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Thread: M1861 Cutlass Variant or Fantasy?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
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    857

    M1861 Cutlass Variant or Fantasy?

    A well-known dealer has had this cutlass for sale for some time:

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    The dealer has it listed as an experimental model or prototype for the Ames M1861 Navy cutlass. This seems highly unlikely, but I still wonder if it might not be a legitimate Ames variation. The grip looks just like that found on other post-CW Ames cutlasses such as the Niagara cutlasses or Mr. Roxbury's NY Naval militia cutlasses.

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    Why they would use an officer-style grooved basket I don't know, but I suppose it is possible. What do you think? Is it legit or some fantasy piece put together by the likes of House of swords?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
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    3,347
    Possibly a cutlass for private shipping co's.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    boston usa
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    180
    Dick, Looks OK to me from the pictures. Don't see a reason to fake a 61 in this configuration. Not a known officer variation. So a Post civil war private purchase cutlass? wonder if it would show up in an old company catalog? Very interesting.

  4. #4
    Many, many years ago I remember seeing one just like this in Robert Abels shop in NYC. I remember it because he made it a point to show it to me after I had purchased a Confederate copy of a 1841 cutlass. I also know of someone that today has one in his collection.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
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    857
    Pretty much my thoughts as well. If it were a replica/fake it would likely follow the original grip design more closely, not the post-war design with wider spacing of the bands. To me, this looks like an authentic post-CW Ames-produced cutlass. From your comments, it seems this isn't a one-off example. The question is for whom it was made. We know the Revenue Cutter Service ordered a number of M1861 cutlasses in the late 1800 and I found what appears to be a Navy contract for a number ordered for its training base in Rhode Island. I would be surprised, however, if these were not made with the smooth cup like the originals. My guess would be this variation was for a State Naval militia unit. Another possibility would be a private purchase for some nautical-related fraternal or educational organization. Will M could also be right that it was purchased to equip a private vessel, although it would see a bit anachronistic by that late 19th century. I really wish I knew, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for the explanation.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    West Yorkshire, England.
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    304
    Cutlasses were issued and used right into the 20th century, as is discussed elsewhere on this site. The use of copper hose rivets on the scabbard point to a later date for that item. Then again it was not unusual for a naval cutlass to never have a scabbard, but to be boxed or slotted into the bulwarks for all its working life.

  7. #7
    Actually the copper riveted scabbard was the standard issue for the Ames 1861 Cutlass as well as some Ames 1841 cutlasses refurbished for Civil War use. Additionally, all US Navy Cutlasses starting with the Starr Model 1826 through the Model 1917 were all contracted for with scabbards.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    West Yorkshire, England.
    Posts
    304
    Good to know. Thanks.

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