Welcome to College Hill Arsenal
Confederate P-1853 Cavalry Saber from a G.A.R. Hall

Confederate P-1853 Cavalry Saber from a G.A.R. Hall

  • Product Code: EWSK-1521-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

While the quantities of Enfield rifles and muskets imported by the South from Great Britain are fairly well documented, and reasonable estimates as to their numbers can be made, the quantities of British P-1853 Cavalry Sabers imported from England to the south are much more difficult to assess. The Pattern 1853 Cavalry Saber was an iron mounted, straight bladed saber with a spear point, flat back and a single fuller. The blades were nominally 34 ““ in length, although some minor variation of about ““ to ““ +/- have been noted. The guard was a 3-branch, wrought iron affair, with a forward-swept iron quillon topping the guard, and an iron pommel cap. The grip scales were a pair of laminated, pressed leather “slabs”, that were roll-embossed with a checkered pattern and pinned to the tang of the blade, which was secured to the pommel cap by peening. The grip scales were very similar to those found on the English saber and cutlass bayonets of the same period. The saber was carried in a simple sheet metal scabbard with a pair of iron suspension rings that allowed it to be attached to the saber belt hangers. A search of the McRae Papers sheds some light on the Confederate purchases of edged weapons, but not all entries provide any more information than “swords”, and of course these could be other patterns than the P-1853 Cavalry Saber. Some British P-1821 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sabers (quite similar to our M-1833 Dragoon Saber) were imported by the Confederacy, as well as a variety of high quality officer’s sabers, often with blades that were etched with Confederate motifs. The south also bought some quantity of Austrian cavalry sabers, of various patterns. Some of the sabers are identified as being “cavalry” swords, and some intuitive classification of the type of sword can be made by looking at the prices paid for them. All of the invoices regarding the purchase of swords in the McRae Papers are from S. Isaac, Campbell & Company of London. The first invoice I can find in the McRae Papers referring to “swords’ is dated October 11, 1861 and is for “1,000 swords”, with no other descriptive information other than the price of 15/4 each, or 15 schillings and 4 pence per sword. The invoice also noted 40 cases were to be provided (shipping the swords 25 to the case), and two additional cases, one for 5 swords and one for 10. These smaller cases probably carried higher-grade officer’s swords that were invoiced separately. Another invoice dated the same day lists “1,000 sword belts” and “1,000 sword knots”. The sword knots certainly suggest that these were cavalry sabers, as the knot was much more important to a cavalry trooper than to anyone on foot. It is not clear what vessel (or vessels) these 1,000 swords were transported by, but it is likely that some of them arrived via Fingal and Gladiator. The first direct reference I can find to the purchase of “cavalry” sabers is an invoice dated March 10, 1862, which lists “1,000 swords, cavalry” and an accompanying invoice on the same date lists 1,000 sword belts and 1,000 sword knots. Another set of invoices dated March 20, 1862 is for “450 swords, cavalry”, with an additional invoice for a similar number of sword belts & knots, with “cavalry” being specified on the invoice regarding the belts. These 450 swords were to be shipped 50 to a case, and were specified as cargo aboard the blockade-runner Minna. It is reasonable to assume that all 1,450 of the swords purchased over that 10-day period, along with their accouterments, probably left for the south via that vessel. The March invoices indicate an increase in price from the former 15/4 charged at the end of 1861 to 16/9. The next invoice is dated June 24, 1862 and is for 500 more cavalry sabers, this time being shipped on the Phoebe. An August 1, 1862 invoice from S. Isaac, Campbell & Company lists another 2,000 “saber belts, cavalry”, as well as 550 “Cavalry Sabers’ at 16/9, but also lists 2,730 “Cavalry Sabers’ at less than 1/3 of that price, priced at only 5/3. That case was marked with a rhomboid with a large “CS’ and a small “A” as a superscript inside the mark. Underneath the rhomboid, there is the note SIC&Co 1/50. The case markings and the very low price suggest that these were not English sabers, but probably used Austrian cavalry sabers of various patterns. Other Austrian sabers are listed as being purchased directly from the Vienna Arsenal through S. Isaac, Campbell & Company in February of 1862, but those sabers were billed at 10/0 each. An undated McRae Papers ledger entry lists swords carried on board the blockade runners Gladiator and Stephen Hart. Gladiator is listed as carrying 50 swords in cases numbered 126 & 127, and Stephen Hart is recorded to have carried 364 swords, in cased numbered 22 & 23, and 128-140, with the additional noted that #140 only contained 14 swords, which indicates the balance were packed 25 to the case as was noted on the early invoices. As the McRae Papers do not contain any saber related invoices after August of 1862, little more can be gleaned from them, but a study of the Payne Papers reveals that between July 17, 1863 and January 12. 1865 (the period the papers cover), 103 cases of “cavalry sabers’ were delivered to the Port of Wilmington, NC on seven different dates, by five different ships. Assuming that these sabers were packed 50 to a case as well, that amounts to 5,150 cavalry sabers of various patterns, all of which are unknown. Realistically, it is safe to assume that they were a mixture of the P-1853 English sabers and the various patterns of Austrian sabers acquired by the Confederacy. While the McRae documents certainly do not contain everything related to Confederate arms purchases, they do establish that approximately 4,000 English cavalry sabers can be documented as being acquired through S. Isaac, Campbell & Company, along with about 7,000 Austrian cavalry sabers. To date, the one consistent feature found on the iron hilted P-1853 sabers that have Confederate provenance is that the spines are marked, near the hilt, either ISAAC & Co or SIC & Co LONDON. This makes sense as all known invoices for the purchase of English P-1853 cavalry sabers are from S. Isaac, Campbell & Company. By studying extant examples, two conclusions can be drawn about the sabers with the above markings. First, the SIC & Co LONDON appears to be the earlier mark, and second this mark is less commonly encountered than the later ISAAC & Co mark. The SIC & Co LONDON mark is individually stamped with single letters on the spine of the blade, just forward of the quillon. This suggests that the maker was applied after the sword was assembled, and with the individual stampings, it appears that no custom made gang stamp was available to mark these swords. As S. Isaac, Campbell & Company was a well-established military outfitter, primarily selling to the British volunteer movement at the beginning of the American Civil War, these sabers with the individually stamped marks were probably those on hand in inventory when the earliest Confederate orders were placed. As additional orders came in for more sabers S. Isaac, Campbell & Company must have contracted for them, and these were delivered with the gang stamped ISAAC & Co mark on the blade spine. These slightly later sabers are also stamped just forward of the quillon, although a handful of examples appear to have been stamped slightly further back, suggesting that they were marked before the blade was hilted. This same gang die applied spine mark is also found on the state of Georgia “G” marked P-1853 sabers. As these sabers were acquired no earlier than late 1861 through 1862, it is reasonable to assume that the swords with the individually applied markings are from the earliest orders during the fall of 1861 and were supplied from the S. Isaac, Campbell & Company stock on hand.

