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USMC M1859 Sergeants' Sword


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I am currently researching an article on Civil War-era USMC M1859 Sergeants’ swords, and would appreciate your sharing your knowledge and expertise on the topic as well as your assistance in gathering information. For those of you who follow SFI, this thread may be a bit of a repeat, but I would like to get as much input from as many people as possible.

 

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 blades were 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 Horstmann 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.)

 

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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.

 

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Excellent primer, thanks. I have tried to stay away from swords to date, still trying to get educated on military knives. I have seen several locally in shops with what I think have the same handle. Will need to check next time i get out that way.

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Before we get too far along, you should check this link. http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.php?107728-The-last-USMC-NCO-sword&highlight=USMC+nco

www.swordforum.com specializes in swords.

Bent and Bush was a retailer that could not actually manufacture swords, so it sold them private labeled.

The USMC was small and the HQ was closer to Philadelphia; where it could have swords assembled to suit at Horstmann.

I have come to the conclusion that all USMC swords were made in the US until 1942, but the usually contain German blades etc.

This link goes into this. http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.php?116701-The-pre-WWII-USMC-officers-swords

Wikipedia Has good basic information and even describes the Senior NCO sword. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Marine_Corps_noncommissioned_officer%27s_sword

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Here is my USMC sword. It has been hanging on the wall for along time. I have some better photos if it helps your research. Also here is a photo of 3 WWI era Marines with Sgts swords that I probably found on the web (no longer remember). Richard

 

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Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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Thanks for the photos. You have a very nice M1859/75 Staff NCO sword. This style was used between 1875 when "U.S.M.C." was added to the etching on the blade, and 1918, when the current reduced-size sword with a new etching pattern was adopted. Initially all M1859 sergeants' swords were worn with a frog, but latter, probably the early 1880s, senior Staff NCOs were authorized to wear their swords with slings such as on your example. Your sword seems to be stamped with the king's head mark of the Solingen sword-making firm of Weyersberg. This probably means your sword was made before 1883 when Weyersberg merged with another sword maker, Kirschbaum, to form the still-existing firm of WKC.

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Yes this Horstmann Marked USMC sword does have the single head Kings German Mark. Thanks for your comments. Richard

Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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Here is my USMC sword. It has been hanging on the wall for along time. I have some better photos if it helps your research. Also here is a photo of 3 WWI era Marines with Sgts swords that I probably found on the web (no longer remember). Richard

 

attachicon.gifSWORD CW - 1870S No 533 and 527 MINE..JPGattachicon.gifSword C.W. - 1870's Mine $.jpg - Copy.jpgattachicon.gifSword photo WWI like mine maybe. - Copy.JPG

 

Do we have a date for the photo with the three Marines with swords? It appears they are the pre-1918 wide-blade version worn with a frog. Don't think I've seen this photo before. It would also be nice to know where it was taken. The background seems pretty generic and doesn't offer many clues.

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I've had it in My Ref USMC photo CD (now jump drive) for over 20 years I think it was on a web site and I have it tagged as WWI but it also says like mine and they are not. You can see the frog attachment to the leather belt of the Marine in the middle. So your guess is probably better than mine. :D Richard

Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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The swords themselves are the same as yours, but the scabbards are different. They all carried the M1859/75 sword, but only higher-ranking Staff NCOs wore slings; lower ranking sergeants wore frogs. I can't see any stripes at all on the three lads in the photo which is a bit odd since only sergeants were authorized to wear the sword.

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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 use of laurel leaves for the decoration around the edge of the pommel; Horstmann used oak leaves. The length of the quillon also seems greater.

 

I don’t have enough knowledge of Ames designs and how they differed from other makers to make a call based on design. 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.

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  • 4 weeks later...

In researching the USMC M1859 Sergeants' sword, I found the Marine Uniform regulations continued to call for senior Staff NCO to carry their swords with slings vice with a frog right up until the start of WWII. The 1937 reg stated: "When sword is worn with the dress or blue undress, the dress belt with slings shall be worn by noncommissioned officers of the first grade, and the dress belt with dress frog by all other enlisted men." The reg also included this illustration of regulations swords, scabbards and knots:

 

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In thinking about this, I was taken back a bit to realize i had never seen a Marine NCO sword with the post WWI thin blade in a scabbard intended for wear with slings, nor had I ever even seen a picture of such a creature other than the one in the regs. Do any of you have one or, for that matter, have you ever seen one? If so, I'd appreciate hearing about it and if possible getting a photo.

