My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bowie Knife vs. Nightstick

A news article from February 8, 1890, adds more data to the study of whether a knife or stick is the better weapon at close quarters. The New York City policeman's nightstick was about 20 inches long, 1.75-inches thick, and made of locust wood, which resists cracking and splintering.
Night Stick Against Bowie Knife

The expert handling of a night stick saved Policeman Andrew Hennelly’s life at one o’clock yesterday morning, when he encountered Arthur Murphy, a member of the “Pan” gang, armed with a murderous bowie knife. Murphy had sworn to get even with Hennelly for securing the conviction of his brother, Oscar Murphy, for stealing a watch from Henry Schmidt, of No. 567 First avenue, on New Year’s Day.

The two met on the corner of First avenue and Thirty-ninth street for the first time yesterday morning. The policeman, suspecting Murphy’s intention from his movements, ordered him off the corner. While pretending to move on, Murphy turned suddenly and made a lunge at Henelly’s breast with the ugly looking knife, but the weapon only cut a slit in the policeman’s rubber overcoat.

Before he could strike the second time Hennelly’s night stick came down upon Murphy’s head and he was stunned for a second. When he recovered he made several more vicious attacks with the knife and succeeded in cutting the overcoat in many places. A well directed blow from the club, however, took all the fight out of the tough.

Policeman O’Neil heard the scuffle from an adjoining post and he ran to his comrade’s assistance. It took the combined efforts of the policemen to haul Murphy to the Thirty-Fifth street station. Although severely clubbed he still resisted on the way to the station and continued his threats of vengeance. A few strips of plaster sufficed to bind up the wounds on his cranium, after which he slept quietly. At the Yorkville Police Court Murphy was held in $1,000 bail for his murderous attack.
Another news article describes the knife used:
The sword or dagger with which he tried to murder the officer will be preserved in the station house as a curiosity. It is made out of an old cavalry sword, apparently, with the old handle preserved intact. The blade is ground down to a needle point and the edges sharp as file can make them. One stab with it in the abdomen, at which he persistently aimed, would have meant certain death to the policeman.
The nit-picker may note that a cut-down sword is not a bowie knife. However, there is a persistent claim that the bowie knife originated as a cut-down sword. For example, this is from the Encyclopedia Americana (1918): "Colonel Bowie is said to have had his sword broken down to within about 20 inches of the hilt in a fight with some Mexicans, but he found that he did such good execution with his broken blade that he equipped all his followers with a similar weapon." Granted, this version of its origin is not taken too seriously by scholars.

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