Offered here is a very rare, Confederate Imported British Pattern 1853 Cavalry Saber with the very desirable and scarce SIC & Co LONDON mark. As would be expected, the mark is applied with individual dies, just in front of the quillon on the spine of the saber. The saber is in about VERY GOOD condition, and has a nice, dark, mostly unmolested patina as well as most of a period applied coating of gold paint from the time the saber spent on display in a G.A.R. hall. This saber was part of the collection of the General S.K. Zook Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Post #11 in Norristown, PA. During the 1950s the collection of the post was sold with noted antique militaria dealer George Gorman acquiring most of the post’s memorabilia. The sword was subsequently acquired circa 1966 by R.A. “Russ’ Pritchard Jr., author of the noted book on Confederate import arms from Great Britain, The English Connection. Mr. Pritchard later sold the sword to co-author C.A. “Corky” Huey, who some years later sold it back to Mr. Pritchard. For the last forty years this saber has been in one of the two finest and most notable collections of Confederate imported English arms.

As previously noted the spine of the saber is marked SIC & Co LONDON in individually stamped letters. A picture of this same pattern of marking is shown on page 295 of The English Connection. The blade is nominally full-length, measuring 34 5/8”, and has a dull brownish-gray mottled patina with patches of more darkly oxidized metal over the base color. The sword also retains the large majority of the gold G.A.R. display paint on the blade, with only some traces of this paint on the hilt and grip. The blade is partly smooth, with scattered light pitting along its length that becomes more evident (and more moderate) closer in the fuller groove of the blade. There is also some lightly scattered surface roughness present, mostly under the gold paint. The iron guard shows even light pitting over its entire surface with a darker patina, more brown than gray, than found on the blade. The condition of the metal suggests that this saber may have been an early battlefield pick up or barn find which was subsequently added to the collection of the Zook post and then painted. Many of the Zook post artifacts had specific provenance to either Sharpsburg (Antietam) of Gettysburg, so it is reasonable to assume that this saber may have a similar association. The laminated leather grip panels rate about VERY GOOD and retain much of their original finish and roll embossed checkering. Some of the grip surface has flaked and worn smooth, but the checkering is still quite evident and the grips are solid with only slight shrinkage and some minor warping. The grip panels show only one significant condition issue, a period gash in the right grip panel that is quite evident but remains tight and secure. The grips remain solidly attached to the saber hilt. Some of the old gold paint is still present in the recesses of the grip checkering. There is no scabbard present with the sword.

Overall this is a very good, unmolested, 100% original and correct example of a scarce Confederate Imported British Pattern 1853 Cavalry Saber. The sword bears the desirable, early SIC & Co LONDON mark on the spine and comes with great provenance from a wonderful Pennsylvania G.A.R. post collection, as well as from the two most recognized collections of Confederate imported English arms. This would be a solid addition to any Confederate sword collection, as well as any collection of Confederate import arms. For those who love old museum and G.A.R. collection items, this is a real gem. Upon request, a letter of provenance will be provided with the sword from Mr. Pritchard.

Provenance: General S.K. Zook G.A.R. Post #11 Collection, de-assessed circa 1950s, George Gorman, R.A. Pritchard Jr., C.A. Huey, R.A. Pritchard Jr.


Write a review

Please login or register to review

Tags: Confederate, P, 1853, Cavalry, Saber, from, a, GAR, Hall