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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Texans Armed With Bowie Knives in Civil War

From The Gulf States Historical Magazine, Volume 2 (July 1903), comes this description of the production of bowie knives for Texas troops:
Enlistment in Texas commenced in earnest in June 1861. Arms and all necessary military equipments were exceedingly scarce. No attempt in Texas, was made to arm men who enlisted for service east of the Mississippi river. Outside of the arms and munitions that had been secured from the Federal troops in the state, which had been turned over to the Confederate states by the Convention, there were no arms, except double-barreled shot guns, hunting rifles, and pistols, that belonged to private individuals. The state had made some appropriations to buy arms, and ammunition had been procured, but not a tithe needful to meet the demand. The most of the companies raised for service west of the river equipped themselves as best they could, with such arms as each man had, and such clothing as he had or could procure. . . . At this time, the Texas soldier seemed to be impressed with the idea that hand-to-hand and man to man fights would frequently occur, and that in such case a bowie knife, or some other big knife, was an indispensable part of his fighting outfit, and as the knife never failed to fire, the Texas soldier was strongly impressed in favor of the knife. To supply this demand for knives the merchant's stocks in the country were soon depleted, and then came a demand for all of the new and old files that could be found large enough to make a bowie knife; and so it was that the demand for . . . knives kept the blacksmiths busy day and night. They did not carry the big knives long, for they soon found them useless and burdensome. Another curious idea occurred in the early part of the war. Colonel Carter raised a regiment of cavalry, and proposed to arm them with iron spears, into which wooden handles, about twelve or fourteen feet long were fitted. The writer saw a number of these weapons. They were certainly a strange anomaly in modern warfare. Whether the Colonel really armed his men with these lances, the writer does not know. These weapons of a bygone age only emphasized the scarcity of arms and the straits of the Confederacy to arm and equip her soldiers. A brigade of those poorly armed Texas cavalry, who were dismounted and made into infantry by order of General Holmes in 1862, was marched into Arkansas and camped between the Arkansas and White rivers, not very far from Duvall's Bluff. Many of these soldiers had no arms at all, some had nothing better than shot guns and squirrel rifles, with very little ammunition, and what they had were of poor quality, and ill suited to their guns. While so camped, the brigade was ordered post haste to meet a rumored detachment of the enemy, marching up White river. These Texas soldiers manifested the utmost eagerness to meet the enemy. The rumor proved to be false. No enemy appeared, and this was fortunate, for equipped as the Texans were it would have been murder for them to have met a well armed and disciplined foe.

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