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Thread: Help Need to Research USMC M1859 Sergeants Sword

  1. #1
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    Help Need to Research USMC M1859 Sergeants Sword

    I would like to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of the Forum members to help research the CW and earlier USMC M1859 Sergeants' swords.

    Background: In 1859 Marine Corps officers were instructed to wear the Army M1850 Foot Officer’s sword, and a similar sword was authorized for wear by Marine sergeants. The NCO version, though similar to the officers’, had a number of differences. NCO swords had plain brass hilts and scabbard mounts, whereas officers’ hilts and scabbard mounts normally were gilt. The grips on NCO swords were wrapped with leather, whereas officers’ grips were usually covered with sharkskin. Finally, NCO scabbards had only two scabbard mounts, a top mount with frog stud and a scabbard drag, whereas officers’ scabbards bore three mounts, i.e. a throat and middle mount fitted with carrying rings, and a drag. Officers’ swords had etched blades; Model 1859 Marine NCO swords initially had blades polished bright with no etching. Horstmann received the first contract for 150 swords in April 1859, but only delivered a total of 24 in November. Ames received a contract for 38 sergeants’ swords in July 1860 and delivered them in November. In June 1861 it received a second contract for a total of 80 swords, half with 31.5” blades and half with 28.5” blades. We do not have delivery dates for these swords. In January 1862, the contract went to Bent and Bush which received all subsequent contracts for Sergeants’ swords for the remainder of the war, for a total of 325 swords. (These figures were derived from John McAulay’s “Civil War Small Arms of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps” which derived them from USMC ordinance reports.)

    Name:  M1859 USMC NCO Cowens7.jpg
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    Issue: Based on the above figures, the Marines bought a total of 467 M1859 sergeants’ swords between 1859 and the end of the war, 24 of which were from Horstmann, 118 from Ames, and 325 from Bent and Bush. However the only CW era M1859 Sergeants’ swords I have seen are those marked W. H. Horstmann & Sons, Philadelphia. Although not common, there seem to be more Horstmann examples than a total original population of 24 would suggest. Why are there so many Horstmann examples? I suspect Horstmann may have been a subcontractor which provided B&B with swords to satisfy the B&B contracts. It is also possible that Horstmann delivered more of the 150 swords called for in its 1859 contract than currently known records indicate. On the other hand, I have never seen an example with either Ames or Bent and Bush markings. Do any exist? As noted, it is thought B&B may have subcontracted with other manufacturers to obtain swords to satisfy its USMC contracts. It is unlikely, however, that Ames would not have made and marked its own swords. The primary issue, then, is whether any non-Horstmann examples of the USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword exist.
    Questions:
    - Do you have a Horstmann-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword? How is it marked?
    - Have you ever seen an Ames-marked USMC M1859 Sergrant’s sword? How is it marked?
    - Have you ever seen a Bent & Bush-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword? How is it marked?
    - Have you ever seen a fourth party-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword, e.g. Roby, R&C, Kischbaum, etc? How were they marked.

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
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    I made a dumb mistake in writing up the above post. Somehow I managed to move the June 1861 contract from the Horstmann column to the Ames, thereby seriously distorting the totals for each maker. The system won't let me edit or delete the original post, so I have posted the corrected version below. Given the now even lower numbers of possible Ames swords, I would be even more interested in hearing about any Ames examples of the M1859 Sergeant's sword.

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Schenk View Post
    I would like to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of the Forum members to help research the CW and earlier USMC M1859 Sergeants' swords.

    Background: In 1859 Marine Corps officers were instructed to wear the Army M1850 Foot Officer’s sword, and a similar sword was authorized for wear by Marine sergeants. The NCO version, though similar to the officers’, had a number of differences. NCO swords had plain brass hilts and scabbard mounts, whereas officers’ hilts and scabbard mounts normally were gilt. The grips on NCO swords were wrapped with leather, whereas officers’ grips were usually covered with sharkskin. Finally, NCO scabbards had only two scabbard mounts, a top mount with frog stud and a scabbard drag, whereas officers’ scabbards bore three mounts, i.e. a throat and middle mount fitted with carrying rings, and a drag. Officers’ swords had etched blades; Model 1859 Marine NCO swords initially had blades polished bright with no etching. Horstmann received the first contract for 150 swords in April 1859, but only delivered a total of 24 in November. Ames received a contract for 38 sergeants’ swords in July 1860 and delivered them in November. In June 1861 Hortmann received a second contract for a total of 80 swords, half with 31.5” blades and half with 28.5” blades. We do not have delivery dates for these swords. In January 1862, the contract went to Bent and Bush which received all subsequent contracts for Sergeants’ swords for the remainder of the war, for a total of 325 swords. (These figures were derived from John McAulay’s “Civil War Small Arms of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps” which derived them from USMC ordinance reports.)

