current cutlass is the first Officer’s version I have heard of to match the late-century enlisted versions. I am calling it an officer’s version since it has the cutouts on the basket guard and is in an officer scabbard, but it does not have some of the embellishments of the older M1861 Officers’ versions, e.g. the swirled cup guard designs.

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    Does your sword have any markings other than the inscription? Does the grip on your sword have wide bands similar to those on the late-model enlisted swords? Can’t quite tell from the current photos.

    Thanks for posting this sword
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 11-13-2017 at 07:11 PM.

  4. #4
    Here is a picture of the grip. The blade is completely unmarked. On the hilt there is a "1" stamped where the normal serial numbers would be on a Civil War piece, but I do not think it has any reference to a serial (but maybe a number series of ones ordered by the Naval Militia). The scabbard is Ames and so marked on the reverse of the top mount. When comparing the "S" in SNY it is identical to the "S" on the Ames officer cutlass. The outside of the guard has obviously been cleaned but the inside still has a deep almost black patina and you can see traces of gilt poking through. The officer cutlass in the Medicus collection with 1852 scabbard is named to Winfield Scott Proskey who also was a member of the New York State Naval Militia for a period of time. That one had to be assembled by Ames using one of their contemporary blades and a surplus guard and "old regulation" scabbard. I believe these unique cutlasses with sword blades in Model 1852 scabbards were something special ordered by the NY Naval Militia. Whether Ames or some other military outfitter put them together is anyone's guess but I tend to think Ames based on the style of the cutouts and the Medicus example.
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  5. #5
    I thought I would also post the picture of another one of these in a Tidewater Virginia collection. I am still trying to get together with the owner to examine it in person for additional markings.
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  6. #6
    FYI I also took pictures of another 1864 dated cutlass without serial numbers. It has the "D" inspector mark and the block Ames address on the reverse. It is stamped USS SHENANDOHA (sic) on the guard. While the stamping looks good I cannot tell for sure if its right. The SHENANDOHAH was in service until 1886 and the use of the USS prefix in front of ship names came in around that time as evidenced by this plate from the 1886 uniform regulations.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Thanks for posting the additional photos. If appears your SNY cutlass had a grip with 11 winds of wire just as the late-century enlisted cutlasses. In fact, it appears to be the same pattern overall as the enlisted cutlasses, except for the "SNY" cut-out and perhaps added gilt. This would seem to reinforce the presumption that Ames was the maker of all these late-date cutlasses.

    I also appreciated the photos of the Tidewater Virginia example. It would be interesting to know whether it had a number stamped on the quillon. If it has, this would support your speculation about the"1" stamped on the quillon of your piece being some type serialization of the NY Naval Militia's weapons. If you get to examine it in person, I hope you will post your findings.

  8. #8
    Congratulations on a great sword and thanks for sharing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    1,602
    What neat swords! I was completely unaware of this Naval Militia variation until now.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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