Submitted by Unable-Anybody-2285 t3_zz1vaa in history

So I've asked this in other history related subs and still haven't got an answer so I figured I give this sub a shot

So with the prevalence of firearms between the 1700-1800s I know that swords were becoming obsolete well not completely obsolete but more or less slowly fading to the background especially in places like Britain or Mexico during that time

But they were still used for warfare even the later periods of American history like the civil war both Confederacy and the Union still had fencing manuals for Calvary regiments

With this im asking were there any notable swordsmen or fencing masters to come from those periods of early American were any people who got there start during the American revolution particularly or were any emerged from the war any notable examples whatsever

Edit: I did not expect this to blow up like I figure this question has been ask like billion times so I did not expect this

Second edit: again I really appreciate all responses it's just like wow did didn't expect this much feedback like wow



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surveyorandrew t1_j29cli0 wrote

Fencing in Colonial America and the Early Republic: 1620 – 1800 by Ben Miller:

A Bibliography of American Swordsmanship 1734 – 1943:


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j29hmmr wrote

Oh, I can answer this one!

Military fencing in the age of powder mostly consisted of mounted saber, though fencing was still taught in the infantry and navy. Your best shot of using a sword would be in the cavalry. Bayonet fencing existed in an extremely informal and unstructured manner and we wouldn't get proper bayonet systems (at least in Brittan or America) until ~1850s, for a few reasons.

One account from the American Revolution is from the Battle of the Cowpens when Lt. Col. Washington (cousin of George) fought Lt. Col. Tarleton mounted with sabers:

"In this engagement, Colonel Washington had an opportunity of displaying his personal valor in a combat with Colonel Tarleton, in which he cut off two of Tarleton's fingers and would have cut off his head, had it not been for his stock buckle, which deadened the force of the stroke and saved the life of the British officer. However, Colonel Washington, I believe to this day (if he be alive) carries a mark on two of his fingers which he received in the encounter with Colonel Tarleton."

  • "The Life & Travels of John Robert Shaw, Written by Himself", 1807

There was a highland Scot who taught broadsword (or a brit teaching highland broadsword, as happened more often than not in the 18th century for a few reasons) who opened the first fencing school in America in the early-ish 18th century in Boston, but I forget their name.

Fencing texts in the 18th century were mostly geared towards smallsword dueling in the civilian sphere, with some military texts here and there.

Military fencing in the age of powder mostly happened in colonial actions in Africa, the Middle East, and especially India in the 19th century. Even then it was still mostly in the cavalry.


Historforum t1_j29q3ly wrote

Bayonet fencing sounds pretty intense. I always think of the bayonet as a simple thrusting weapon - or a cooking implement... up till WWI. Very interesting!


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j29uadf wrote

Bayonet fencing would peak in complexity by WWI, but codified systems were being taught a bit before then.

The bayonet fencing systems of the mid 19th century weren't terribly complicated. Top brass just wanted something to teach the infantry since the cavalry and navy had been taught codified systems for martial arts for at least decades beforehand. Henry Angelo Jr, Richard Burton, and McClellan are some officers who wrote bayonet curriculums.

Before that, aside from a few isolated texts, if there was any training beyond fixing/unfixing and just pointing it at the enemy, it was just tips and tricks the drill sergeants would tell their men. Nothing official.

Part of the reason for this was because bayonet charges rarely resulted in contact with the enemy. They usually broke and hauled ass before that happened. If they didn't it would usually result in a massive bloodbath nobody wants. Because of this, standing and fighting man-to-man with bayonet on bayonet was typically a losing prospect, so teaching infantry how to do it would be a waste of everyone's time.


nospamkhanman t1_j2a5apn wrote

Marines still teach Bayonet fighting as well as melee fighting with your rifle in general.

There isn't much to it honestly and it's not a large focus when doing martial arts.

The most useful thing that is taught is how to counter someone grabbing your weapon.


jrhooo t1_j2b8zmg wrote

We definitely learned it in the 2000s.

A few relevsnt points here.

