Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: how do you tell if a civil war saber is real?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    La Vale md US
    Posts
    7

    Question how do you tell if a civil war saber is real?

    what should i look for on a civil war saber to see if its real?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Roanoke,Va USA
    Posts
    1,625
    One way is to look for makers marks, date of mfg and inspectors # marks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,033
    It's a pretty big subject. For the American made swords, as mentioned, year, make and model arew a base line. There is quite a bit of good information online but one has to look at other factors as well.

    Always look at the sword, not the story. There are a lot of German and French made swords that were imported during that period but also continued to be produced for many years after. There are many unmarked Europen swords out there, often the M1840 (French 1822) that are certainly authentic Civil War swords but without a retailer/cutler/inspectors stamp can only be said to probably have been used then. There were also many surviving earlier swords that saw service (or not) but proving actual employment during the conflict is tricky.

    Become familiar with the patterns that were developed and used. A familiarity with the basics goes a long way when trying to determine the provenance of a particular piece. There are some quality reproductions that are occasionally misrepresented but for the most part, they are pretty easy to spot.

    Some do get marked spuriously with a desired marking. Often, these are still easily revealed when comparing the types of letter stamps used in the 19th century. If you google Antique Swords, you will see some good informational sites that come up.

    There are several good books that should be a must for a serious collector (I'm guilty of relying on the internet). There is a good bibliography here at SFI, in the non-fiction book forum. another extensive list of book titles and reviews can be found at www.myarmoury.com

    Cheers

    Hotspur; don't spend big money on an unknown

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Roanoke,Va USA
    Posts
    1,625
    Excellent advice Glen (ecspecially the myArmoury plug )

    Also there are several other web-sites that you can check with for info. on Amer. Civil War stuff. one being a man here in 'ol Va.
    that deals in nothing but ACW weapons, militaria.

    www.relicman.com
    He has helped me out from time to time.

    Good luck!

    Bill

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    Good advice!

    Also, if you can, handle as many period pieces as possible...that will give you a feeling for what is real and of the period.
    Tom Donoho

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862

    Re: how do you tell if a civil war saber is real?

    Originally posted by Nathanael Dill
    what should i look for on a civil war saber to see if its real?
    Hi Nathanael. I think that you are really treading on a very slippery slope. I used to collect US Civil War swords, but the amounts of fakes, half-fakes and reproductions and the rising prices drove me away from it.

    I agree with the others, reference books are the key. However, for US swords don't rely solely on the presence of the proper markings. There is a vast market for reproduction Civil War equipment do to the large number of people who reenact. With an eye towards authenticity, manufacturers of reproduction weapons have put the proper markings on a large number of repro swords. Some of them are quite good. I had a reproduction Ames sabre at one time that was so good it fooled a long time collector. You might purchase one of these reproduction swords and handle it. If you have the ability, go to a Civil War militaria show and handle the real thing. Compare the weight of the sword as well as the markings. From my observation, the US markings on reproduction swords are going to be deeper and more evenly struck then on an original. Just from handling reproductions versus original weapons, I have found that reproduction blades tend to be heavier and less flexible than originals.

    As for Confederate swords, the task is much more daunting and I would only buy one from a very reputable dealer. The best reference book for Conferederate Swords, I believe, is Albaughs Photographic Supplement of Conferederate Swords. There were relatively few well known manufacturers of Confederate swords, but several smaller manufacturers have had swords identified as genuine and there are a huge number of unmarked swords that have been attributed to Confederate manufacture. These are commonly referred to as "Dog River" swords. "Dog River" comes from a letter from a Confederate soldier who references obtaining a sword from the foundery at Dog River. Typically, Confederate swords will be of crude manufacture. The blade may be wavy and will likely have an unstopped fuller. The brass will tend to be more reddish due to a higher copper content as opposed to to mustard yellow patina of a genuinely aged US sword of the same period. Guards may have casting flaws. A variety of grip coverings may be used ranging from bare wood to leather.

    There were a number of swords used by by the Union and Confederacy from Europe. The most common being the British 1853 pattern cavalry sword. A proper Confederate British 1853 will not have any British armoury, government or regimental markings on it. Rather, it should bear the stamp of a private exporter. The most prominent English exporter to the CSA was Isaac & Co. The US gov't also imported 1853s, but I don't know if it was through Isaac & Co. or not. There were also French foot officer swords, horse artillery sabres and light cavalry swords. US sword patterns of this era are copied from the French patterns. while the Confederacy pretty much copied the US patterns, there was a lack of standardization. Therefore, for a foreign sword to have any provenance as a US Civil War sword, IMO it must have some marking linking it to the Union or the Confederacy. I previously had in my collection a foreign manufacture US model 1851 foot officer's sword. What made it US was the blade etchings. Many of these officer swords were imported by US retailers and etched in the United States. There are also some swords manufactured in Solingen.

