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Tacitus states, in his life of Agricola, that the Romans found the aborigines of Britain not only armed with scythe-chariots, and spears of various kinds, but likewise with most formidable swords.

“ The Britons,” says Tacitus,“ who were possessed at once of bravery and skill, armed with huge swords and small bucklers, quite eluded our missive weapons, or beat them off ; whilst of their own they poured a torrent upon us, till Agricola encouraged three Batavian cohorts and two of the Tungrians, to close with the enemy, and bring them to an engagement hand to hand; a mode of fighting very familiar with those veteran soldiers from long practice, but to the enemy very uneasy and embarrassing : for the swords of the Britons, which are so large and blunt at the end, are unfit for grappling, and cannot support a close encounter.” The broad, blunt-ended, scythe-like sword just mentioned was no doubt a weapon of ancient date among our Pictish an. cestors: the same instrument continued to be in use even with the Saxons, who, as we have already seen, derive, according to Verstegan, their appellation from the description of swords used by them; which,” says that author,

are called Seaxes, or Jeaxen from Saisen, a scythe; because these swords have the edge the contrary way.” The Saxons ultimately relinquished the use of the weapons thus termed, substituting in their stead long straight swords doubled-edged, and which they called brands, the word brand having long since become, among English writers, the poetical synonyme on a sword.

Very similar to the last-mentioned weapons were the great swords of the Normans, generally about three feet and a half or four feet long, double-edged, and sharppointed. In the “ ordinance for arms" of that period it is said, “ uniquisque, habeat cultellum.” The cultellum is supposed to have been a sort of knife or dagger. The annexed figures are derived from Strutt, who himself copied them from ancient manuscripts.

Fig. 22. a, a dagger; b, a knife; c and d, long swords; e and f, short crooked swords.

Fig. 22.



Not unlike the ancient Seaxes, only smaller, was the more modern instrument called the falchion, or by the French faulx ; it is often used to defend a breach, or prevent an enemy from scaling the walls of a fortified place. This weapon is said first to have been resorted to with particular success when Louis XIV. besieged Mons; and, on the surrender of that town, he besiegers found large quantities of scythes in the garrison.

The modern military sabre appears to have been derived partly from the faulx and partly from the cimeter. It is a sword with a very broad and heavy blade, thick at the back, and a little falcated, or crooked, towards the point: it is generally worn by the heavy cavalry and dragoons. The grenadiers belonging to the whole of the French infantry are likewise armed with sabres. The blade is not so long as that of a small sword, but it is nearly twice as broad. Among the British cavalry the sabre has mostly taken place of the old “ broad sword;" the latter instrument, however, is still in use with some regiments of Highland infantry, having itself supplanted the great two-handed claymore so famous in Scottish history. This ponderous weapon appears to have had the blade three feet seven inches in length,

two inches broad, and double-edged ; the handle fourteen inches, with a plain transverse guard of twelve inches; the whole weighing six or seven pounds. The claymore was one of the original weapons of England; and the figure of one of them accompanied the effigies of a soldier found among the ruins of London, after the great fire, in 1666. The clumsy rusted weapon exhibited among the curiosities of Westminster Abbey as the “ sword of king Edward," appears to have been an instrument of this kind, if its antiquity be admitted.

Every one has heard of the noted Andrew of Ferrara, whose name and personal identity have almost merged in the designation of the weapon called after him an “ Andrea Ferrara.” This celebrated individual was formerly considered to be the only man in Great Britain who knew how to temper a sword in such a way that the point should bend to touch the hilt and spring back again uninjured. He is said to have resided in the Highlands of Scotland, where he employed many workmen to forge his swords, spending all his own time in tempering them. This operation he performed in a dark cellar, the better to enable him to perceive the effect of the heat, and, probably, as a more effectual screen to his own secret method of tempering.

The sword which at present generally worn by British officers is, what is called in military language, a long cut and thrust. It is an imitation of the sword most commonly used in the Austrian service; and was introduced into our regiments during the last war. It is not, however, considered to be so conveniently used by us as it is by the Austrians. On this subject James, in his “Military Dictionary," pertinently observes, that the Austrians have this sword “ girded round their waists so that it hangs without any embarrassment to the wearer, close to the left hip or thigh; whereas, with us, it is suspended, in an awkward diagonal manner, from a cross-belt over the loins, and is scarcely visible in front, except occasionally, when it is drawn or gets between the officer's legs, and sometimes trips him up

such as

when off duty. We could exemplify our ideas upon this subject by various known occurrences, the sword being suspended so much out of the grasp of the wearer that his right hand has appeared to run after the hilt, which has as constantly evaded its reach by the left side bearing it off in proportion as the right turned towards it; by officers being reduced to the necessity of applying to their serjeants, &c., to draw their swords: but it is not our wish to turn any regulation into ridicule. It is, however, our duty, and the duty of all men who write for the public, to point out practical inconveniences,” &c. Our author then adds : Perhaps it may not be thought superfluous on this occasion to remark, that the sword ought not to be considered as a mere weapon of offence or defence in an officer's hand; for, unless that officer should be singly engaged, which scarcely ever happens upon service, the very notion of personal safety will take his mind off the superior duty of attending to his men. Officers, in fact, should always bear in mind that they are cardinal points which direct others. Their whole attention should be, consequently, paid to their men, and not the slightest idea must interfere with respect to themselves. We are, therefore, convinced, with due deference to the superior judgment of others, that the swords of infantry officers, and of the staff in general, should be of the small sword kind; sufficiently long to dress the leading files, &c., and extremely portable.” The price of this regulation sword, or epée d'ordonnance, as the French call it, with spring shell and embossed blade, is commonly about three guineas.

To the wearing of the sword belong the scabbard or sheath made of black leather or sheet steel polished; the belt by which it is suspended, which is worn either over the right shoulder or round the waist; and the knot or tassel of crimson and gold which adorns the pommel. This knot, although mostly for ornament, was intended to sling the weapon upon the wrist during

the army

the scaling a breach or boarding a vessel, when it might be necessary to use the hands without sheathing the sword.

It was since the Revolution that the sword trade flourished in England. Macpherson, in his “ Annals of Commerce," mentions, under the year 1689, that, on the breaking out of king William's war against France, a company of sword cutlers was erected, by patent, for making hollow sword blades, in the county of Cumberland and the adjacent counties, for the use of

But though they were enabled to purchase lands, to erect mills, and to receive and employ great numbers of German artificers, yet they did not succeed. The first patentees, therefore, sold or assigned their patent to a company of merchants in London; who thereupon purchased, under that patent, to the value of 20,000l. per annum of the forfeited estates in Ireland. But the Irish parliament, in the reign of queen Anne, knowing they had purchased those lands at very low rates, would not permit them, in their corporate capacity, to take conveyance of lands, lest they might have proved too powerful a body in that kingdom. This obliged them to sell off their Irish estates, which put a period to the corporation. Yet a private copartnership of bankers in London, possessed of their absolute charter, retained the appellation of the Sword Blade Company till after the year 1720; they have, however, been long since broken up.

The manufacture of swords for the British service, and for exportation, has long constituted one of the staple trades in the populous town of Birmingham. The material out of which the blade is wrought should be cast steel, of the very best quality, and every pro. cess in the preparation of which has been conducted with the greatest care: of this material, besides the amount prepared in this town where it is worked up, many tons of the metal are annually sent from the forges of Sheffield, in what are called sword moulds, being a form of the bars peculiarly suited to the sword

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