I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

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I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Brian Wolfe » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:02 pm

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Hello Everyone,

I am hoping that the membership can assist me in a mystery that has lasted for more or less 50 years. I purchased a battlefield relic found on the site of the battle field at Pigeon Hill Quebec, a battle that took place in 1866 repelling a raid by the Fenain Brotherhood, one of several during that time period. The sword’s hand guard has been lost and one can see the heavy damage caused by decades in the ground.

Recently a fellow collector and friend of mine was finally convinced to sell me one of the three similar “pattern” swords from his collection. Mystery solved? Not really as I can find no reference to this curved sword in any book, including Robson’s. I am confident this is a British sword as my friend has been studying and collecting swords for well over the number of years that I have been trying to find out information on my relic and now this new sword.

The blade is twenty six and three quarters inches long, slightly shorter than the relic. The relic has a wider blade and a narrower fuller however the general design is quite similar. The greatest similarity is in the hilts of the two specimens. The blades of both swords are longer than the Foot Artillery Private’s sword c. 1820 which is twenty four and three quarters inches long. We can never know with certainty what the relic’s guard looked like, however in both cases it is made of brass as is the Foot Artillery Private’s sword.

Between the Foot Artillery and my latest addition the biggest similarity is in the grip and guard and one can see the small detail of the strengthening piece where the curved part of the guard meets the cross guard. As to what these two swords (relic and my latest addition) are is still a mystery for me and I hope someone can shed light on the solution.

I think we can eliminate the Royal Horse Artillery as they seem to have followed the example of the Cavalry in their swords. Could this have been issued to the Field Artillery or could it be another “pattern” of the Foot Artillery Private’s sword. I know the relic was used in Canada in 1866 by British regular forces and Canadian militia; I also am confident that this relic was not a “one-off” as there are, if the two I have are the same, at least four of these presently in Canada. The differences between the relic and the three other “pattern” swords (one I now have and my friend’s remaining two) could be a matter of the firms producing these for the British military.

I will try to attach photos; I have never posted before and I have a new computer with a new Photo Shop program so my fingers are crossed that all goes well.

Thank you for any assistance you can give me, it is greatly appreciated.

Regards
Brian
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Will Mathieson » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:28 pm

Brian I have found two of these south of Belleville Ontario at estate sales. The person who purchased one from me said a local museum which I can't remember the name has one described as a Canadian Militia officers hanger. Being somewhat light and flat hilt they were easily shipped fro Britain to the colonies.
I'm afraid you won't find them in reference books. The hooked pommel is common to them and no markings.
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Bryce » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:28 pm

G'day Brian,

These brass hilted 1796 style swords with plain blades are generally attributed to US militia, for cavalry and mounted artillery troops. I can't come up with any specific references, but I think they were more likely to have been used by the Fenian Brotherhood than British forces. Some may have been produced in Britain for export to the US, while others were imported from Solingen.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Bryce » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:37 pm

G'day Will,

You posted while I was working on my post. The narrow fuller style of the sword you posted and the relic sword of Brian's isn't typical of British swords of this period. I think it is more likely they are US or Solingen made than British.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Brian Wolfe » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:47 pm

Many thanks for this information fellows.

Will: This makes sense as the fellow who sold me mine is about 30 minutes from Belleville and he has purchased several of his swords from museums here in Ontario over the years. Yours looks almost exactly like my relic especially with the narrow filler.

Bryce: This also makes sense as it is more likely that one of the Fenian Brotherhood dropped the relic as they retreated back into the United States. I'll have to take them out of the British section and reintroduce them both into the collection dealing with the Fenian Raid era. Does the wider fuller of the specimen I purchased recently make any difference as to being British or American?

My best bet may be to look for period photographs of that period from both sides of the boarder, though I suspect these were sold to both sides.

Thanks again for your help.
Regards
Brian
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Will Mathieson » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:42 am

These swords date early 1800's, not 1860's. It's quite possible they were in use for decades though.
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Brian Wolfe » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:45 pm

Will Mathieson wrote:These swords date early 1800's, not 1860's. It's quite possible they were in use for decades though.


Hi Will,

Thank you for this information. Funny thing, I thought "Darn I should have asked for an approximate date when I first posted", just after I read the replies.
Another funny thing, (funny now that I know better), when I purchased the relic, probably sometime around 1968, I thought all of the soldiers on both side were armed with swords and firearms. I imagined a great battle with swords clashing against swords; too many adventure movies I suppose. The Fenians may well have used swords throughout the ranks as they were pretty well armed with anything they could beg borrow or seal. I am sure the Canadian Militia were armed in a similar to the regulations of the British army and only the officers and perhaps the sergeants would have carried swords. If I find out definite proof of this I will be sure to post it here, I sure hope it doesn't take me another 50 years to find out!

I do recall the original price of the relic...$10.00. Considering the times I probably paid too much, however being a piece of Canadian history I would never part with it now...not even for $10.99. ;)

Thanks again
Regards
Brian
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Will Mathieson » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:32 pm

The provenance I have with the hanger with scabbard is: formerly owned by Conrad Bongard (great great grandfather of Capt. Harry Clark of Waupoos and Picton amy lieut., WW1
Master of Canada steamship lines freighters of the St. Lawrence River and great Lakes. Believed to be Revolutionary war.
The blade shows the curved shaped weld between the iron tang and steel blade very similar to the 1796 cavalry sword blades.
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Re: I need help with a 50 year old mystery, please

Postby Brian Wolfe » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:54 pm

Hi Will,

That provenance is quite impressive.

Regards
Brian
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