AMES 1860 DATED LIGHT CAVALRY SABER

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Item Code: 870-471

This 1860-dated Ames light cavalry saber stands a very good chance of having seen wartime service in the hands of a Confederate cavalryman. Of approximately 1,400 made that year and delivered to the U.S. government between mid-February and Jan 11, 1861, 1,200 (made from March to September 1860) were forwarded to the State of Virginia at the direction of U.S. Secretary of War John B. Floyd. (Floyd was a native Virginian and, given such arms transfers on the brink of war, later thought it might be best not to be taken prisoner at the surrender of Fort Donelson.) By his direction, they were inspected by U.S. government inspectors, with the state reimbursing the cost. See Thillmann, Cav. and Art. Sabers, 80-81, for details.

The saber is in very good condition, with the scabbard having absorbed most of the field use, as it should: a number of dents and dings on the reverse lower half, where it would bang against the horse and equipment. The scabbard, however, is complete with throat drag, and both ring mounts, and in color largely a dull silver mixed with some thin brown and some darker spots in the dings and dents. Notably, there is an ADK inspector mark on the drag matching that on the saber, indicating they have been together forever.

The brass hilt has a nice untouched, mellow patina, has no bends or breaks, and is tight. The pommel has an undisturbed peen to the blade tang, and a couple of dings to the brim, but sharp “J.H.” and “W.A.T.” inspector stamps. The grip has its original leather wrap and wire binding. The leather is complete and has about 60 percent of its original finish, oxidizing slightly toward brown. Where the finish is missing, however, it shows only the underlying leather as a light brown and does not expose any of the wood core. The wire is tight and complete.

The blade pad is in place under the guard and the blade shows smooth metal, largely bright with some scattered gray spots. The point and edge are good: we see just a little roughness to the edge and some shallow pitting or freckling on the flats for the last four or five inches from the tip. The obverse ricasso is correctly stamped “US / ADK / 1860” and the reverse has the Ames banner scroll reading: “Made by / AMES MFg Co. / CHICOPEE / MASS.” As mentioned above, and noted by Thillmann and others, the U.S. government inspection and acceptance markings are correct for these sabers, even those transferred to Virginia. We have seen these 1860 dated sabers marked by Ames with both the 3-line block style and the banner style address.

This is an interesting sword with a pre-war date that ties in with the secession crisis of 1860, and one that was obviously issued and saw service, but survives in good condition nevertheless. This would make a great addition to a cavalry, edged weapons, or purely Ames collection. With the potential for Virginia and Confederate use it would also fit in with a Confederate cavalry display.  [sr] [ph:L]

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