Thanks.

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  • 4 months later...

Here is my USMC sword. It has been hanging on the wall for along time. I have some better photos if it helps your research. Also here is a photo of 3 WWI era Marines with Sgts swords that I probably found on the web (no longer remember). Richard

 

attachicon.gifSWORD CW - 1870S No 533 and 527 MINE..JPGattachicon.gifSword C.W. - 1870's Mine $.jpg - Copy.jpgattachicon.gifSword photo WWI like mine maybe. - Copy.JPG

 

I would appreciate a little more information on your M1859 Marine SNCO sword and scabbard. As a result of some correspondence with another forum member, my attention has been drawn to what appears to have been a considerable variation in the width of the scabbards on these swords.

 

Some background information: The Marines started using M1859 sergeants' swords in November 1859, and, being Marines, wanted to keep these swords in service as long as possible. The leather scabbards were more subject to wear and tear and breakage than the swords themselves, of course, so in 1873 the Marines started ordering replacement scabbards on a regular basis, usually in lots of 10 to 30 at a time. Originally the bodies of these replacements were of the same all-leather construction as the originals, but at some point, probably in 1898 when, after a long hiatus in ordering replacement scabbards, the Corps ordered 50 new scabbards from Horstmann. There seems to have been some uncertainty on the part of the makers as to the size of scabbards. Why there should have been any question given that Horstmann had produced almost all of these swords, I don't know, but on several occasions they asked the Quartermaster for guidance and were usually sent sample swords with instructions to make scabbards to fit the sample swords. In examining existing examples, there appears to have been considerable variation in size. Here are some examples:

 

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In the first picture, the bottom sword is a M1859 in its original leather-bodied scabbard; the top sword is a M1859, probably made prior to 1883, in a leather-covered steel-bodied replacement scabbard probably made about 1898. It is slightly wider, about 3/16", than the older scabbard. The second photo shows another forum member's example with a noticeably wider all-leather bodied scabbard, which is perhaps as much as 1/2" wider than the originals.

 

It appears from the picture that your sword has a very wide scabbard similar to that shown in the second photo above. I would appreciate some additional info on your scabbard, i.e. is the body all leather or is it leather-covered steel? Also, could you tell me how wide the scabbard is at the top? Does the sword fit into the scabbard snugly or is there some play? I would also appreciate additional photos with better lighting. Thanks much!

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Richard,

 

Please take a look at this example of what appears to be a CW Horstmann (with blade by Keystone Works) USMC M1859 sword. I hope this is helpful to your research.

 

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/295047-us-m1850-foot-officer-sword-maker/

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Richard, thank you for "re-posting" this discussion and specifically researching the issue of the varying scabbard widths. I am "the other forum member" referred to in this recent post, and if I can help any further, with additional photos to those already posted here, please let me know. As Richard has already very eloquently indicated, there are definitely varying widths of scabbards for these early swords and it would be interesting to find out why, or if the widths pertain to certain time period, replacement v. issued scabbards, etc. Kevin

I am eagerly collecting Pre-WWII USMC material. Any Marine Corps Span Am era, WWI, Banana Wars, or China Marine related material is especially sought after.

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I got a step ladder and took my sword off the wall good thing I did, as the scabbard which is "leather" ( I included a photo shining a light down inside it) has started to warp in the center, I guess it has been hanging too long with nothing inside. You are correct the throat opening is 1 5/16 inches wide and the sword is 1 1/8 inches wide. The sword blade is 1/4 inch thick and the scabbard throat opening on the top flat section is 3/8 inch. See photos where I try to show differences.

 

As far as numbers stamped into brass they are: sword hilt 533, bottom of scabbard drag 527. The top scabbard throat band 52, middle scabbard band 52, scabbard drag 19.

