Victorian Weapons

During the 19th century, swords became less used on the battle field, having being replaced by firearms. However, some swords were still used during this period such as the Gothic Hilted British Infantry Swords and the Short Swords, to name a few. The Gothic Hilted British Infantry Swords had five patterns of the hilt throughout the 1800s which were the 1822, 1827, 1845, 1854 and 1892 patterns.

The Gothic Hilted Sword was so called as the hilt had a similar design in the curved bars of the guard and the arches found in Gothic architecture. They were primarily foot solider swords, although they were also used by others such as surgeons and staff officers. They were elegant aesthetically pleasing weapons, although they were generally considered as mediocre fighting swords.

The 1822 sword featured a long, slightly curved blade of what was known as the “pipe-back” design, which consisted of a flat, un-fullered, single edged blade with a nearly straight rod running along the back of the blade, with a “false edge” being formed near to the tip. The blades were generally extensively decorated with etched patterns. The inside of the guard folded towards the grip to allow the sword to rest easily against the wearer’s side. The grip was covered in fish skin and wrapped with brass or silver wire. Although the pipe reinforcing was intended to add rigidity for the thrust and strength for the cut, the blade was rather flexible. Despite the protection that the half basket guard gave to the hand, the thin brass was fragile as illustrated by many extant examples having damage or repair.

The 1845 the pipe backed blade was replaced by Wilkinson’s design. This was a slightly curved cut-and-thrust blade of the same length of the previous pattern, however the new blade featured a single, wide fuller and a flat back, rather than the pipe back.

The 1892 the cut and thrust blade was replaced by a straight dedicated thrusting blade with a sharp spear point. A stronger sword, unburdened by the design compromises of a requirement to cut well, this was a much better fighting sword. Ironically, now the infantry was finally being given an adequate weapon such as the 1892, rifles and automatic firearms that were being invented at the time made them almost entirely obsolete.

Another sword from the time was the small sword is a light one-handed sword designed for thrusting. The small sword guard is typically of the “shell” type, sometimes with two lobes that were decorated as clam shells. The shells were often replaced with a simple curved oval disk, which was still referred to as the coquille.

However as already stated, at the time swords were being very rapidly replaced by firearms such the Enfield pattern 1853 rifle musket. Rifle musket which referred to muskets with the smooth-bored barrels replaced with rifled barrels. This allowed the weapons to be fired by rank (a military tactic which involved having a line of soldiers all fire their weapons simultaneously at the enemy, usually to make up for inaccuracy, slow rate of fire, and limited range, and to create a maximum effect), since a long rifle was necessary to enable the muzzles of the second rank of soldiers to project beyond the faces of the men in front.

The Enfield rifle was introduced to Indian troops under British colonization in 1856 and was a contributing cause of the Indian rebellion of 1857. Sepoys (Indian soldiers) in the British East India Company’s armies in India were issued with the new rifle in 1857, and rumors began to spread that the cartridges were greased with beef tallow and/or lard – a possibility abhorrent to both Hindu and Muslim soldiers for religious reasons. British military drills of the time required soldiers to bite open the cartridge, pour the gunpowder contained within down the barrel, ram the cartridge into the barrel. The idea of having anything which might be tainted with pig or beef fat in their mouths was totally unacceptable to the sepoys. They were advised to then create their own cartridges, using a religiously acceptable greasing agent such as ghee or vegetable oil. This seemed to prove that the issued cartridges were, in fact, greased with pig and beef fat. The indifference of many British commanding officers to the problem perceived by the sepoys only added more fuel to the already volatile conditions at the time, and helped spark the Mutiny in 1857


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