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US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Bayonet

US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Bayonet

  • Product Code: EWB-2244-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

In March of 1847 the U.S. Ordnance Board approved the adoption of three smooth bore percussion musketoons for the use of the Artillery, Cavalry, and Sapper & Miners (Engineers). The guns were based upon the current M-1842 percussion musket then in service with the infantry, and were of .69 caliber smoothbore arms, as was the M-1842. The musketoons had a lock that was quite similar to the M-1842 in profile and design, but appropriately smaller for the musketoon’s size. The furniture for the Artillery and Sappers & Miners musketoon was based upon that of the M-1842 musket, and like the musket was made of iron. The furniture for the Cavalry musketoon was of the same general pattern, but made of brass. While the cavalry musketoon had no need for a bayonet, the artillery and engineer carbines did. The artillery carbine had a stud under the barrel allowing it to accept the standard US M-1835 socket bayonet in use with the M-1842 musket. The Sappers & Miners musketoon, however, was to accept a saber bayonet that would be able to double as a useful tool for the engineers. The bayonet was designed by N.P. Ames, Jr., who based the blade upon that of the US M-1832 Foot (Heavy) Artillery sword that was then in production at their factory. While the M-1832 sword, which was based upon the Roman Gladius, was a functional weapon, it was really intended for use as a falchion or multipurpose tool for the artilleryman. The sword could be used for everything from a machete to clear brush, a hatchet to make gabions, chevaux-de-frise and similar improvised fortifications, a field-expedient shovel for digging gun emplacements, and yes, even as a weapon! Using the sword as his basis for design, Ames contacted the Ordnance Department in a letter dated June 19, 1846 stating:

“'We have a model underway for a sword for the musketoon...which will be forwarded for your examination as soon as completed. It requires a little to mature a way for attaching it; our present plan is to put a stud on the upper (musketoon barrel) band that will fit a corresponding groove in the end of the (saber bayonet) hilt; a band or ring to project from the guard and fit on the end of the barrel....”

The prototype bayonet was completed on July 16, 1846 and delivered to the Ordnance Department in Washington D.C. by Ames himself in August of that year. In December the Ordnance Department placed their first order for the bayonets from Ames, and in a letter dated December 21, 1846 Lt. Colonel George Talcott of the Ordnance Department contacted Ames, saying:

“Sir, You are requested to furnish a quantity of swords differing somewhat from the Artillery swords heretofore furnished. Major (James Wolfe) Ripley has the pattern and states that two hundred (200) will shortly be required. It is probable that several thousand will be wanted hereafter as they are destined to be fixed on the Musketoon to serve the purpose of a bayonet but are habitually worn in a scabbard like the Artillery Sword. Be pleased to name the price at which you will agree to furnish them subject to inspection and the time when 200 can be supplied.”

On December 25, 1846 Ames (who apparently did not take the day off for Christmas”) sent a letter to Talcott noting that 50 of the bayonets would be ready shortly, but that he would rather not set a price until all 200 had been produced, for at that point he could more fairly judge the actual cost of production. This implied that setting the price based upon the short run would inherently mean a higher price than after making a larger quantity of the bayonets. While I do not have the correspondence at hand, noted researcher and author Paul Johnson has stated that he acquired a letter which states that these first 200 bayonets for the Sappers & Miners musketoons were delivered in component form, the blades being delivered first and the hilts at some later time. I do not know if this production issue revolved around the casting of the brass hilt, or some delay in finalizing the attachment method (or the means to machine and manufacture it) for the hilt. Mr. Johnson notes that the blades and hilts for the first 200 bayonets were assembled at Springfield Arsenal and that is why the blades are undated and do not bear the usual inspection marks associated with other Sappers & Miners bayonets. The first 200 bayonet blades included a narrow fuller in the center of the wasp-waisted blade. For some reason the Ordnance Department did not like this feature, and when ordering additional bayonets in February of 1847, they sent Ames a letter stating:

“You will be pleased to furnish this Department with three hundred swords for the musketoons, in addition to the 200 already made, leaving out the grooves in the blades.”

Clearly Ames had anticipated additional orders and had produced more than the initial 200 blades during his first production run, thus some additional blades with fullers were still in his inventory when the second order was received. He wrote to the Ordnance Department appraising them of that fact, and in view of the extra cost that might be incurred by refusing to accept the blades that had already been manufactured, Lt. Colonel Talcott responded on March 15, 1847:

“Sir, Your letter of the 12th instance is received indicating that the blades of Musketoon swords should be made without grooves. The Board has in view only convenience & economy in the manufacture of them - there is not the least objection to taking 50 or any number with grooves if they have been provided.”

