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Thread: 1786 and 1796 Infantry Sword

  1. #1

    1786 and 1796 Infantry Sword

    I thought I’d annotate a couple of photos that illustrate the difference between the 1786 and 1796 infantry sword, as I get asked this quite frequently.

    The 1786 pattern is a blade pattern and does not dictate a style of hilt. The only mention of the hilt is to say that it should be the same colour as the regiment’s uniform buttons. As a result you see the regulation spadroon blade with a variety of hilts, some of which look like the 96 and many that do not.

    The fixed guard is not a positive identification of an 86. Whilst it is true that folding guards are unusual before 1796 there are plenty of fixed guard true 1796 swords.
    The folding guard is not mentioned in regulations at all and is simply a popular cutler’s improvement on the official design.


    4 swords that date from before 1796 and have blade dimensions that meet the 1786 regulations.
    Ivory and gilded brass classic spadroon hilt with sidebar
    Steel hilted spadroon with a carved wood grip
    Brass cruciform hilted spadroon with folding guard
    Brass and Ivory gripped spadroon with fixed double shell guard.
    One must always bear in mind with pre 1796 infantry swords that militia regiments probably took no notice of the 1796 regulations and many probably continued to wear their pre 1796 swords long after the 1796 regs came into force.

    3 1796 infantry pattern swords
    The first (left to right) is the Sergeant’s sword with the embossed sheet copper grip and plain pommel and quillon. This example has had the fixed inside guard filed down to make it more comfortable.
    The second is an officers sword with the foliage decorated pommel and quillon. It has a fixed guard and the 1801-16 coat of arms on the blade, grip bound with silver wire.
    The third is an officers sword with a silver sheet metal grip, folding guard, foliage decorated and also with the 1801-16 coat of arms.

    Last edited by David Critchley; 09-29-2007 at 03:41 PM.

  2. #2
    The order from 3 April 1786:

    His Majesty having been pleas'd to order, that the Esponton shall be laid aside, & that, in lieu thereof the Battalion Officers are, for the future, to make use of Swords, it is His Majesty's Pleasure, that the Officers of Infantry Corps, shall be provided with a strong, substantial, Uniform-Sword, the Blade of which is to be straight, & made to cut & thrust; - to be one Inch at least broad at the Shoulder, & 32 Inches in Length:- The Hilt, if not of Steel, is to be either Gilt or Silver, according to the Colour of the Buttons on the Uniforms - & the Sword Knot, to be Crimson & Gold in the strips, as required by the present Regulation.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Good stuff for a Tip of the Day --- soon to be know as tip of the week.

    Andre F. Ducote

  4. #4
    The order from 1796:
    The sword to have a brass guard, pommel and shell, gilt with gold; with grip, or handle, of silver twisted wire. The blade to be straight and made to cut and thrust; to be one inch at least broad at the shoulder and 32 inches in length, conformably to former orders given out in April 1786.

  5. #5

    Lovely swords and very nice to see them all next to one another. You must have quite a collection of spadroons now!

    Can you explain please what the difference is between the blades of a 1796 and a 1786? Are the blades the same dimension then? As you say this is somethng that does cause confusion.

  6. #6
    15 at the present count Mark, just under half my collection.

    In most cases the blades are exactly the same, they vary a little in length, usually only by an inch though. I have noticed that the british blades are slightly more robust at the shoulder than the german imports, the Osborn and Gunby and Reddell and Bate spadroons I have are a little wider than my Runkel ones and the Hauschill example I have seen. I don't think this has any bearing on the pattern though, its just manufacturing differences.

    You can actually see the difference in the bottom picture, the middle sword is a Runkel and the far right is Reddell and Bate.

    Last edited by David Critchley; 09-30-2007 at 06:04 AM.

  7. #7
    From my understanding, as far as regulations go the 1786 and 1796 are to have the same blade dimensions (32" long, 1" at least at the shoulder). The 1786 is a blade pattern, and the 1796 pairs a hilt with that same (1786) blade pattern.


  8. #8
    Yes exactly Jonathan,the blade shape and weight is the same within the normal manufacturing tollerances of the period.

    You do get some shorter spadroons, around 28", these are often very light and therefore dress swords or quite heavy and robust and mostly coupled with the 5 ball hilt type of hilt with sidebar. These, like the same hilt fitted with hanger blades are usually Naval officers fighting swords.

    Infantry swords with hanger blades (slot hilts etc.) are mostly earlier and for the colonial (US and Indian)theatres where officers often carried fusils as well and would be expected to skirmish. This was less common on the well ordered battlefields of Europe , although later officers in the Light Division carried rifles for the same reason.


  9. #9
    The 30"-32" spadroon blade is by far the most prevalent on 1796s, but the vague description left enough detail in question that there is a certain amount of variety, as David illustrates with his photos--most notably the stirrup hilt with ebony grip. The 1803 Infantry Saber seems to have been equally open to interpretation.



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