Civil War Trooper Sword - CSA US
War Trooper's Saber
BLOOD BROTHERS - BRANDY STATION 1863
of Brandy Station, also known as Fleetwood Hill, was the largest cavalry action
of the American Civil war. Men from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland,
and Maine found themselves locked in a man-to-man, face to face death struggle with
Virginians, Georgians, Carolinians, and Mississippians. It was fought with pistols,
carbines, bare hands and – for one of the last times in the war – naked
Amidst the swirling melee one Union trooper distinguished himself among his comrades. Time and again he gave a horrible yell and charged the Confederate lines, each time his saber drawing blood by the sword in terrible black streams. A young Confederate officer watched with amazement as each time the Union trooper escaped unscathed. He requested and was granted permission from his Captain to take on the Yankee in single combat. There followed an unreal stillness in the maelstrom of battle as both sides seemed to sense something extraordinary was happening. There was an awareness seldom felt since ancient times, a feeling that prompted soldiers not to interfere when two evenly matched opponents met in mortal combat with the naked blade of the sword.
Both men were veterans, deeply tanned with long tow colored hair and a scraggly beard hanging about a serious face. The Union trooper saluted his opponent with his saber. It was a curved-bladed heavy cavalry sword and it had been well cared for. The blade was beautiful, a sheen of gray in the dappled light and the hilt was of polished brass. The Southerner returned the salute but his weapon was crude and utilitarian, a light cavalry saber made in a southern shop but as sharp as the day it left it's maker.
It was a contest of experts as both men were above average in height and weight and both were skilled in the craft of killing. They spurred their horses at the same moment and met midfield as their mounts crashed into each other with a crunch that could be heard yards away. They crossed swords as gladiators might and their weapons drew fire from each others edge from the first strike.
Then, suddenly and strangely, they paused and looked at each other. The Southerner threw his saber down and uncovered his head. His adversary could have struck him down at that moment but instead he leaned forward and gazed into the calm eyes of the Confederate. Then he too discarded his weapon. The two men grasped hands and without a word each returned to his own lines.
When the Southerner reported to his Captain he had just six words of explanation. “That man,” he said softly, “ is my twin brother.”
History is often well into the improbable and this story is true. These two enemies were the Swan brothers of Maryland.
In 1840 the U.S. War Department adopted a new saber for the Army's three Dragoon (heavy cavalry) regiments. This model won the derisive nickname of “old wristbreaker” but proved to be an effective weapon in the hands of a trained swordsman. In the hands of an untrained volunteer, however, the weapon proved to be unwieldy and hard to control. When used on horseback it caused the attacker to be unbalanced and vulnerable. Rather than completely abandon the saber, however, in 1860 the Ordnance Department authorized a smaller and easier to handle saber that was named the Model 1860 Light Cavalry saber to distinguish it from the larger and heavier Model 1840. Like its predecessor it had a brass guard, leather wrapped grip, and steel scabbard. Like many Northern manufactured weapons, the Model 1860 was widely copied in Southern workshops but, due to wartime leather shortages, many were issued with simple wooden grips.
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