I collect sword accouterments in addition to the swords themselves and I thought I might start a thread on sword knots. While long time sword collectors have knowledge of various sword knots, some visitors who read these pages may not.
The sword knot began existence as a simple cord that was attached to the hilt of the sword of mounted soldiers. It was securely fastened to the guard of the sabre and then tied to the wrist of the mounted trooper. The purpose of this sword knot was to secure the sabre to the wrist, so that if it were knocked from the hand of the mounted soldier, he would not lose it in the heat of battle. The sword would be at the end of the cord, which was tied to the wrist. The design evolved into a double strap which was attached to the sword guard and wrapped around the hilt when not attached to the wrist. The double strap had at least one sliding loop, referred to as a slide, which was at the end of the strap to make a loop to go around the wrist. At the end of the strap was either a stem or a crown, or both, which secured the end of the strap. The knot itself generally consisted of a crown and an open tassel or closed ball which could securely close the end of the double strap to give the slide something solid to press the wrist against when it was inserted into the loop made by the strap. This sword knot evolved into both dagger knots and bayonet knots in the German service and all three distinctive styles of German knots retain these design features.
First, let's look at the manner in which sword knots were used in the US military. Plain leather knots were, generally speaking, first used in US service but differences soon emerged between enlisted and officer knots. Early officer knots were often colored leather and then evolved into wire bullion or lace knots while enlisted knots remained plain utilitarian leather. Around 1850 US Military Officers were authorized to wear a gold bullion knot and this knot is still worn by US Navy Officers on their Model 1852 Navy swords to this day. This CW period gold bullion knot is shown below.
US Army Officers wore a gold bullion knot like the USN Officers during the same time period from approximately 1850 to 1902. US Army Officers were then authorized two new knots to wear on their 1902 Officer Sabre. A gold wire knot with blue silk highlights was worn on dress occasions and is shown below as well. A russet leather knot with a plaited strap was authorized for general service wear. This knot is shown next. This brown leather knot color was changed to black after WWII. Both of these knots are still authorized when the Army Sword is worn and both have been US regulation since 1902. The USMC Officer sword is worn with a similar gold and red dress knot and a black leather plaited knot of the type worn by the Army in brown. US Coast Guard Officers wear the same knot as USN Officers while enlisted men of both these services do not wear sword knots.
US General Officers wear a distinctive gold bullion knot with round straps and an acorn shaped ball. This knot was worn prior to, and during, the US Civil War but it is unknown when it was authorized.