 

I hope this answers your questions and these new photos are better but as I have reduced them from 220 to about 27 KB so they will fit some detail is lost. Richard

 

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Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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I do not know how some posted twice but system will not let me delete! Here are some others Richard

 

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Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

donation2012.gifdonation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gifdonation2020.gif

2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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Here is the number on the drag of my scabbard, number 522. There is a small "8" just under the c\screw near the top of the fitting that is hard to see. The 8 is repeated on the upper brass mount. The opening for the blade on my scabbard here is 1 5/8" (Richard, in post 18 above, can you confirm, is the opening on yours 1 5/16 or 1 5/8"? The top brass mount on my scabbard measures right at 1 3/4 inches wide in total. I think the fact that the inventory or rack numbers on the wide scabbards in this post are indicative that they were perhaps part of one order or lot and issued around the same time and maybe at the same location. Thoughts?

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I am eagerly collecting Pre-WWII USMC material. Any Marine Corps Span Am era, WWI, Banana Wars, or China Marine related material is especially sought after.

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I climbed back up the ladder and took the sword down (have handled more the last few days than in a long time ) as not as easy for me to climb in fact a couple of months ago I leaned against a 3 pronged clothes rack in the middle of the room with USMC uniforms/jackets and the whole thing fell over. :huh: .

I have too much stuff trying to display in a room half as big as the one I had in our old home in N. FL.

 

I even used a more accurate measure this time and I confirmed the scabbard opening on the top throat is --- 1 5/16 inch --- the long way. Richard

Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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I don't yet really understand the numbers stamped on the drags and hilts, but I do believe they are some form of inventory control numbers. I originally thought they were rack number assigned at unit level, but having seen more of them, I now believe the numbers were more likely assigned at the Quartermaster or other Headquarters level.

 

Here are the numbers on the drags of the two wide scabbards we have been discussing in this thread, 522 and 527:

 

post-160923-0-60087900-1504382597.jpg

 

The style and close proximity in sequence would suggest these were part or a single batch or delivery, as does the fact both are extraordinarily wide for M1859 sergeants' swords.

 

Here are photos of the drag numbers on my leather-covered steel scabbard shown in my above post (No 252) and of a similar leather-covered steel scabbard owned by Dave LaSlavic of Arizona swords (153).

 

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Again, the style of the markings and similarity of construction suggest they were part of the same or very similar batch.

 

It would be nice if the marks were sequential, added as new swords were obtained - that might help in dating. Unfortunately, the scabbards with numbers 153 and 252 appear to be later than those with numbers 522 and 527. So when and where were the numbers added, using which criteria (if any)?

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Here are a couple more scabbard drag markings from the same series as in the above post:

 

post-160923-0-03412600-1504659658_thumb.jpgpost-160923-0-90548400-1504660006_thumb.jpg

 

No. 127:​ This has a wide leather-covered steel body with frog stud and large number on drag. Good condition but leather tear about 2” above bottom mount, seam open several inches above tear. The sword was marked No. 208 on the guard. It was sold in the June 2010 Heritage Auction as LOT #52519.

 

post-160923-0-03452500-1504660613_thumb.jpgpost-160923-0-22632500-1504660639_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

No. 192: Wide leather-covered steel body with frog stud and large number on drag. Good condition. Sword hilt also marked No. 192 on guard. Ricasso marked with “W.H./HORSTMANN/& SONS/PHILADELPHIA” in square box with diamond corners and the Weyersberg King’s head. US Militaria Forum member Still-a-Marine posted it in June 2010 http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/78157-early-usmc-nco-sword.

 

If we can compile enough examples of these markings, perhaps we can figure out just what they mean. They seem to be inventory control marks, but just when were they applied, where, in any particular order, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Did you notice that my sword and Warguys both in the 500 series numbers are stamped on the drag in a different direction than the 100 - 200 series of numbers. Richard

Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"

 

 

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2017-donor-medallion.gif

 

 

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Did you notice that my sword and Warguys both in the 500 series numbers are stamped on the drag in a different direction than the 100 - 200 series of numbers. Richard

I did. Also the 500-series examples use a different, smaller font and do not have "No." in front of the digits. Clearly the two series were marked at different times and/or places. All the 100/200-series are medium-wide leather-covered steel-bodied scabbards; both the 500-series were extra-wide all-leather bodied scabbards. It would be nice if these numbers were all stamped sequentially by the Quartermaster as the scabbards were received from the manufacturer. The problem is, however, that the scabbards with 500-series numbers seem to predate those with 100/200-series numbers. Perhaps if we can obtain more examples a clearer pattern will emerge. Do any of you Forum members have other examples you could post?

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