Rare British Light Dragoon Officer’s Sword, ca. 1775


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This is one of the rarest swords of the American Revolution, used by both British Dragoons
and American Continental Army Light Dragoons under George Washington. This example
has an interesting history, as it was discovered in the late 1960’s when a crate of swords
was dug up during excavation in New York City. The crate was then turned over to the
West Point Museum. The man from whom we just acquired the sword was a teenage
volunteer and guide at the New Windsor (NY) Cantonment Historical Site at the time and
became friends with Gerald Stowe, curator of ordnance and history at the West Point
Museum. Stowe gifted this sword to him over 55 years ago and it has remained with him
up until now. An included copy of a news article of the period shows this volunteer and Mr.
Stowe in Revolutionary War uniform demonstrating the use of period weapons. The sword
is not a standard British pattern, but was believed to have been adopted sometime around
1773 by the 15th Light Dragoon Regiment. This type was in existence for a relatively short
period, being superceded by the much more common Pattern 1788, which featured a
curved blade and iron stirrup hilt. This example features a straight unfullered 35 1/4″ blade
with clipped point and flat back edge. There appears to be a stamped mark on the ricasso,
but it is obscured by the langet. Other examples are marked with a small crown stamp in a
similar location. Brass stirrup guard with single langet each side (one stamped with “42″),
joined to the capstan pommel; integral backstrap. Grip is wood, covered with cord and
wrapped with fishskin; brass base ferrule. Untouched since its discovery in the 1960’s, the
brass with age patina, blade dark with a few shallow nicks and small patches of rust. No
scabbard, and none are known to survive. An identical example is pictured in “Swords of
the British Army” (Robson) fig. 4. Another example, with the same blade, but hilt of P1788
form, is pictured in “Swords & Blades of the American Revolution” (Neumann), fig. 281.S.
Overall length 40 3/4″.

Such swords were carried by the Green Dragoons, in the British Legion during the
American Revolution, under the command of the infamous Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton.
Raised in New York in July, 1778, the Legion was composed primarily of Loyalist American
soldiers. Also known as “Tarleton’s Legion”, they saw much action in the Carolinas,
winning a number of engagements until being soundly defeated at the Battle of Cowpens in
1781. When General Cornwallis abandoned the Carolinas and shifted to Virginia, Tarleton
raided ahead of the army and nearly captured Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and the
Virginia General Assembly. After Cornwallis’ surrender, fearing reprisals against Loyalists,
many members of the Legion were evacuated to New York, and eventually Nova Scotia.
This is the only example of this type we have encountered in nearly 25 years of business.