    Name:  M1859 USMC NCO Cowens7.jpg
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    Issue: Based on the above figures, the Marines bought a total of 467 M1859 sergeants’ swords between 1859 and the end of the war, 104 of which were from Horstmann, 38 from Ames, and 325 from Bent and Bush. However the only CW era M1859 Sergeants’ swords I have seen are those marked W. H. Horstmann & Sons, Philadelphia. I have never seen an example with either Ames or Bent and Bush markings. Do any exist? It is thought B&B may have subcontracted with other manufacturers, e.g. Horstmann, to obtain swords to satisfy its USMC contracts. It is unlikely, however, that Ames would not have made and marked its own swords. The primary issue, then, is whether any non-Horstmann examples of the USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword exist.
    Questions:
    - Do you have a Horstmann-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword? How is it marked?
    - Have you ever seen an Ames-marked USMC M1859 Sergrant’s sword? How was it marked?
    - Have you ever seen a Bent & Bush-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword? How was it marked?
    - Have you ever seen a fourth party-marked USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword, e.g. Roby, R&C, Kischbaum, etc? How were they marked.

    Thanks for your help.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 03-06-2017 at 04:20 PM.

  3. #3
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    It has been suggested that the below pictured sword is an Ames-produced USMC M1859 Sergeant’s sword. It certainly meets all the criteria for an early USMC M1859, i.e. an unetched bright-polished blade, plain leather grips, brass mountings and a typical USMC scabbard. It is totally unmarked – the only mark I could see at all was a small number “1” above the retaining screw on the reverse side of the drag. The owner has been told this is definitely an Ames based on the casting technique and designs of the hilt.

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    I’m not sure. I don’t know of many cases of Ames not marking their products, but I suppose it’s possible. It also seems possible this could be a Horstmann which somehow missed being marked. There do seem to be some differences between the hilt of this sword and the Horstmann shown in Post 1, most noticeably the length of the quillon. I don’t have enough knowledge of Ames designs and how they differed from other makers to make a call based on design.

    So what do all you experts think? Hopefully we have someone in our community knowledgeable enough about Ames products to confirm this is an Ames, if that is indeed what this is.

  4. #4
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    Interesting the scroll work was not cleaned up after casting. Perhaps an indication of hurried production or unimportant as its not an officer model. You run into some of the most interesting swords Richard. Eric
    The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." --- Tench Coxe

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  6. #6
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    From the lack of responses, I take it Forum members have little in the way of either new information or opinions concerning USMC M1859 musicians swords provided by Bent and Bush during the CW. I would therefore like to refocus a bit to look at some possible post-CW USMC musicians’ swords.

    In a previous thread, we discussed a rare variant of the M1840 NCO sword which featured a reduced-size, turned-down rear counterguard which was decorated with a chased line with curled ends around its outer perimeter. The blades were also quite different. Whereas the blades of a normal regulation M1840s have a broad central fuller running almost to the tip, the fuller on the variant runs only about 60% of the length of the blade. The blades of the variants are also all etched with generic decorative designs. Below are photos of Roby, Horstmann, and Ames version of the variant.

    Roby:

    Name:  M1859 USMC Musician Roby 1.jpg
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    Horstmann:

    Name:  M1840 NCO Odd Pattern Horstmann4 comp.jpg
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    Ames:

    Name:  M1859 USMC Musician Ames AZ5 comp.jpg
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    I have seen four examples of the Roby version, two of the Horstmann, and only one of the Ames. The Horstmann example was full size, the others had USMC boy musician-length blades.

    To me it seems unlikely that Roby, Ames, and Horstmann would all independently decide to make swords with identical deviations from the normal blade and hilt designs without having a common customer asking for this specific deviant design. The Marine Corps seems a good possibility to be that customer.
    I believe this sword is probably a transitional design between the CW-era musicians’ swords without rear counterguards and the M1875 musicians’ swords with turned-down rear counterguards and blades etched with the initials “U.S.M.C.”. The Marines probably contracted for these swords from Bent and Bush, the company which had the contracts for all Marine enlisted swords from 1862 through 1865: it is also likely Bent and Bush subcontracted with Ames, Horstmann, and Roby to produce these swords to fulfill its Marine contracts, just as it apparently did during the CW. The swords come in lengths which correspond to Marine boy and adult musician lengths and probably date from about 1872 when the Marines started using decorated blades on enlisted swords. The decorations on post-1872 sergeants’ swords were generic with no specific reference to the Corps – the initials “U.S.M.C.” were not added until the Regulation of 1875. It seems likely the same would apply to musicians’ swords.

    Unfortunately, I know of no contemporary documentation of such a transitional design, however the evidence of the swords themselves seem to support this theory. Do any Forum members know of such documentation?

    If these are not Marine swords, is there an alternative explanation as to why Ames, Roby, and Horstmann would have all produced a sword of this design? Who or which group might have been the customer?

    I would appreciate your thoughts on this theory and any additional information you might have. If you have or are aware of other examples of this variant, I'd also appreciate any info you could provide about them. Thanks
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 03-13-2017 at 09:18 AM.

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