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.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Six Reasons to Wear a Dagger

Daggers of the World. 1. A short Japanese dagger or knife; 2. A Gurkha kukri; 3. A West African dagger; 4. A Burmese poniard with a 'langue de boeuf' blade, resembling that of the anelace [a medieval long dagger] of the Fifteenth Century; 5. A Mandingo dagger, Africa; 6. An Arab poniard; 7. An Indian poniard; 8. Sharp-pointed, broad-bladed, two-edged dagger, East Africa; 9. A small Turkish khandjar with chalcedony handle. (The illustration and descriptions are from Weapons: A Brief Discourse on Hand-Weapons Other Than Fire-arms, by Bertram Edward Sargeaunt.)

The Military Art of Training, published in 1622, recommends that soldiers wear a dagger, describing it as "the necessariest weapon that belongs to a souldier." Six reasons for doing so are listed:
(1) The handsome appearance of the weapon;
(2) Its advantage over the sword at close quarters;
(3) Its superiority in a private combat;
(4) Its utility for the speedy despatch of the vanquished;
(5) Its advantage as a means for tethering a horse in the open;
(6) Its awe-inspiring effect if drawn by an officer when sedition is imminent.   
It's easy to think of additonal reasons that could be added to that list, but it's a good start. Reason (4) reminds us that the type of dagger called a misericorde ("mercy stroke") was intended specifically to finish off mortally wounded combatants. Reason (5) was a popular reason for wearing a bowie knife--plunged into the ground, it provided a handy stake with which to tether a horse on the prairie.

NOTE: The six reasons quoted above were from a secondary source; I haven't been able to access the original text. However, I later found it quoted elsewhere in language that sounds like an exact quote and more authentic to the period. These, then, are the six reasons that a soldier must wear his dagger:
1st, for ornament; 2ndly, for use in the melee, that when he cannot use his sword, he may doe good with his dagger; 3rdly, if it should come to a private combat, and a sword should break; 4thly, for despatch of the vanquished; 5thly, for tying a horse in an open field, where there is neither bush nor hedge; and 6thly, for the punishment of offenders, for a captain or inferior officer that only draws a dagger, may appease a sedition.

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