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Ames Model 1860 Light Cavalry Sabre: From The Civil War To Spanish American War

The iconic Model 1860 Light Cavalry Sabre saw action in wars spanning the American Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish American, and the Philippine Insurrection. The 1860 was the longest issued cavalry sword used in the US.

Tens of thousands of them were produced during the Civil War, manufactured by numerous different makers. Between 1861 and 1865 the Ames company sold nearly 85,000 swords alone.

The 1860 was still issued as needed following the Civil War for the duration of cavalry units commission. And in 1901 the US passed the Organization of the Army Act which authorized the creation of five more cavalry units.

Cavalry units boasted a total of 765 officers and 18,540 enlisted men. And by this time, the number of cavalry sabers on hand was almost wiped out.

Ames Sword Contract

In 1904 the US army requested a large purchase of new cavalry sabers. This contract was awarded to Ames Sword Company.

The Ames Sword Company was based in Chicopee, Massachusetts and they were charged with producing swords just like the Civil War era Model 1860.

The contract between Ames and Col. Frank J. Phipps reads in part,

Article 1. Under advertisement dated the Twenty-second day of August, 1904, the party of the first part shall furnish the Commanding Officer, Springfield Armory, Mass., with Twenty Thousand (20,000) Light Cavalry Sabers, with browned Scabbards, packed in boxes, at four (4) Dollars and Nineteen (19) Cents each. Also, Three Thousand (3,000) Extra Scabbards, browned, for Light Cavalry Sabers, packed in boxes, at One (1) Dollar and Thirty-six (36) cents each…

The contract with Ames was for a total of $87,880 and was to be completed by December 31, 1905. The contract called for the following delivery schedule.

…1,000 in March, 1905; 2,000 in each of the months of April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November, 1905 and 3,000 in December, 1905; and the 3,000 extra scabbards will be delivered by July, 1905…

The Ames Company sent Col. Phipps a letter on November 18,1905 that stated the following.

We desire to request that the Ordinance Department grant us and extension of time in carrying out our contract for light cavalry sabers, given us under the date of November 7th, 1904, and allow us to commence deliveries in December, 1905. This request is made as we were delayed in the work on account of the order from the Ordinance Department suspending work on the Contract, and up to the present time, we have been unable to get the work in shape to commence delivery until December, as above.

As with all army contracts, there were penalties for not meeting the agreed on delivery schedule. Col. Phipps forwarded the Ames letter and request on to the Chief of Ordinance at the War Department along with the following letter.

The records of this office show that although a copy of the contract of Nov. 7, 1904, was not sent to the Ames Sword Co. until Nov. 21, 1904, it had prior to that date been informed that the award would be made to it, and that the contract was being prepared for signature.

In order to carry out the promises of the contract, as to deliveries, the Company immediately made arrangements for material, ordering from abroad the necessary blades, and in this country the materials for the scabbards.

From the start, the Company found the same difficulty experienced at this Armory, in getting a proper color for the guards of the sabers. After some correspondence and experimenting, authority to make the guards of a dropped forging, steel, rather than brass, was granted. This change caused some delay – exactly how much is not definitely known.

Early in February, 1905, understanding that there was a possibility of a change in the form of the scabbard, this Office verbally notified the Company, in order that it might not have too much material cut up. It was officially informed Feb. 7, 1905, in compliance with the instructions of the Department, to cut up no additional material. At this time, the Company stated that it was well under way with its work.

On April 14, 1905, the Company acknowledged receipt of the order suspending work entirely upon the contract until further instructions. it was necessary for it, therefore, to discharge the help it had employed, at a considerable loss.

Under date of July 23, 1905, the Company was informed, in compliance with the Department’s instructions that it might proceed with the manufacture of the 20,000 light cavalry sabers and the 23,000 scabbards, except that 1039 sabers should be made of experimental type, the scabbards for which should be of the present steel design. The time from suspension to renewal of work was a little over three months, but it should be borne in mind that the Company had discharged its workmen, and some time would be required to get work started again, so that it is rather difficult to estimate the real delay occasioned by the stoppage of work.

The Company has filled its order for the 3,000 extra scabbards. It is believed that from now on it will turn out 2,000 sabers and scabbards per month, in which case the contract should be completed by October 1st next, but a month’s leeway was asked to provide for unforeseen contingencies.

In view of the many difficulties under which the Company has labored, due to the changing of the guard and stoppage of work, it is thought that the extension of time asked for is only reasonable and proper.

When the Company undertook the contract, it invested considerable funds, in good faith, in the purchase of material, which have been tied up for some time, and it is extremely anxious to push forward the contract to completion in order that it may receive payment, to cover the money advanced; so there will be no unnecessary delay on its part.

The Chief of Ordinance approved the delay request and allowed an extension on delivery of 387 days.

The Ames Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber

Marked with “A S Co.” the Ames Model 1860 is also marked with a flaming ordinance bomb and 1906.

It comes in the same dimensions as the original 1860 and offers a brass hilt and a slightly curved blade. The blade measures 34 5/8″ with a single edge.

The scabbard design is different from the original, with the suspension rings placed closer together than the original Civil War model.

The experimental model authorized by the army offered a completely different design. It has a 30 5/8″ curved blade with long grips covered in fish skin and wound brass wire.

The sword guard was constructed with a sheet of blue steel going from the knuckle bow creating an oval counterguard.

These sabers were marked with a “A S Co.” or “S.A” with 1906 and the flaming Ordinance bomb. While very few of these were issued for field testing, unfortunately no records have been found indicating how many experimental sabers were produced.

Written by Fred

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