  1. They teach bayonet fighting but they don’t spend a ton of time on it.

  2. It is still a useful and relevant skill. Reason being, if you can fight with your rifle WITH a bayonet, you can use the same techniques without one. How to se your rifle as a club/bo staff basically. While you are unlikely to find yourself in a full on fixed bayonet charge in the 21st century, you are not that unlikely to find yourself in a position where you need to beat someone down. (Hypothetical example, CQB in a house and some dude jumps on you or your rifle jams or whatever. You may only have enough time and space to buttstroke them to the face. Gotta have the muscle memory tucked away)

  3. A GREAT point someone explained to me once. Pugil sticks isn’t all about bayonet technique. Its also about FIGHTING. Its a replacement for boxing.

They USED to have boxing in boot camp. It wasnt actually to teach you how to fight. It was because in a civilized society, a LOT of kids had just never been in a real fight. Throwing them in a boxing ring was a way to give them a taste of hitting someone and being hit.

Problem: Strapping the glives on and punching each other in the head is still dangerous, even in a controlled setting. A few recruits got badly hurt. Maybe died? SO, eventually pugil sticks became a good substitute. A less dangerous way to still throw recruits in the circle and tell them, “well there he is. What are you waiting for? Go get him! Attack!”


One of the silliest and yet not at all silly lessons you got in boot - remember the “weapons of opportunity” class? For the test, they made you demonstrate some strikes with an etool (shovel). Then a tent stake. Thrn a rock.

It felt odd at the time. Like, a little specific isn’t it? Are we getting attacked at a camp site? Are we expecting that nothing but shovels and tent poles will be strewn around the battlefield?

BUT if you think about it, that class is actually pretty clever. Its not about those 3 objects.

Its about the idea that random objects in the world only really come in so many form factors.

So they make you practice :

Something thats like a rock

Something thats like a club

Something thats like a pointy stick

So one day in a real fight, when reach out and grab whatever object is within reach, you’ll have a basic idea of the best way to hold it, the best way to strike with it, and where on the other guy to aim for.

“One mind, any weapon” = you can pick up any ivject in the room and have a pretty good natural undertanding of how to attack someone with it.


MackTUTT t1_j2bestv wrote

Early 90s, I was told by several of the older guys that an e-tool is better than a bayonet and a couple said a tomahawk is the best melee weapon.


Sinfullyvannila t1_j2c05lh wrote

A tomahawk is just useful in general.


jrhooo t1_j2c23zv wrote

Yup. The “tactical tomahawk” has gotten kinda popular with a lotta guys.

Light and easy to carry. Makes a solid weapon if needed. Makes good camp tool in general. Can work as a houligsn tool too. (Prying doors open, prying locks, smashing windows etc)


AdTop5424 t1_j2c7eml wrote

I heard that the bayonet course is no longer run during OSUT for Infantry in the U.S. Army. While it was basically being given adult permission to run with scissors, there was something about sprinting several yards and massacring a sand bag.


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j2aaxxe wrote

I've heard that the US army axed thier bayonet course from training, but I don't know for certain. I knew the marines still did.

After WWI bayonet as a martial art was heavily streamlined and simplified as large melees became less and less commonplace.


DarkDoctor_42 t1_j2ale11 wrote

When I went to Basic back in ‘02 they still did bayonet training. Culmination at the end was the pugel matches, only chance we had to actually knock our drill sergeants off their feet legally.


FatherD00m t1_j2aoa7d wrote

I’ve always felt cheated out of this. We were set to do pugel matches the day after Nixon died. So it was skipped over.


zombiepirate t1_j2arjka wrote

And really, what better way to honor Nixon's passing than to knock someone off their feet?


FatherD00m t1_j2bfvlb wrote

Show off some big D energy. He’d like that I’m sure. At least as the stories go.


Born2fayl t1_j2b2ckc wrote

I had a drill sergeant roll with me on fire watch duty, one time in basic. I had trained under a Renzo Gracie brown belt for a while before joining and I smoked him. The agreement was, if I win and don’t tell anyone there would be no consequences. We both kept our word. I mean, I’m telling you now, but that doesn’t count. He just didn’t want to risk having to deal with any disrespect from other privates.


sardaukar2001 t1_j2b8d51 wrote

I did BCT back in 2008 and we didn't do any bayonet training. We did however do Combatives (grappling) training.