    I hope that I have helped out some and not further confused the issue. As I said when I started this rant, autheniticating US Civil War era swords can be a slippery slope.

    Andre

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    Yep.

    Andre's remark about blades and marks is on the money. Also, the repros just don't feel right...too heavy and the blades are not flexible like a true antique sword that combined elascticity with ridgidness, for lack of better way to say it.

    Suggestion: when you go to shows, bring a long a good glass and also a pair of cloth gloves...dealers will be more inclined to let you handle their pieces if you come prepared to treat them like the antiques they are.

    Good luck!

    Oh. Andre, on the confederate swords, occasionally a better finished sword can be found, correct? I mean, sometimes they were finished to a high degree like the Haiman swords, right? But, generally, they will not be of the "quality" of U.S. patterns, as you mentioned. Also, earlier U.S. swords (as with current U.S. swords) were sometimes pressed into service by the confederate officers who carried earlier cut-and-thrust swords of c. 1820 or so. So it's an early sword that became a confederate sword...hard to document, though.
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-04-2006 at 09:05 AM.
    Tom Donoho

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Roanoke,Va USA
    Posts
    1,625
    Another suggestion, if I may, to possibly help you out....

    Check with your local library and see if they have in reference books on ACW edged weapons. Fimiliarizing yourself with as much original material/sources is always good and sometime fun!

    Knowledge is power........


    More good advice about going to shows & asking to inspect items there.


    Bill

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    Yep!

    Library research...especially if it has the older books (the smell and feel of the older books adds to the quest!) is lots of fun.
    Tom Donoho

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    Originally posted by T. Donoho
    Yep.


    Oh. Andre, on the confederate swords, occasionally a better finished sword can be found, correct? I mean, sometimes they were finished to a high degree like the Haiman swords, right? But, generally, they will not be of the "quality" of U.S. patterns, as you mentioned. Also, earlier U.S. swords (as with current U.S. swords) were sometimes pressed into service by the confederate officers who carried earlier cut-and-thrust swords of c. 1820 or so. So it's an early sword that became a confederate sword...hard to document, though.
    Tom,

    You are right. There are some very nice and well made Confederate swords. Haiman and Dufilo come to mind. Also, several manufacturers in Virginia turned out some nice pieces.

    Yes, many Confederates who were in US service carried their US swords. You can even find swords from the north in CS service (other than captured). South Carolina, I believe, had an contrat is 1860 with Ames for swords. So you can find Ames swords that are genuine Confederate weapons.

    Others carried family weapons. I've seen reference to War of 1812 or even Revolutionary War swords carried by Confederates.

    Many carried their pre-war militia swords. They are very hard to identify as a Confederate use weapon unless they are linked to an identified officer with provenance, such as a picture. I can think of several linked to generals. As I recall, one in particular may be found in my home state. The pre-war eagle head sword of Brigadier General William Barksdale is (or was) kept at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. I suppose you could find troopers swords that were pre-war militia pieces. As each state in the Confederacy was required to equip their own troops, early weapons came out of state arsenals or were brought with the individual companies when mustered into Confederate service. As you probably know, at the outset of the war, individual company sized units were gathered are various points in each state and organized into regiments. Many of these units were either town or county militia or raised by an individual after the onset of hostilities.

    While I'm on the subject, an interesting thing about company officers in the Confederacy (and moderator please give me your indulgence because this does relate to swords) is that they were elected by the members of the company. Thus, a fellow of limited means and with no military training whatsoever, but well liked by his peers, could end up a lieutenant or captain. Such a person would be in the position of having to obtain a sword on his own. That is to what I believe that the Dog River letter, mentioned above, refers. Some poor joe got himself elected lieutenant and went scouring the countryside for a sword. My guess is that many of these elected officers coming from humble means carried rather crude models. The finer Dufilos, Haimans, etc. were purchased by the more affluent folks.

    Another suggestion on telling authenticity (and a rather odd one I may add). I usually smell the blade and grip of a sword. To me, old swords have a distinctly "old" smell. I don't know any way to better explain it than that.


