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Swords in Battle - Sharps #1

In addition to Sharon’s and my novels, I write about a great many things.  Frequently, I write about swords and about handguns.  In the military context, both swords and handguns have utility beyond mere use as a weapon.  They have been and still are symbols of leadership. In battle, the officer leading his unit into the fray frequently hasn’t the luxury of carrying a rifle with fixed bayonet.  Often, he needs to have a hand free, either for hand and arm signals, or, in some cases in the past, prepping a whistle for command signals.

During the “modern” era of United States horse-mounted cavalry, the handgun would be worn on the right side of the belt, holstered butt forward.  This carry method enabled the officer or enlisted man so equipped to “crossdraw” his handgun, with the left hand, or perform a twist or “cavalry” draw, with his right hand.  More often, the cavalry draw was what was used.  But, when the saber was to be employed, it was drawn from the left side with the right hand and the left hand was used to draw the pistol. 

As the sword began to vanish from the battlefield as an actual weapon, it was still employed in the leadership function.  During the American Civil War of the 1860''s, equipment availability permitting, a common Confederate cavalry tactic was to ride into saber range with Union forces and, instead of fighting steel to steel, merely draw and discharge as many handguns as were available at saber – read that as “point blank” – range.

As the sword faded from the battlefield, quality faded from the sword.  Today, we are fortunate enough to live during what can well be described as a “renaissance of the blade.”  Large, well-respected firms and individual makers are offering swords of every description that are, historical swords notwithstanding, to be ranked solidly among the best swords ever made.  With modern steels and computer controlled heat treating, the conscientious maker, be he large or small, can create a sword any of the greatest swordsmen of history would have been proud to carry into battle, to lead the attack and shout, “Follow me, men!”        

by Jerry Ahern