British P1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword


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SKU: SS1809 Category:


The iconic P1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword, made famous by Bernard Cornwell’s fictional
Napoleonic Wars hero Richard Sharpe in books and TV, was the sword carried by the
Union Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. As manufactured it was a heavy and clumsy
sword not generally liked by those who carried it, however, with certain simple
modifications it was a very effective weapon in strong skilled hands. This example shows
these modifications, an indication of obvious field use. The large disc guard would dig into
the side of the wearer and so it was often ground down on the inside as on this example.
The standard tip was a hatchet point, which was fine for slashing, but inadequate for a
thrust and so this example has been ground to a spear point. The standard scabbard was
iron with twin carry rings, but this example lacks the scabbard. Unlike leather scabbards,
the iron scabbard was not likely to wear out, so its absence indicates the likelihood that this
was a battlefield pickup. There would have been many swords of this type left on the field
at Waterloo. The attack of the Union Brigade, numbering no more than 1000 riders from
three regiments, was extremely successful against the French infantry, inflicting an
estimated 5,000 casualties and stopping the assault that threatened to break the British
infantry on Mont St. Jean. In addition they captured two French Eagles, that of the 105th
and the 45th line regiments. However, due to over-excitement and poor discipline, many of
the cavalrymen ignored the recall and continued past the French infantry to attack the
Grand Battery. Not having any nails to spike the cannon they achieved little, but with their
tired horses they became easy prey for a counter attack by French chasseurs, cuirassiers,
and lancers. They suffered nearly 50% casualties, including brigade commander Sir
William Ponsonby. The sword offered here features the standard iron disc guard with the
aforementioned modification, dove-head pommel with integral back strap and langets
riveted through the leather-covered wood grip. Knuckle bow stamped “O/Y+C/C/6″
(Oxfordshire Yeomanry Cavalry 6th Company?) Broad straight single-edged 32 ½” blade
(shortened from the regulation 35″) with wide full-length fuller and ground spear point;
stamped “T. GILL” (Thomas Gill, Birmingham and London). Ricasso stamped with broad
arrow ordnance mark and a crowned “I” in the fuller. Hilt with deep brown patina; blade
generally smooth with light age staining and some rust near the point. Overall length 37 ½”.