    Sorry again for the rant.

    Andre

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    More good info. Thanks, Andre.

    I don't think it odd about the smell (just look at my post about the smell of old books above!) There's just something about an old genuine sword that can't be faked...it looks, feels and smells right!

    I do recall while doing library research many years ago running across some information about Gen. Washington's swords...how a confederate higher up wanted to get his hands on these. Also, I recall seeing a period photo...one of a panoply of captured arms (taken from confederates) that included the usual firearms, sabers and a couple of older swords that looked to be as old as you referenced...War of 1812 or revolutionary.
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-04-2006 at 01:42 PM.
    Tom Donoho

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    Originally posted by T. Donoho
    More good info. Thanks, Andre.

    I do recall while doing library research many years ago running across some information about Gen. Washington's swords...how a confederate higher up wanted to get his hands on these. Also, I recall seeing a period photo...one of a panoply of captured arms (taken from confederates) that included the usual firearms, sabers and a couple of older swords that looked to be as old as you referenced...War of 1812 or revolutionary.
    Several of the Virginian generals were decedants of Revolutionary War heros. Also, it was common Confederate propaganda was to equate the War against Northern Aggression with the Revolution, so its not shocking to me that someone wanted to get their hands on one of Washington's swords.

    Andre

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    Hey Nathanael, see what you get when you ask a simple question.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,033
    Interesting commentary on the 1853 Andre but I don't think the U.S. military was contracting it at all. It was being imported by northern cutlers and other retailers like Tiffany. There may have been foreign military contracts for the M1833 dragoon. As a non-regulation item, I don't see the likelyhood that there were U.S. contracts for the 1853. I could be convinced otherwise.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; even the 1860 didn't officially supplant the 1840 until well after the conflict started

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    Yep.

    Imagine the propaganda value and stature that could be had by going to war with one of Washington's swords...the status it could confer on the officer who carried the sword of America's greatest icon...the air of legitimacy it could lend by possessing it as well.
    Tom Donoho

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    Originally posted by Glen C.
    Interesting commentary on the 1853 Andre but I don't think the U.S. military was contracting it at all. It was being imported by northern cutlers and other retailers like Tiffany. There may have been foreign military contracts for the M1833 dragoon. As a non-regulation item, I don't see the likelyhood that there were U.S. contracts for the 1853. I could be convinced otherwise.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; even the 1860 didn't officially supplant the 1840 until well after the conflict started

    Glen,

    I didn't know whether or not the US govt was importing it. I meant imported for US use. I've just know that everytime you encounter an 1853 devoid of British markings its offered for sale as Confederate. A while back I was told by a long time Civil War collector that the 1853 was also used by Union forces. Since then, I've considered only Isaac & Co marked 1853s to be Confederate.

    Andre

    Andre

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Nipmuc USA
    Posts
    12,033
    Thanks for the clarification Andre.

    It's amazing how much the 1853 resembles the m1833 dragoon, which in turn was drawn from earlier British swords. We see a lot of similar cross pollenation throughout the 19th century and culminating in the straight, light, cavalry blades of the 20th century.

    The Confederate swords certainly do bring a premium and unmarked swords, of all types, are seen perhaps posing as such. It's why I mentioned to always judge the sword, not the story. Without direct provenance, they are all just bits of steel, brass and leather. The emotional and historic value is based on an event that split a country (even to this day) and found direct relations fighting bravely on both sides of a conflict.

    Tom Nardi's price guide is an indication of where the market continues to head. Dealers are, by and large, tacking on a couple of hundred dollars; even for mediocre swords. I really feel I missed the market by a couple of decades but still hope to buy a couple of patterns that would suit my interests.

    The prestige element of owning the rarer examples is what I see justifying some of the prices. When I see the prices of some, all I can think of is all the really nice older swords still out there that are concievably even more historically important.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; looking forward to an article Mike and Jean are (hopefully) still working on.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Glen C.
    [B]Thanks for the clarification Andre.

    The Confederate swords certainly do bring a premium and unmarked swords, of all types, are seen perhaps posing as such. It's why I mentioned to always judge the sword, not the story. Without direct provenance, they are all just bits of steel, brass and leather. The emotional and historic value is based on an event that split a country (even to this day) and found direct relations fighting bravely on both sides of a conflict.

    Tom Nardi's price guide is an indication of where the market continues to head. Dealers are, by and large, tacking on a couple of hundred dollars; even for mediocre swords. I really feel I missed the market by a couple of decades but still hope to buy a couple of patterns that would suit my interests.

