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BAHN FREI marked Tuner Rifle Bayonet & Scabbard by Hug

BAHN FREI marked Tuner Rifle Bayonet & Scabbard by Hug

  • Product Code: EWB-1450-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

Here is a unique and rare saber bayonet that is associated with the famous German immigrant Turner organizations that served with such honor during the American Civil War. The Turnverein or simply Turners in America were nationalistic German-American gymnastics (athletic) clubs. Many were recent immigrants to the US, arriving in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. When war broke out in their newly adopted land, many Turners rushed to enlist, and often sought out units comprised of their own members. The most famous Turner regiments were the 9th OH volunteer infantry (raised in the Cincinnati area) and the 17th MO volunteer infantry, known as the Western Turner Rifles raised in the St. Louis area. Although both of these units were raised in specific areas, they drew Turner’s from all over the US, including cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as those in the mid-west and west. Many of these men arrived in camp with their own personal weapons. Usually they arrived with civilian style percussion target rifles, both half stock and full stock, in calibers that were typically between .42 and .45. While the styles and variations of the rifles were quite wide ranging, the two features that were typical of these guns were the addition of sling swivels (uncommon on civilian rifles) and a large lug to accept a saber bayonet (almost never encountered on civilian guns). The saber bayonets were typically very large, often featuring Yatagan blades in the range of 18”-24" and with cast brass hilts. Often these hilts were cast with slogans in their brass grips, like BAHN FREI - a German idiomatic phrase roughly translated to mean: look out or get out of the way. These bayonets were much less varied than the guns they went on, and while blade length and overall size and minor cosmetic features did vary somewhat, the basic form remained relatively constant. This is somewhat amazing as the bayonets were clearly manufactured by a wide variety of makers. The bayonets are rarely maker marked, but are often numbered to match the assembly or mating numbers on the guns that they were fit to. Through the extensive research of Turner historian Tom Rentschler, author of Rifles & Blades of German American Militias and the Civil War, some of these unmarked bayonets have been identified as to their makers. The bayonets were typically manufactured by local cutlers or makers of medical & dental instruments, and were provided in their mostly finished form to the gun makers who then fit the bayonets to the lugs on the rifles. Maker marked Turner bayonets are quite rare, and are very desirable for collectors. The bayonets that retain their original scabbards are even less often encountered.

Offered here is a classic Turner bayonet, in about VERY GOOD condition, complete with the original leather scabbard. The bayonet is from the collection of author & researcher Tom Rentschler, and was probably used as one of the examples he photographed for his book. This bayonet was produced in Cincinnati, Ohio by Rudolph Hug “ a cutler and maker of dental instruments during the 1850’s. The reverse of the hilt is marked in two lines: R HUG / CIN O. In typical Tuner form, the bayonet has a massive 18 1/8” long, 1 ““ wide, Yatagan blade, a 5 1/8” heavy cast brass handle and a large cast slot (with an iron spring catch) on the handle to engage the bayonet stud and guide on the Turner rifle. The overall length of the bayonet is 23 ““ and it weighs just under 2 pounds. The brass grip is in excellent condition, with a rich, un-cleaned ochre patina. The brass grip shows traces of silver plating, which indicates that it may have been originally silver plated like the brass backstrap of Colt revolvers of the era. This would not be surprising, as Hug was likely quite skilled at plating metal as part of his dental instrument manufacturing business. The classic Turner slogan BAHN = FREI cast into the hilt “up side down”, so that the slogan is not oriented in an upright manner when the bayonet is affixed to the rifle. Many Turner bayonets have the slogan cast in this manner. The blade has a medium gray with scattered patches of darker age staining and peppering throughout. The blade was likely sharpened at some point and is still rather sharp. A prior owner put a layer of cellophane tape along the edge of the blade to both prevent injury and damage to the scabbard. Most of the old tape ahs long since come off, but some traces of tape and residue to remain along the edge. The edge also has a couple of chips and dings, likely from actual use during the period of use. It is quite likely that like most saber bayonets, these saw more use as camp axes and tools than as battle weapons. One of the best features of this bayonet is the fact that the original period leather scabbard is present. The scabbard is in about GOOD+ condition. The leather is somewhat dry overall and the scabbard shows significant crazing and flaking to the finish. There is a crack through the leather on the front side, about 6” from the tip. The crack does not go through the rear side of the scabbard, but it makes the scabbard quite weak in that area. The throat of the scabbard has a second layer of leather to reinforce it, but no hanger or frog is present and it is not clear how the scabbard was originally attached to the belt. The tip of the scabbard also shows some significant wear, not surprisingly as it the leather is not reinforced with any type of metal tip or finial. Amazingly, considering the wear evident on the scabbard, all of the original stitching remains strong and tight and in very good condition.

Many collectors consider these slogan and maker marked blades the most desirable form of the classic Turner Bayonet. These bayonets are seldom encountered with the strong makers marks found on this one, and almost never found with their original scabbards. This is an item that anyone would be proud to add to their collection of Civil War era edged weapons. According to Tom Rentschler’s exhaustive research, only 9 examples of Hug marked Tuner bayonets are known to exist. The Cincinnati connection of the maker (and the rifle that this bayonet was mated with) make it almost certain that this bayonet was at one time in the possession of the members of the 9th OH Volunteer Infantry, an entirely German & Turner regiment raised in Cincinnati. Due to a Turner bayonet recovered at the Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN many years ago, we know that at least some of the 9th OH were still carrying their Turner bayonets (and likely their rifles as well) as late as that battle in December 1862-Januray 1863. I have seen the more common Bown & Tetley marked Turner bayonets priced in the $4,000 range, and often without scabbards! This one is priced well under that price and includes something that is almost never found with one of these bayonets- the original scabbard. When you consider that this fine bayonet is one of only 9 known by this maker, and comes from the collection of the best-known Turner researcher and historian, it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to add it to your collection. These massive bayonets in the hands of angry German immigrants must have struck terror into the hearts of the Confederate soldiers who faced the Turners on the field of battle, and truly made the soldiers facing them feel that they should BAHN FREI!


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Tags: BAHN, FREI, marked, Tuner, Rifle, Bayonet, Scabbard, by, Hug