The Cutting Edges of the Revolutionary War

Posted by Bryan on 4/4/2013 to Military Swords
While the firepower of muskets and pistols was among the most common weaponry of the Revolutionary War, intimidating sabres and swords had important parts to play as well. Different military ranks were issued blades varying in length, weight, and purpose. To the soldier, his sword was simply a brutal option of last resort.

Infantrymen carried hanger swords, or cutlasses. These were short swords with either straight or slightly curved blades intended for close, hand to hand fighting. They hung from the soldiers' belts, hence the term hanger sword. Hunting swords, or cuttoes, were utilitarian, cut-and-thrust weapons with no knuckle or hand guards, made for single hand use. The cavalry wielded sabres- heavy swords with curved blades and a single cutting edge, designed for hacking, slashing, and terrifying the enemy from upon horseback. And no officer was fully dressed without his sword; it was a physical representation of his rank, and gallantry. In fact, many officers carried two: one strictly ceremonial and another for combat. The officers brandished shorter, lighter, more elegant sabres, and often used them to direct their troops on the battlefield.

As the American colonies did not yet have the means to produce enough quality swords, the majority were manufactured in Europe, in countries like Belgium, Germany, and even Great Britain. Ironically, Britain supplied the colonists with swords to defend themselves against the French during the Seven Years War (a.k.a.- the French and Indian War); these same swords were still in good enough condition to be used in turn against the invading British twenty-five years later!