LarryTheHamsterXI t1_j2c6q5l wrote

Just went to basic this summer, no bayonet course. Pugil sticks are the closest we have right now.


5-On-A-Toboggan t1_j2aytcn wrote

I would guess that they became more common kicking in doors in Iraq and Afghanistan.


KarmaticIrony t1_j2b3cep wrote

If someone is in melee range with you and you have rifles, the smart thing to do is push/throw/grapple them or retreat as necessary so you or a buddy can shoot them.

A bayonet on the end of your gun's muzzle makes it longer and heavier which are both a disadvantage in close quarters. Given the first point, it's a sacrifice for no real benefit.


jrhooo t1_j2ba1rk wrote

Also, if someone is in melee range with you, even without a bayo, a good muzzle thump to the face will back them off you enough to follow up with whatever next move is appropriate


Unable-Anybody-2285 OP t1_j29l0mc wrote

Interesting answer so with I was wondering most of the patriots and volunteers of the continental army were made up of colonial born citizens foreigners and immigrants who just joined or already were apart of the army and a chunk of them being either slaves and freedmen or indigenous Americans who either volunteers or were already joined the army with approval

With that being the case most of them don't have any prior experience or exposure with swordsmenship and I'd imagine most of them would have been in there early 20s to mid 30s

So with that being being said most gained of them received some training or experience the during the revolution right or wrong?


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j29ondm wrote

The only people in the infantry being trained with swords were officers. Hell, most infantry weren't even trained to use bayonets beyond how to put it on/take it off and point it in front of them.

Cavalry would all be trained in mounted fencing. Navy trained them to fence, but most of their fencing would be done with navy pikes over cutlasses (though of course they still trained cutlass).


Unable-Anybody-2285 OP t1_j2a2we8 wrote

I read about it seems that officers were the only with and training or fencing that of calvary regiments

Well in that case did the officers ever train the infantry in swordplay


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j2aby9t wrote

Not that I know of. Infantry saber as a fencing system existed, but only officers were taught.

Thomas Matthewson of the Salisbury Volunteer Rifles during the Napoleonic Wars in England had his regiment drop thier bayonets in favor of infantry sabers, claiming the saber was far superior to the bayonet in close melees. Here's a copy of his curriculum.

The superiority of the saber over the bayonet in close quarters was a debate in the early 19th century British military, but sabers were rarely issued in the army outside of officers. Matthewson was a rare case.


jrhooo t1_j2baodg wrote

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it fair to say, when discussing bayonets before and maybe even up to the US Civil War, that we weren’t even fully graduated from seeing line infantry riflemen as “pikemen that could shoot”.


Reactor_Jack t1_j2btihm wrote

Similar to what I planned to say. Pikes could have a "formal system" for use, like a military drill manual, and pretty simple in comparison to that of a sword. The days of flintlock, matchlock, even cap lock (right before the modern cartridge era) of the US Civil War made for a pretty unwieldy pike, stick a pointy end on it and it was at least something if the ranks broke or you had no time to reload before being overrun.


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j2bu6q4 wrote

Yeah, I'd say so. Other than dislodging opposing infantry in a charge, preventing cavalry from running you over was the next primary objective of bayonets.


amitym t1_j2d821e wrote

The advent of repeating rifles probably helped with that.


impossiblefork t1_j2banmj wrote

>Military fencing in the age of powder mostly consisted of mounted saber,

No. Swedes fought with pikes and sword during charges that followed a close-distance volley and the attack with swords was a primary tactic.

There are surely other groups that used similar tactics.

The start of the gunpowder era had pike squares and Spanish had sword fencers in these pike squares, similar to the use of landsknechts in German equivalents.

What I mention is of course a slightly different era, but you make statement without qualifying it so that it isn't false.


Poopy_McTurdFace t1_j2bty1c wrote

You're correct. The statements I've been making have been applicable for America and Brittan for the 18th and 19th centuries.

The late 16th and 17th centuries saw quite a bit of infantry fencing training. Nations that were historically lighter on cavalry also had infantry fencing being a larger part of military doctrine for a while longer.


