AMES MODEL 1841 U.S. NAVAL CUTLASS WITH MEXICAN WAR DATE OF 1845

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Item Code: 490-3182

The 1841 U.S. Navy cutlass is scarce. Only 6,600 were delivered on government contracts from 1842 through 1846. The 1845 date on this one indicates it is one of 1,200 made on a September 21, 1844, contract and delivered by September 1845, or, less likely, is one of 400 delivered by July 1846 on a contract for another 1,200 signed on July 1, 1845. The navy was active in the Mexican War not only on blockading duty, but in amphibious operations in California and the Gulf of Mexico, and on land as well, most notably at Vera Cruz in 1847, where it not only landed a large army force, but erected and manned a naval gun battery on shore that took part in the bombardment of the city. In the inter-war years these cutlasses were on U.S. ships around the world including Perry’s voyage to China and Japan. At the beginning of the Civil War these were still the regulation pattern. The so-called “Model 1860” was not actually contracted for until May 1861, and although produced quickly and in quantity, many of these M1841s were called back into service, if they were not still in the arms racks of U.S. vessels.

The U.S. Navy contracted with Ames in late 1841 for production of a cutlass designed with an eye on the army’s 1832/3 pattern short sword. Both have short, wide, straight, double-edged blades and the grips and pommels use the same mold: the grip has scales and is secured by three rivets, and the pommel is cast with an eagle on either side. The cutlass blade differs, however, in having a median ridge without fullers and the guard offers greater protection to the hand. The knuckleguard is formed from a flat piece of brass with reinforced edge, descending from the pommel and widening to form a counterguard around the blade with a quillon terminating in a disk. They were formidable weapons that could serve also to cut through boarding nets to gain an enemy’s deck or in cutting away fallen lines and tackle if an ax was not handy.

The hilt on this example has a even, medium, aged patina. The blade is shows as silver gray with thin darker gray areas. There are a few very small nicks to the blade edge, but nothing egregious, and the point is good. The surface shows some shallow pitting in places, but nothing too deep or noticeable. The blade markings are legible, though rubbed from years of cleaning to keep idle hands busy on long shipboard duty.  The ricasso of the blade is stamped “N.P. AMES / SPRINGFIELD” on the reverse, with the right of the first line and the bottom middle and right of the second line rubbed. The obverse shows the upper portions of “USN” over a clear “1845” date and at bottom a rubbed “R” inspector’s stamp, that appears on other M1841 cutlasses, but has not been identified so far as we know. The hilt was subject to less attention and the markings are sharper: the reverse quillon disk is stamped “R.C.” by Rufus Chandler, acting as an inspector for U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance and the obverse is stamped “J.L.” in an oval, the mark of Joseph Lanman, a naval officer assigned as an inspector of Ames products. Both marks have a line of check marks stamped across them, which we have seen on other cutlasses, likely applied when the piece was disposed of as surplus. The eagles on the pommel are also quite good. The surface details are rubbed, but the outline and edges are sharp. These are frequently quite soft from handling and polishing.

This is a very good example of a regulation U.S. Navy cutlass and one that should be in any collection of U.S. edged weapons.  [sr][ph:m]

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