Swords, knives, and other edged weapons have played a valuable role in the United States military since the Revolutionary War. Used for combat, utility, and uniforms, military swords and knives offer a fascinating glimpse into the history and tradition of the U.S. Armed Forces. The following is a brief look into the early story of U.S. edged weapons.
The Revolutionary War
Swords played a primarily decorative role in the Revolutionary War, with officers being the most likely to wear a sabre or sword as a part of his uniform. These weapons were typically of European origin, though domestic sword manufacturing did begin after the start of the war. Lesser equipped soldiers or guerilla fighters often used whatever weapons they could get their hands on, including swords, axes, polearms, and other sharp tools.
The Civil War
The Civil War marked the first widespread U.S. use of bayonets on the battlefield; though only around one percent of total combat deaths were the result of bayonet wounds. Bayonets were an effective psychological weapon as well, meant to intimidate the opposing side with the sight of charging lines of bayonet thrusting soldiers.
The lesser equipped Confederate Army were fond of using bowie knives and other available edged weapons, as they were often not provided with weapons and had to arm themselves. Bowie knives were gradually replaced by more capable bayonets, but they remain one of the most iconic military knives to this day.
As with the Revolutionary War, swords were commonly carried by officers and generals as part of their uniform. Confederates had their own durable brass knuckle plated sabres made in Confederacy armories, while the Union had a similar but slightly more ornate sabre and scabbard. A number of famous Civil War swords remain in museums and private collections. The Smithsonian Museum is home to General Sheridan’s personal sword, which features a scabbard that is engraved with all the battles he participated in.
Both original and replica U.S. military swords and knives are a popular item with history enthusiasts, sword collectors, and many others. The sword is an icon for the individual branches of the U.S. military, one that it is an important part of U.S. history as a whole.