Bitter_Mongoose t1_j2d2cpw wrote

>There was a highland Scot who taught broadsword (or a brit teaching highland broadsword, as happened more often than not in the 18th century for a few reasons) who opened the first fencing school in America in the early-ish 18th century in Boston, but I forget their name.

Duncan Mcloud of the Clan McCloud


DoctorFacepunch t1_j29aewb wrote

George Washington carried a sword. Later, when John Brown planned to spark a slave revolt, he tried to steal it in a heist, as a symbol of revolution.

There was also Peter Francisco, called the "Giant of the Revolution" for his size (he was known for pulling cannons across battlefields single-handedly), who preferred hand-to-hand combat. Washington himself commissioned a special broadsword for Fransisco to carry.


Zwierzycki t1_j29pai0 wrote

Peter’s sword was stolen and is a piece of missing history. Peter was supposedly 6’10”.


bogvapor t1_j29uwgs wrote

John Brown was also felled by a sword at Harpers Ferry. Except it was a ceremonial sword so he was just bludgeoned into surrendering.


Fheredin t1_j2b2t2h wrote

Ceremonial does not necessarily equal non-functional; swords benefit from being sharp, but when you start thinking of a sword as a thin, flat piece of metal moving at 50 mph it becomes clear sharpness isn't necessary.


batotit t1_j29dhhj wrote

There are officers who not only wore the sword but of course, trained with it until they were considered proficient with the weapon (especially the cavalry), and there are battles like Guilford Courthouse where bloody hand-to-hand combat with bayonets, swords, and axes became the deciding factor.
But the truth is, by the time America gained its independence in 1776, swords were already obsolete. Maybe there are swordsmen at the time but they are never "notable" because their weapons are not useful anymore on the battlefield.
Do you remember any Japanese swordsmen in world war 2? At the time they joined the war, their armies still have lots of people known as "Master swordmen" but they are not "notable" because, at the end of the day, the sword is not a factor in the war.


ThoDanII t1_j2a0fga wrote

>But the truth is, by the time America gained its independence in 1776, swords were already obsolete. Maybe there are swordsmen at the time but they are never "notable" because their weapons are not useful anymore on the battlefield.

The participants in the napoleonic wars would not agree


wizenedfool t1_j29s2sf wrote

Obviously in no way “notable” as you say. But this comment does just make me think what an absolute bummer it would have been to be the poor soldier that ends up stumbling into one of these “masters” in the jungle and having to fight hand-to-hand.


JethroFire t1_j29ubdp wrote

Not a problem if you shoot him first.


wizenedfool t1_j2a3716 wrote

I mean it isn’t as tho these Japanese soldiers didn’t also have guns to use outside hand to hand range…


JethroFire t1_j2a6tzi wrote

Right, but him being described as a master swordsman assumes that he is primarily armed with a sword and a pistol.


stiffgordons t1_j2a4lj4 wrote

They weren’t obsolete, they had a role as a cavalry weapon in circumstances where respective military traditions, demographics and geography permitted the effective use of cavalry at scale.

Hence why cavalry armed with swords were often decisive in Europe well into the 19th century.


CumfartablyNumb t1_j2aax7p wrote

I've seen movies that depict Japanese officers leading banzai charges with their swords drawn. A quick glance at the wiki shows it was generally a last ditch effort before the Japanese lines fell, and it was not very effective against an organized US force.

Though apparently there was some success against poorly equipped Chinese.


BudgetMattDamon t1_j2a0zw6 wrote

It boils down pretty simply: you have to undergo a lot of intensive training (years IIRC) with the sword to be able to kill effectively. A gun requires zero training to use, and relatively little to become passable with. Plus you can kill way more people in less time.

Swords are still way cooler.


Sinfullyvannila t1_j2c37kd wrote

It really depends on the gun. That's probably the case for a good striker fired handgun if there is already a bullet in the chamber or a pump action or break loaded shotgun. But otherwise, military rifles usually have less obvious slide operations and/or safeties. Double-action handguns of all kinds have a much heavier trigger pull than most people expect and it's not obvious whether a revolver is single, or double action.

Even with something as popular as a 1911, even if someone knew how to operate the slide, they probably wouldn't recognize the manual safety they don't know you also have to squeeze the lever on the back of the grip to engage the trigger.


TreeRatWaltz t1_j29jc81 wrote

TL:DR: Look for Cavalry officers who saw lots of action, or infantry officers who engaged in close-combat raids or ambushes. Also check out foreign fighters like the German Auxiliaries and Foreign-born American officers. Also is this about dueling or combat? Because fencing =/= combat.


Most officers in the American Revolution carried swords. Most cavalry in the American Revolution carried swords. Some light infantry in the American Revolution (including some militia and the German light infantry), and nearly all French and German Infantry carried swords in the American Revolution. (notably, English-speaking armies had largely phased out infantry swords by this time for several reasons).

However, your instincts that sword use was in sharp decline is correct. In most cases, if a soldier was going to fight in a war, he wanted the weapon that would best support him, and a firearm gave better range, firepower, and with a bayonet a better close-combat effect especially when fighting in a close formation.

However, some men certainly became good with a sword to the extent they were known, though generally the men who are well known are officers, and generally they are cavalry officers since they fought in the front much more often, and saw more hand-to-hand combat.

Here is where I would ask a question of my own though. Are you looking for a "fencing master" or someone who was good with a sword in combat?

Those are vastly different things. Duels certainly existed and happened, two German Auxiliary officers had a sword duel on the voyage to America and one killed the other in the duel. But they were generally illegal in most militaries and deeply frowned upon. Which is probably the biggest blow to your research if you're looking for "fencing masters" since being one in the classic sense of one-on-one combat generally got you court martialed when you showed your skill.

For general combat though, swords were absolutely used, but the combat techniques were not about finesse, but about coordination with other soldiers, momentum on cavalry, or shock tactics. In these cases you would rarely see sword-on-sword fights, and if the other guy was prepared for you and had swords, just shoot him instead. Usually swords were used by officers and men who lacked muskets and bayonets when they ambushed enemies or assaulted their forts/camps in secret.

I should also point out that throughout the war the American army, despite have little tactical use for swords generally and primarily giving them to particular officers and NCO's as symbols of rank, the army still had a massive shortage of swords of all kinds up to the end of the war.

As a final note, infantry and cavalry swords are generally top heavy and good slashing swords and are balanced as such. Cavalry sabers are ridiculously long and none of them would be a "fencing sword" as people in the modern day imagine it. Generally if you had a well proportioned, well balanced, well made sword good for cuts and thrusts then you were a wealthy officer and purchased it for yourself.

P.S: as a funny/sad addendum I would bet, from the diaries, journals, court martials, and other documents I've read, that the average American infantry officer/NCO who had a sword was more likely to have hit one of his own men with the flat of the blade as punishment than an enemy with the sharp end. (but that's just a speculation about the average)


Unable-Anybody-2285 OP t1_j2eunfq wrote

Yeah I wasn't really sure what I was going for on this question

I know fencing wasn't exactly popular in the colonial states at the time nor was it Melee method or techniques for the continental army's swordplay i know it has its roots but It evolved much more than that

What I was going for or at least what I had in mind was maybe as you suggested notable examples of calvary officers who might of been noted to be very skilled with a sword or officers who from what I've who've had mastery in the saber or often in other times have had fencing skills prior to the war who were notable swordsmen during the revolution maybe examples like that would help

And I know I've said fencing it just it's the only base I could go off the I really don't know the name for American sword play at the time

Lastly since you've gave me this much info were there any cases of officers training there regiments or infantry in proper sword techniques or swordplay and if so we're there any notable examples of people gain the skills and then going on to become master in the art or using their skills for later engagements or wars


Imtiredcanistop t1_j298rc3 wrote

My first thought was John “mad jack” Churchill of Great Britain in WWII, who went to battle with a longbow, a Scottish broadsword, and a set of bagpipes, but that’s not what you were asking… there was Thomas butler an African American fencing master from Louisiana, but that was more around the revolution so again not what you were asking…. Nothing really comes to mind honestly, rapiers we’re required for majors down and used frequently, but so we’re bayonets which could be considered a short sword?


BrewtusMaximus1 t1_j29oo10 wrote

Bayonet is more pike than sword


Imtiredcanistop t1_j2aqecy wrote

If it’s on a rifle sure, what about just the bayonet?


BrewtusMaximus1 t1_j2as9un wrote

More of a large knife at that point (blade length of 8”-13”). You’re probably right at the boundary line with the longer ones.


Unable-Anybody-2285 OP t1_j29dr53 wrote

I was thinking more along the line of a cutlass or sabre rapiers weren't really made for warfare I mean there were war rapiers but I imagine that would been both rare and expensive to come by since the country just got it's footing


RiverDragon64 t1_j29ogwx wrote

The U.S.Army model 1913 Cavalry Saber was designed by 2nd Lt (later General) George S Patton Jr. He was the Master of Sword at the Mounted Service School in the early 1900’s so it was still being taught in the 20th century. US.Navy Sailors were taught cutlass fighting in the Civil War. The Model 1860 & 1863 Naval Cutlasses were carried by the US Navy aka “Union” navy.


whitepine55 t1_j29ixz4 wrote

The US Navy had a cutlass training manual in the early 19th century.


crazynfo t1_j29r0g8 wrote

During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), fencing was a popular pastime among the wealthy and elite in colonial America. Many fencing masters, both American and European, taught the art of sword fighting in the colonies. Some notable examples include:

Jacob F. Rath: Rath was a German fencing master who immigrated to Philadelphia in the late 1700s. He taught fencing to members of the Continental Army and was known for his expertise in the use of the rapier.

William Woodman: Woodman was an English fencing master who taught in Boston and New York City during the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, a militia organization in Boston, and is known for writing a fencing manual that was widely used in the colonies.

George Washington: While not a fencing master himself, Washington was an avid swordsman and owned a collection of fencing manuals. He recognized the importance of fencing in training soldiers and provided funding for fencing masters to teach his troops.

Benjamin Franklin: Franklin was a polymath who had an interest in fencing and even wrote an article on the subject for The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1730. He was known for his skills with the rapier and often engaged in fencing matches with friends and associates.

It is worth noting that while fencing was a popular pastime in colonial America, it was not necessarily the primary means of military training or combat. The use of firearms, particularly muskets, was more prevalent in warfare during this time period. However, swords were still used in some military units, particularly cavalry units, and fencing was considered an important means of training soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and coordination.


Unable-Anybody-2285 OP t1_j2b7945 wrote

Thanks for this list quick list I did not expect Benjamin Franklin as for George Washington I knew he had some training considering he used to be in the British military before becoming the general of continental army I'm definitely checking this people out

Another question I've got is there examples of just regular people who just joined army at received the sword training went on to become or great at their new skill


Shipkiller-in-theory t1_j29ef9g wrote

Swords were still a thing in Europe during the Napoleonic wars with Calvary. To a lesser extent during the Sepoy rebellion and Crimean war.


Gug21 t1_j29h8yb wrote

From what I’ve heard, they were used on occasion but muskets and bayonets began to take over. Plus I think only Calvary officers were given swords but I could be wrong


Kronzypantz t1_j29mu4p wrote

So swords have almost never been an actual battlefield weapon, but a side arm. The sword is what someone uses when their spear breaks or they have no time to reload their gun.

The real role of sword masters were in training nobility in private self-defense in major cities like Paris and Milan, and dueling other nobles. Which notably was not the context for America, even a century before the revolution. Hence why pistols specifically came to replace swords for most of the aristocracy and bourgeoise that made up America's upper class.

That being said, there were a number of famous fencers and teachers of swordsmanship. George Patton saw himself as quite the expert swordsman and set standards to be taught to US calvary, and Teddy Roosevelt was an avid fan of cane fighting.


Kevin_Uxbridge t1_j2bg0z9 wrote

Patton placed forth in the fencing portion of the 1912 Olympics Pentathlon. That's a good get.


Kronzypantz t1_j2bgej2 wrote

Bet the guys in first, second, and third didn’t push replacing their nation’s Calvary sabers with their own pet project though


madmrmox t1_j2bjir9 wrote

In a military context, let us consider obsolete to mean no longer issued to line infantry. Which pushes it back quite a way, to the advent of the socket bayonet, and arguably further. But (like the partisan) swords were issued to to officers in a semi ceremonial way--as batons, as a symbol of authority. And officers have kept the, basically to his day as such.


BrightGreyEyes t1_j29mo37 wrote

There may be people notable for using a sword, but probably not notable for their skill with it if that makes sense. The saber didn't really change between about 1640 and the Civil War because the niche they served didn't change, and it doesn't take much skill to be effective with it.

Modern militaries still use edged weapons because they're useful when guns aren't. They would probably still use swords if they weren't impractical to carry


Kevin_Uxbridge t1_j2bg6ed wrote

> Modern militaries still use edged weapons ...

According to my buddy, his marine training basically came down to 'sneak up, stab stab stab, run away'.


Antisocialite99 t1_j2b4oar wrote

Fencing implies two people fighting each other with swords but I think much more often it was swords deployed by officers on foot or by calvary against normal infantrymen armed with muskets and bayonets.

Calvary sabers really aren't designed for fencing primarily they are designed to be held Ina static position while you ride them into someone. The curve is more drastic towards the end meaning when pointed straight ahead at the hilt would then end up about head high with the end of the blade basically perpendicular to the necks it would encounter.


Kelend t1_j2cekp7 wrote

>Calvary sabers really aren't designed for fencing primarily they are designed to be held Ina static position while you ride them into someone.

Modern Olympic fencing consists of three weapon types.

Foil, Epee.... and... and... Saber.

The modern Olympic sport of Saber fencing still shows its roots in its use as a calvary weapon.


Antisocialite99 t1_j2cgyiy wrote

But not all sabers are calvalry sabers...

The calvary variant has less of a gradual curve and more quick pronounced bend.

I don't fence you guys know way more than me n that regard I just follow cus I'd like to try...

But I do know the old west Era calvary sabers were designed to supposed cut off a foot soldiers head by riding past them with the sword pointed straight ahead just letting the curve of the sword produce an almost perpendicular blade. I think this technique was supposed to be better than swinging your arm as you rode past... im.not sure why though perhaps just more accurate when riding past at speed? It's a very similar technique to.the way a bullfighter goes in for the killing blow except the saber is so bent instead of a point it creates a.head.choppy off near sideways blade.

Im not even sure it was a good design but there's a whole history of that feature beinf designed in and then redesigned out I've read it just can't remember. I think there were complaints about how they handled when actually fencing another swordsman.


CapoOn2nd t1_j2b9hps wrote

Can’t speak much about the American revolution but I do know that even in World War One the initial conflict between Britain and Germany was lost by Britain because the unit attempted a cavalry charge at German positions and they got gunned down. That war was not expected to play out like it did. No wonder the best tactic the generals could come up with was to send wave after wave of men over the top of the bunkers, they had no other experience of battle tactics than to charge in.


MackTUTT t1_j2bfi1v wrote

Tomahawks required little training to be effective in close quarters and their use in the revolutionary war far exceeded that of swords from what I've read.


jrhooo t1_j2bkzqp wrote

One point to bring up that may be missed here,

WHY would an officer use a sword during the gunpowder era? (specifically an infantry officer with a line unit, NOT a cavalry officer)

The answer to that question speaks directly to the likelihood of ever seeing sword vs sword combat.

And the answer is: Self Defense.

An officer's sword in that era served the same conceptual role as a pistol in the era after it.

An extremely close range, personal defense sidearm.

See, an officer wouldn't carry a rifle in those days. Rifles were for the infantrymen on the line to shoot at the enemy.

Its NOT the officer's job to shoot at the enemy.

Its the officer's job to stand back, supervise, direct, coordinate.

To draw an analogy, you can't be conducting the orchestra is you're too busy trying to play one of the violins.

An officer trying to stand on the line and pick off the enemy probably isn't properly doing his job of directing his men.

So officers don't need rifles.

BUT... what happens when the battle goes really badly, and now the enemy is overrunning your position?

Now that officer needs something to defend themself with.

A rifle... maybe not the best option. Not the ideal weapon for close quarters melee distance, and too big and cumbersome to carry around all the time in case anyways.

Nope, but if the enemy breaks through and gets into arms reach, every man clawing and stabbing at each other distance... pistols and swords become VERY useful.

And THAT is why swords and pistols became associated with officers/leadership positions.

In the modern firearms era, we DO see officers start to carry traditional firearms, but even then, we still get hints of the "not a line troop" nature of those weapons. Example, WWI it might common to see leaders carrying pistols more so than rifles. By WWII you might certainly see officers carrying rifles, since they were less cumbersome than they used to be, but even then, by T/O you would typically see officers with something more like an M1 Carbine or Thompson Sub. Smaller, lighter, easier to carry, shorter effective range, but higher rate of fire. You're not picking off enemy soldiers at a distance, but if the bad guys overrun your lines and start storming the HQ tent, you have enough close up firepower to kill everyone coming through the door, and/or maybe blast your way out of there.

Interesting tidbit that I can't speak to as confirmed fact, but I have heard referenced by a lot of the old Vietnam era vets; shotguns. So, even in the Vietnam era, some officers carried pistols, some M16s, but then shotguns got popular. With the whole "personal defense weapon" idea in mind, the saying/logic was "LT, if some sh** ever goes bad enough that YOU have to reach for your pistol, you're gonna wish you had a shotgun."


>And THAT is why swords and pistols became associated with officers/leadership positions.

Of course, a lot of other officers decided they DID want to just carry an M16 like everyone else, because in a Vietnam style of war snipers were a constant fear, and you didn't want to wear/carry anything that made you look like "someone special" from a distance.


Sword on sword combat in the rifle/musket era seems like it would be a reasonably uncommon battlefield occurrence.

Foot officers really only carried swords as personal defense weapons. It wasn't their job to directly engage the enemy troops.

Thus, if an officer was in the thick of it, hacking away at the enemy, he was likely either

A. Leading his men on a charge through the enemy lines

B. (most likely) desperately trying to fend off the enemy that was overrunning his own position.

In either case, A or B, said officer was probably fighting some untold number of riflemen, NOT seeking out his equal opposite across the field for a gentlemen's sword duel. (which still isn't to say that officers didn't learn and train single sword combat, just saying it wouldn't be all that battlefield relevant)

Hmm... In a nice little "Hollywood got that right" moment - IIRC in the 1989 Civil War move "Glory" Matthew Broderick plays a Union officer, and there was a scene of him practicing with his sword. They did NOT show him practice man to man fencing against some fencing dummy. Instead they showed him on horseback, chopping the melons off the tops of a line of fenceposts at a gallop, as if riding through a crowd of enemy, taking out men on the ground. Nice job, director guy

One more note:

>And THAT is why swords became associated with officers/leadership positions.

That is why it was a big deal in the U.S. Marine Corps, for them to issue the "NCO Saber". The very existence and issuance of a sword for non-commissioned officers, i.e., Corporals and Sergeants, was an acknowledgement that the Marine Corps saw NCOs as unit leaders, with leadership duties and authorities. NCOs could be "in charge" of people and missions. This is a concept that wasn't common in a lot of services, and still isn't fully accepted in some militaries today. Which is to say, almost all militaries have ranks equivalent to Cpls and Sgts, but NOT all militaries have a culture of entrusting Cpls and Sgts with true managerial authorities and responsibilities)


TheGrandExquisitor t1_j2cgshg wrote

The US Civil War had a surprising variety of swords that were issued. Light calvary sabers, artillery footman swords, as well as cutlasses and Mameluke swords.


Helmut1642 t1_j2cvnej wrote

Swords held a social place outside the practical weapon, when a English Civil War general proposed giving the infantry axes rather than sword "as all they use them for is to chop wood". This kept them as a badge of rank and why the cavalry who needed swords styled themselves gentlemen.


Chickengilly t1_j2d4jqp wrote

Read or listen to the Bernard Coldwell Rifleman series. It’s in Europe before and during Napoleonic times.

One thing that comes clear is that if you have 100 musketeers (men with muskets) in line, they could shoot maybe 300 shots per minute. But if there are cavalry wielding blades harassing them from behind, they have to form a square where only 25 are facing the enemy’s line and can only send 75 shots down range. Muskets are fairly inaccurate at a specific target, but when pointing at a mass, they can usually hit something. But they aren’t so great for shooting a speedy horseman over yonder.

It’s a fun series.