As a result, between 50 and 100 additional grooved blade M-1847 Sappers & Miners bayonets were delivered by Ames as part of his second contract. This second order for bayonets was delivered in May of 1847, making a total of 500 M-1847 bayonets delivered that year. Additional M-1847 saber bayonets would not be ordered until 1855, when on January 26 an additional 500, complete with scabbards and without fullers in their blades, were ordered for the Ordnance Department. These bayonets were delivered in May of 1855. A final order for 33 US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Bayonets was placed on November 23, 1855, with the bayonets to be delivered to Springfield for issue to the state of New York. These bayonets were delivered in April of 1856. In all it appears that only 1,033 of these bayonets were manufactured, 500 in 1847 and 533 in 1855-1856. To date, only the dates 1847 and 1855 have been noted on the blades of extant examples. Like the M-1832 Foot Artillery Sword, the M-1847 Sappers & Miners Bayonet had a Roman Gladius style wasp-waisted, spear point blade, with a brass hilt cast with a fish scale grip surface. The blade was 22” long and the first 250-300 of the blades will be encountered with the narrow fuller down the center. The earliest blades, delivered at the beginning of 1847, were marked only US on the reverse ricasso and did not exhibit the usual Ames marks, dates or other inspection marks found on the blades of later production bayonets. The brass grip had a cast-in, fish scale pattern, to improve the grip of the soldier holding it. A buff leather washer was present between the hilt and blade at that juncture, forward of the guard. The guard had two round, forward facing quillons, both above and below the blade, and a large cast muzzle brass muzzle ring, along with a spring steel locking ring. The rear of the hilt was slotted in a "T" shape to engage the bayonet bar on the muzzle of the musketoon. The blade was secured to the hollow cast brass hilt by peening it at the rear of the bulbous pommel cap. Ordinarily the bayonets were marked on the reverse of the pommel cap with an alphanumeric mating code to match the bayonet to the musketoon it had been fit to. This same mating number would be found on the upper portion of the rear most strap of the double-strapped upper barrel band of the musketoon, just forward of the band’s steadying lug. The bayonet was provided with a brass mounted leather scabbard, similar to the one used with the M-1832 Foot Artillery Sword.

This is one of the scarce US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Saber Bayonets that was part of second order in 1855. The bayonet is in about VERY GOOD+ condition overall, and has an extremely thick patina that is untouched and uncleaned. The bayonet blade bears the usual marks from the second contract, including, a crisp and clear US on the reverse ricasso over the date 1855. The obverse ricasso is marked in three lines: AMES MFG CO / CHICOPEE / MASS. The obverse flat of the pommel cap is marked with two sets of inspection initials. The first are A.D.K., the mark of A.D. King, along time arsenal sub-inspector. The second set of initials are R.H.K.W., the mark of US Ordnance Department Major Robert Henry Kirkland Whitely. The top of the pommel cap is marked with the alphanumeric code G 4, which was the mating mark that matched the bayonet to the musketoon to which it was fit. The blade of the bayonet is full-length and has the un-fullered blade of the later production M-1847 bayonets. As previously noted, the blade has a thick brown patina, and is untouched and uncleaned. The blade is mostly smooth, with only some lightly scattered minor surface oxidation, patches of some light surface roughness and a few minor areas of light pinpricking. The brass hilt is in very fine condition, with an extremely deep, dark umber patina that is untouched and uncleaned. The color of the hilt is almost the same patina often associated with dug brass from a wooded area, and there are deep browns, greens and deep umber all represented in the coloration. The fish scale grip all remain crisp and sharp, and the marks remain visible, but somewhat subdued by the thick patina on the metal. The mortise on the rear of the pommel cap is equally sharp and the original locking ring is in place over the guard and functions smoothly. The original buff leather throat washer is present at the blade to hilt juncture. The bayonet is 100% original and fully functional but is void of a scabbard.

Overall this is a very crisp and attractive, and completely untouched example of the scarce US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Bayonet. This bayonet was one of the 533 manufactured by Ames and delivered in 1855. The mating number suggests that this bayonet was in the early part of the 7th group of 100 bayonets to be fit to musketoons and marked. Assuming that the usual arsenal practice of using a letter to represent the first “number” (A=1, B=2, etc.), this bayonet marked “G 4” would be number “704” to be mated to a musketoon. These bayonets and late production Sappers & Miners musketoons had a fairly short service life, as the US M-1855 rifle started to replace the M-1847 musketoon with the Engineer Corps during 1857-58. If you have an 1855 dated musketoon, this is a must of an accessory for it, and if you are a US bayonet collector is one of those “musket have” bayonets that is very striking in appearance and is always impressive to display.


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Tags: US, M, 1847, Sappers, Miners, Bayonet