    The prestige element of owning the rarer examples is what I see justifying some of the prices. When I see the prices of some, all I can think of is all the really nice older swords still out there that are concievably even more historically important.

    Cheers

    Glen,

    We sure did miss the boat. I think that the Ken Burn's Civil War series which aired on public broadcasting resulting in a rejuvenated interest in the US Civil War and an sharp increase in the price of mundane items and not so great swords. I paid $500 for my 1851 foot officer's sword in 1995. I sold it three years later (to purchase a British 1803) for $750.00.

    Confederate swords have really skyrocketed. Even unmarked swords are getting prices in the thousands. It is rare to find the higher quality swords (Dufilo, Haiman, etc.) on the market and even when they are found the price seems to be $15,000 +. I would imagine some of the folks who are buying these swords are purchasing them for investment value. Others are like us, collectors. However, it takes a stout resolve to pull the trigger on a $20,000 sword.

    As with all collectibles, there is no market without interest and the fewer examples, the better. There are certainly fewer Confederate swords than Union. There is also alot of affinity for the weapons of the defeated. It seems to me that French Napoleonic swords fetch higher prices than British counterparts. Look also at the prices for German WWII militaria.

    A friend of mine's father started collecting Confederate swords in the early 1960s. The prices were low and often he was able to get an "attic find" for very little. When I was about 10 I remember finding a Union 1851 foot sword for $40. My parents wouldn't let me have it. About 20 years ago, I found a CS marked artillery short sword for $300. Last time I checked (about 10 years ago or so) the going rate for one of those was $800.00.

    Alas, I took a different path in collecting. The US swords don't really interest me that much and I'm too chicken to spend the amount of money it would take to buy a good Confederate sword that has provenance.

    Andre

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,078
    Andre:

    I think we all can relate to what you said here.

    When I started collecting in 1980, nice examples of small-swords were available at reasonable prices. Now, even the low quality stuff is rather expensive it seems. But we can take a degree of satisfaction in knowing that we got our stuff at good prices in the old days and our items have increased in value considerably, though as collectors that is not the reason we are into it.

    Nice to run across some other "collectors" of the old stuff here!
    Tom Donoho

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Roanoke,Va USA
    Posts
    1,625
    I've enjoyed following this thread......good stuff gentlemen. Must admit Amer. Civil War is not my main interest (have spent the last 3-4 yrs doing study & research on Mortaury hilts swords & the ECW) and am kinda new to the "vintage" side of sword collecting. Have freinds that are tried & true antique blade collectors, thus sparking my interest somewhat. I have only two vintage pieces in my overall collection (a P1897 British infantry officers sword/ George V and a model 1902 US Army sabre).

    I did have a lady bring me a 1860 model (date stamped 1862 or 64 can't remember the exact date) Mansfield & Lamb cavalry saber she had had for about 20 years to do some conservation work on (loose grip wire & rust). I was quite suprised by the handling of this sword as I had never really been drawn to these types of sabers. After doing some research and what not for her on it, I now see how collectors are interested in these and not just for the time period association.

    Alright, enough babbling on my part, thanks again guys for giving me some good lunch time reading for the week (work sucks and it's nice to good discussions such as this to read)

    Cheers,

    Bill

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,862
    Originally posted by W .L. Goodwin

    I did have a lady bring me a 1860 model (date stamped 1862 or 64 can't remember the exact date) Mansfield & Lamb cavalry saber she had had for about 20 years to do some conservation work on (loose grip wire & rust). I was quite suprised by the handling of this sword as I had never really been drawn to these types of sabers. After doing some research and what not for her on it, I now see how collectors are interested in these and not just for the time period association.


    Bill
    Bill,

    Glad to keep you entertained. I don't collect US Civil War swords anymore, but its fun to dust off the brain on the subject. Being from the deep south, that's where most of the sword collecting interest lies. I used to find them at gun shows, now all I find are really bad Confederate fakes --- nice to be able to test the old fake spotting skills. Still, how hard is it when they are so obvious!

    Your reference to Mansfield & Lamb brings me to another thought that might help Nathanael. The reproductions of the US light cavalry sabre that I have seen have been marked Ames. There may be some Emerson & Silver repros out there, but I don't think I've seen or heard of repros being marked with the less voluminous manufacturers such as Mansfield & Lamb.

    Andre

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •