New copies of my book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques are now available from Amazon at $24.95.
This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

World's Largest Bowie Knife Exhibit

A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America 

December 13, 2013 through June 22, 2014 
Horace C. Cabe Gallery 

“This exhibit is the largest and most important ever done on America’s iconic contribution to the world of blades,” said Historic Arkansas Museum Director Bill Worthen. A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America will trace the history of this country’s most famous knife from just before its birth in a rough melee on a sandbar above Natchez, Mississippi in 1827, to the skilled craftsmen who keep the classic blade alive to this day in the form of hand crafted reproductions and modernized versions.

Visitors to the public exhibit will have the opportunity to see knife designs associated with Alamo martyr James Bowie and his less famous brother Rezin, and to examine bowie knives once owned by such historic figures as Davy Crockett, Theodore Roosevelt, General Winfield Scott and John Fox “Bowie Knife” Potter. The role of the bowie knife in the Antebellum era is explored along with the Civil War and the opening of the west, and there’s a special focus on the role bowie knives played in the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Among the 19th century knives featured will be those attributed to Arkansas’s own James Black, known knifemakers to the Bowie brothers Henry Schively and Daniel Searles, master silversmith of Texas and Tennessee Samuel Bell, and the highly skilled makers of the California school including Michael Price and Will & Finck. Fine English Bowies are also well represented with knives by such makers as Samuel Wragg, W. & S. Butcher, J. Walters and Charles Congreve; as are some of the finest known Northern and Southern blades from the Civil War. Visitors can also expect to see a superb group of folding bowie knives, and a variety of other knives that served as backup weapons during the Bowie knife era, such as push daggers and dirk knives.

In total, more than 200 knives are included in the exhibit. A full color catalog documenting this historic exhibit is planned, and will be available from the museum’s gift shop and online store.

Historic Arkansas Museum 
200 E. Third Street, 
Little Rock, AR 72201 
Ph: 501-324-9351 - Fax: 501-324-9345

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is It Pronounced "Bow-ie" or "Boo-ie"?

One of 22 maps featured in Business Insider showing the way words are pronounced differently in different parts of the United States.

Below the map there is this update from a Texan: "It's pronounced Boo-wie because it's named after Jim Bowie (pronounced Boo-wie), who played a major roll in the Texas revolution. That explains why we're the only ones who pronounce it correctly."

The Texan is correct. The name Bowie--referring to either the man or the knife--have always properly been pronounced to rhyme with Louie, not Joey. It's a Scottish name and that's the correct pronunciation. The 1950s TV program "The Adventures of Jim Bowie" got it right in its theme song.

I suspect the other pronunciation arose when the singer David Jones changed his name to David Bowie so as not to be confused with the lead singer of the Monkees.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Collection of Interesting Knives

My friend Charles Riggs (whom I know mostly from email, having met him only once) recently sent me a heavily insured package containing five knives from his collection.

He wrote, "You'll have something to occupy your martial mind for awhile with these, I think. All but the Crowell/Barker are FIGHTING knives, but very different expressions of very different techniques and philosophies. The Steele knife is suited to a soldier, the Mamba to someone fighting Filipino style, the Hissatsu excellent against heavy clothing and armor and the Bowie? Well, it can be any damn thing it pleases at that size!"

Alas, they are not mine to keep, but only to fondle for a while and return. I am an honorable man and Charles is a formidable one so of course I will do so.

Charles is very knowledgeable about knives and I am reprinting his comments from his cover letter. I don't have much to add, but I put my impressions in italics.

1. Hissatu
Weight: 8 oz
Blade Type: Trailing point
Length Overall: 12 inches
Blade Length: 7.25 inches

The Hissatsu is based on what is most likely the most ancient design, being the brainchild of the owner of the Bugei Trading company, James Williams and taken from Japanese traditions. If you haven't already looked at his bio and web site it's worth a reading. The knife features a blade made for slashing, but the tip is very strong for thrusting against hard surfaces because of the manner in which the spine reinforces it. This version is an inexpensive one made by CRKT, but usable nonetheless.

The appeal of a knife is totally subjective. This is a practical knife but it just doesn’t excite me.

2. Crowell/Barker Competition Knife
Weight: 1 lb, 1.6 oz
Blade Style: Hollow ground, drop point
Length Overall: 15 inches
Blade Length: 9 inches

The Crowell/Barker Competition Knife is expressly made for slashing bundles of manila/sisal rope in cutting competitions. You can see demos of these cuttings on the Cold Steel web site. These competitions haven't really taken off or attracted too much public attention, but the knives are interesting. The guys who designed this are two champions who collaborated on it for Browning. While it might not be the best fighting knife of the bunch, it allows the user to focus great cutting power and might be likened to an American Kukri. I sent it because it's another unique expression of the large knives that have been used in the USA since the 18th century. Like many well-designed large knives, its size makes it fearful but it's far quicker than you'd think.

It doesn’t have much personality, but it’s well balanced, well made, and packs a lot of power. Considering that it's available from Amazon for under $100, it's well-worth consideration for anyone in the market for a heavy duty chopper.

3. Blackjack Mamba
Weight: 9.9 oz
Blade type: Hollow ground, swaged, spear point
Length Overall: 13 inches
Blade Length: 7.25 inches

The Blackjack Mamba is a classic collectible, made when the company was still in the USA and turning out high quality knives. The design's features are obvious, especially the belly of the blade that allows the knife to dig in as it's drawn back or across in a slashing attack. It's very light, almost too light, but that makes it fast in the hand and dangerous if the user has the reflexes to guide it quickly. Both it and the David Steele knife came out when Soldier of Fortune was pushing a new surge of interest in edged weapons in the 1970s. The sheaths aren't much, but I'm going to get Kydex made for them someday. I would also tell you that there are some new US-made Blackjack knives being sold at gun shows now, but the quality control of the knives I've handled is only so-so and I wouldn't bother with one.

I agree with Charles that this knife seems too light for its design. The original version was two inches longer and probably heavier.

4. Fer-de-Lance
Weight: 9.9 oz.
Blade type: Double-edged hollow-ground spear point
Length Overall: 12 inches
Blade Length: 6.25 inches (5.5 inches sharpened)

The David E. Steele-designed and Balisong-produced Fer-de-Lance is a pure fighting knife, much in the same vein as the Applegate-Fairbairn dagger of WW2. It's a utilitarian design cut and ground from bar stock, but the handle scales are nicely shaped and when you spend time holding and working with it, its attributes become apparent. It's also very collectible, so don't let it out of your hands. It's another knife made by a company that's shifted around their production, this one being from the higher quality stuff coming out of Japan in their early years.

The designer, David E. Steele, has written a lot of articles on knives as well as the book Secrets of Modern Knife Fighting (1975).  I like the look and feel of this knife a lot—it’s my favorite of the bunch. It’s light and lively in the hand. If it were mine I’d want to dehorn the sharp edges of the quillions.

5. Hell’s Belle
Weight: 1 pound, 0.4 oz
Blade Type: Hollow ground, clip point with sharpened false edge
Length Overall: 17 inches
Blade Length: 11 inches

The last knife is for you to compare to your Cold Steel Bowies. It's a "Hell's Belle" made to stringent specs by Ontario and no longer in production, carried in a "Southern Comfort" Kydex sheath made by River City Sheaths. The Bowie knives designed by bladesmith Bill Bagwell are meant solely for fighting, based on the research that he did in New Orleans in the archives of old fighting schools from the French tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries in that era when a gentleman was expected to know how to duel. They're not camp or utility Bowies, and they have blades that appear much more slender than most of the commercial designs that one finds turned out these days. But when you see the thickness of the spine you'll appreciate that these knives have great power when wielded strongly, and the tips aren't fragile. The sharpened 'false' or top edge allows you to make the snap cut which is part of the Bagwell Bowie repertoire, and that works, believe me. The hilt allows you to trap an opponent's blade, and if you're really good the Spanish notch allows you to break a blade or wrest it from him. The long haft allows for a sabre grip that can be shifted to place the butt in the base of the wielder's palm to allow a thrust that gives the fighter an extra 2-4 inches of reach when done properly in the classic fencing style. The coffin shape gives a good hold without being abrasive to the hand. It's almost more of a short sword in some ways, but it can be carried concealed quite handily in that sheath by simply slipping it into your waistband, and letting the stud keep it from slipping down too far. I'll be interested to see what you think of it versus the Natchez or Laredo Bowies. I have a shorter 9 1/2 inch "Gambler" Bagwell/Ontario Bowie that's expressly intended for concealment, but I thought you might get more of a kick out of this one.

This is an excellent bowie and the sheath too is top quality. Of the bowies I own, my favorite is the Cold Steel Laredo, but I have to admit this feels livelier in the hand. I’m skeptical about the utility of the hooked quillions, though they might prove of some use in a knife duel. (I’m doing my best to stay out of knife duels.) As far as the Natchez, that's just too heavy for me to wield comfortably. I should have done more weight lifting in my youth.

Thank you, Charles!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bowie-Knife Fighting Classes in the 19th Century

Col. Thomas Hoyer Monstery

When I was researching my book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques, I came across a number of modern references to bowie-knife fighting instruction that was available in the 19th century. Yet in my own research, which involved searching thousands of digitally scanned newspapers and books, I was able to find only a single mention of a fencing instructor who also offered classes in the knife.

One of my readers, Phil Crawley, recently wrote to recommend I read The Sword Prince: The Romantic Life of Colonel Monstery, American Champion at Arms, which profiled another man who offered such training. Written by Captain Frederick Whittaker and originally published in 1882, Monstery's biography has recently been reprinted and made available through Hulu by Tony Wolf. This long out-of-print book is so obscure that it is not searchable through Google books, which explains how I missed it. It is a fascinating read.

Monstery, who died in 1902, was a sailor, soldier of fortune, boxer, fencing master, and duelist extraordinaire. His biography describes a number of scrapes he got into, several of them involving the knife. While ashore in Rio de Janeiro as a young sailor, he got into a fight with a slave and killed him by throwing a knife that struck him in the chest. [p. 15] Monstery is said to have been an expert knife thrower, whose technique was different than that used by most. While others held the knife by the point and spun it through the air toward the target, he preferred to hold it by the handle and throw it point first, and "would send it into a board so deep that it required a man's full strength to pull it out." [p. 47]

After he had studied boxing and fencing, he traveled to Italy and Spain to learn to fight with the knife. According to his biography, he found he could beat those from whom he sought instruction; not so surprising, as boxing and fencing provide an excellent foundation for knife fighting. His secret, according to his biographer, was "economy of motion." That is, "In fencing with any weapon, including the fist, that parry is best which takes least time and causes the least amount of motion from the position of 'guard.'"[p. 22]

In 1851, Monstery was set up for an assassination by a love rival and his two cohorts, the three of them armed with daggers. Monstery had only a hickory cane with which to defend himself, but his fencing skill enabled him to fend off the three men, though in warding off their thrusts he suffered three stab wounds in his left arm. [pp. 49-50]

Many of the incidents in the biography are impossible to verify, but Monstery's career as a boxing and fencing instructor is well documented in newspaper articles from the 1860s on, when he ran fencing academies in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. There were several references to his ability with the knife.

This is from a description of an exhibition bout that appeared in the Daily Alta California, (28 November 1863):
The Professor of Arms of the Club [the San Francisco Olympic Club], Colonel T. H. Monstery, then gave an exhibition of the use of the sword and dagger, with the aid of three of his pupils, Messrs. Mel, Johnson and McComb. The bout was opened with a simulated duel with foils, by Mel and Johnson,— Colonel Monstery and Mr. McComb acting as seconds. Two thrusts each were recorded, and then the seconds engaged with the same weapons: the Colonel thrust his adversary twice, and allowed him to make one in return. Then Mel and Johnson were respectively challenged by the Professor to attack him with broadswords, while the dagger only was used to defend, and all the blows were successfully parried by the Colonel with his apparently insignificant weapon.

The Daily Alta California (31 July 1864) carried an advertisement for an exhibition bout in which Monstery and his students would demonstrate "Fencing with Small Swords, Daggers, Rapiers, Broadswords, Sabers, Bayonets, and with Sabre against Bayonet." 

Newspaper advertisements for Monstery's salle d'armes state "Instructions given in the use of the Broadsword, Foils, Bayonet, or any weapon of offence or defence," as well as boxing.

It is in an advertisement in the Daily Alta California (4 January 1870) that we first see knife-fighting lessons specifically mentioned:
FENCING AND BOXING ACADEMY. No. 412 Pine street, near Montgomery. Col. Monstery, instructor in fencing with foil, sword, bayonet, knife, etc. Boxing taught in twelve lessons, by a system that will give efficiency. Classes in colleges or elsewhere attended to. N.B. A select assortment of fencing apparatus and boxing gloves for sale.

In his afterword in the Monstery biography, Wolf reproduces a brochure for  Monstery's "School at Arms" in Chicago around 1890. Among other courses, there is a "Complete Course in Knife Fighting" offered for $15.

More on Monstery here and here

Monday, May 6, 2013

Inside a Sheffield Knife Factory

If you've ever wondered what it looked like in one of the great English knife factories of the 19th century, this silent video should give you a pretty good idea. Titled "Made in Sheffield," it is 13:23 minutes long and was filmed in 1954. Don't let the date fool you--the machinery and manufacturing techniques look very 19th century, as does the tremendous amount of hand labor involved.

We see a craftsman making a small blade for a pocket knife, and later, another assembling dinner knives.  Many of the methods would be the same for bowie knife production.

Because the film is silent, it is hard to understand some of what is going on. The website provides the following explanation:
This is a film made by Mr Ibberson when he was Master Cutler at Sheffield. It shows aspects of the Master Cutler’s Hall and the process of making hand-made cutlery in a small factory.

The film opens with a view over Sheffield Town Hall and the city centre, showing trams and City Hall. In the industrial area of Sheffield, the smoking chimneys of the factories can be seen along the skyline.
There is a close-up of an emblem with a figure of an elephant's head. Inside the Cutler’s Hall, a young woman descends the staircase, knocks on the door of the Master Cutler, and enters. The Master Cutler shows her a book of old records and then a plaque on the wall of previous occupants of the post, going back to 1624 with Robert Sorsby. They look through another old book with records belonging to the previous Master Cutler, showing the 315th Cutler’s Feast of 17th April, 1951. There is a signature of ‘Elizabeth R’ and ‘Philip’. They then look at a collection of coins mounted on a wall and a letter of thanks to M Hunter, Master Cutler, signed by ‘Palmerston’. The two of them go to the main meeting room.
In the next scene, an elderly man works an old forge. Here he bangs a red hot piece of metal into shape on an anvil. He stokes his furnace and works a bellow. There is a close-up of a pen knife blade.
The woman is then shown around by another man, stopping to watch a workman sharpening a blade on a grindstone.
They walk through the factory and watch another workman using an implement with a bow and string. He holds this against his chest to make a small indentation into a piece of metal.
This worker appears to be working on the cases for case knives.
The woman then views a selection of finished pen knives. A workman fashions a blade from red hot steel using a mechanical hammer, and another uses a grinder.
Then a woman polishes blades in one machine, and another uses a machine which holds many blades at once.
Worker pushes blades between two spinning buffing wheels.

 In this close-up, worker appears to be adding rosin powder to a machine that polishes many blades at once.
In another room, a workman attaches handles to the knives, one at a time. These he then checks to make sure that they are straight.
Fitting a handle to a spike-tanged knife blade with a hand-operated press. 

An engraver uses a machine for engraving the maker’s name, and ‘Made in Sheffield.’ This machine engraves several knives simultaneously.
As a worker traces the template, it is engraved on a number of knives simultaneously through the pantagraphic process.
Mr Ibberson and the young woman move into a dining room where they are shown different types of cutlery, from the very small to the very large, possibly by Mrs Ibberson. The film closes with a shot of the table laid out with cutlery.

Title - The End
Written and Produced by Arthur Swinson
Thanks to Kenneth Pantling for directing me to this site.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Señora Candelaria's Account of the Death of Jim Bowie

March 6, 2013 was the 177th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo and the death of Jim Bowie.

I have come across several newspaper articles featuring interviews with Señora Candelaria Villanueva, who claimed to have been nursing Jim Bowie at the Alamo at the time of its fall. Until her death in 1899, Señora Candelaria made a small income by recounting her story and posing for tourists' photos. As the website of the Texas State Historical Association puts it, "Since evidence of survivors is sparse, her claims may never be confirmed, but in 1891 the Texas legislature granted her a pension of twelve dollars a month for being an Alamo survivor and for her work with smallpox victims in San Antonio."

The following account of both those events is from Hero Tales of the American Soldier and Sailor (1899), by James William Buell.

Story of the Most Terrible Battle ever Fought on American Soil.

Senora Candelaria, A Witness.

SENORA CANDELARIA, who died in San Antonio, Tex., on February 10, 1899, at the great age of 114 years, was the sole survivor of the Alamo. She alone could tell how Travis, Crockett, Bowie and 114 other heroes defended the old mission house for fifteen days against 5,000 Mexican regulars, led by the ferocious Santa Anna; how they held the Mexicans in check so that the Texans might rally to the defense of their homes; how they fought until they were overwhelmed and annihilated, and won this immortal legend for their monument:

"Thermopylae had its messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.''

Three days before her death Señora Candelaria told the tragic story of the fiercest fight ever waged on American soil. Notwithstanding the great age of this extraordinary woman her mental faculties were singularly clear, her memory was unimpaired and her powers of description were remarkable, as the story taken from her lips and recorded here shows, constituting one of the most valuable contributions to history that was ever made.

"Yes, it is true that I was in the Alamo during its siege and terrible fall, and I am the only survivor of that awful struggle.

"Colonel Bowie died in my arms, shot dead by a Mexican bullet that grazed my own chin. Good old Davy Crockett died fighting like a wild beast within a few feet of me, and brave Colonel Travis within a few feet the other way, while all around in heaps lay the dead bodies of every man who had defended the Alamo, tumbled together with three dead Mexicans to every one of them.

"I was in the fort as a nurse for Colonel Bowie. I was living in San Antonio, near by. Five days after the cannonading began in the fort—I can never forget that frightful, incessant rumble of guns!—five days after it began I received a letter from General Sam Houston, which I took as an order and obeyed immediately. It read: "' Candelarita,' as General Houston always called me, 'go and take care of Bowie, my brother, in the Alamo.' It was signed 'Houston.' Bowie had typhoid fever."

Mme. Candelaria briefly recalled the events that led up to the tragedy and sketched the heroic men that figured in it. The commander of the garrison, Lieutenant-Colonel W. Barrett Travis, was a native of North Carolina, twenty-eight years old, six feet tall, a lawyer. He was on the proscribed list of Santa Anna. The second in command was Colonel James Bowie, famous as the inventor of the knife which bears his name. He was a native of Georgia. David Crockett was a native of Tennessee and a typical frontiersman, famous as a mighty hunter. He was elected for two terms in the House of Representatives, where he figured as a sort of eccentric. Failing a third term, he went to Texas. With twelve Tennesseeans he arrived in San Antonio three weeks before the siege of the Alamo.

Determined to subjugate Texas, Santa Anna had pushed on through Mexico to San Antonio, appearing before the Texas city on February 22, 1836. After consolidating with Cos and Sesma, Santa Anna's army numbered between six and seven thousand men. This force had been depleted to about five thousand during the hard winter march.

The small Texan garrison at San Antonio was taken by surprise and it hastily retreated across the river to the Alamo, Lieutenant A. M. Dickenson catching up his wife and child on his horse on the way.

Santa Anna's demand for immediate surrender was answered by Colonel Travis with an emphatic "No" from a cannon. The blood-red flag of "no quarter" was hoisted on the tower of the church of San Fernando and the siege was begun.

The mission of the Alamo was established by the Franciscan friars where it then stood, and still stands, in 1722. The buildings consisted of a church with walls of hewn stone 5 feet thick and 22 1/2 feet high. The church faced the river and the town. The central portion was roofless at the time of the siege, but arched rooms on each side of the entrance and the sacristy, which was used as a powder magazine, were strongly covered with a roof of masonry. The windows were high, close and narrow, to protect the congregation from Indian arrows.

Adjoining the church was the convent yard, a hundred feet square, with walls 16 feet high and 3 1/2 feet thick, on the inside embanked by earth to half their height. At the further corner of the convent yard was a sally port, defended by a small redoubt. The convent and hospital building, of adobe bricks, two stories in height, extended along the west side of the yard 191 feet. The main plaza in front of the church and convent covered nearly three acres. It was enclosed by a wall 8 feet high and 33 inches thick.

To defend this place Travis had fourteen pieces of artillery, but none of the Texans had been drilled in their use. It was impossible to perfectly guard so wide a space, so the defence was concentrated about the church and convent. Travis had been careless about provisions. Only three bushels of corn were found at first in the Alamo, but some eighty or ninety bushels were afterward discovered in one of the houses. When it took refuge in the Alamo the garrison numbered 145 men, which was increased during the siege to 177 men. Few as they were in number, the men were without military organization and were held together only by a common heroic purpose.

Santa Anna erected batteries and prepared to make a long siege, rather than trust the results of an assault upon the stronghold. The defenders were equally cautious, and, husbanding their ammunition, made little use of their cannon, placing their reliance in the rifle, which they knew so well how to handle. General Castrillon attempted to build a bridge across the river, but the constructing party was within reach of the rifles of the Texans, and in a few minutes thirty were killed and the survivors withdrew.

Little by little the Mexicans advanced, fighting during the day and pushing forward during the night, until the investment was nearly complete. On March 3 Travis sent his last message to the government. In it he said:
I am still here, in fine spirits and well-to-do. With 145 men I have held the place against a force variously estimated from between fifteen hundred to six thousand, and I shall continue to hold it until I get relief from my countrymen, or I will perish in its defence. We have had a shower of bombs and cannon balls continually falling among us the whole time, yet none of us have been injured. ... A blood-red flag waves from the church of Bexar and in the camp above us, in token that the war is one of vengeance against rebels. . . . These threats have had no influence upon my men but to make them fight with desperation and that highsouled courage which characterizes the patriot who is willing to die in defence of his country, liberty and his honor, God and Texas, victory or death.
The Mexicans had effected little by their cannonade, their guns being only field pieces of light calibre. The Texans, however, were worn by constant vigilance and frequent alarms in expectation of an assault.

After the last of Santa Anna's troops had arrived, on March 2, they took three days to rest. On the fifth the Mexican general held a council of war and determined on an assault the next day. In the meantime, Madame Candelaria had entered the Alamo to nurse Colonel Bowie.

"After fighting like a demon for ten days," continued the centenarian, every muscle in her wrinkled face twitching as she warmed up to the most tragic part of her story, "brave Colonel Travis got word that no more men could come to his aid. He knew then that there was no hope, but he never thought of such a thing as giving up the Alamo; no, not he. He called his men together at night, told them how matters stood, and drawing a line on the ground with his sword, said: 'Those who want to fight it out with me come inside that line, and those who have had enough and think they can escape go outside.' All stepped over the line to Travis' side but one Mexican. Some say he escaped. I do not know what became of him.

"All day and all night long there was shooting with cannons and with rifles. Sometimes the Mexicans got brave and advanced in small parties, but they were always driven back. God must have been with the Texans up to the last day, for not a man was killed until then, although bombs and cannon balls came thick and fast inside the fort at times, and bullets kept whizzing through the air.

"All this time I was taking care of good Colonel Bowie. Besides his fever he was suffering from a fall from a platform. He was not able to get out into the yard to fight, but he would stay with his men, and I nursed him as well as I could.

"With so many in the fort, and with working and shooting going on all about, it was not easy to take care of a man with a fever. But it made little difference, well or sick was all the same after Santa Anna's savage men broke into the fort. All were shot, clubbed or bayoneted to death together.

"Between three and four o'clock in the morning of March 6, Sunday, the Mexican forces were formed for assault. The troops were divided into four columns and each column was supplied with scaling ladders, crowbars and axes. The cavalry were drawn around the fort to prevent any attempt at escape, but, laws! there wasn't any need of that!

"Through the gray light of the morning the bugle sounded, and the bands began playing the Spanish air of 'Deguelo' (cut throat). It was the signal of no quarter. The troops came on a run. The men in the Alamo were ready for them, and they were received with a fire from the artillery and rifles which must have killed scores.

"The column headed for the northern wall was driven back in a hurry by Davy Crockett and his men. The attack on the eastern and western walls failed, and then all four columns hurried around to the north side of the Alamo and were driven forward like cattle, by the blows and curses of their officers.

"There was an awful drove of them—more men than I had ever seen together or ever have since. Once again the Texans drove them back, but on the next trial they scaled the wall, tumbling over it twenty at a time, while the retreating Texans shot them at a frightful rate. The Mexicans carried the redoubt at the sally port and swarmed into the convent yard, driving the defenders into the convent and hospital.

"It was an awful scene—Mexicans and Texans all mixed up. The range was too short for shooting, so they clubbed their rifles and fought hand to hand. The terrible bowie knife did great service. Some of the enemy turned the captured cannon against the soft adobe walls and began firing. Soon all was bang! bang! smoke, swearing and general confusion. Crazed men were fighting everywhere, bullets rattled against the stones and blood spattered all about. Oh, there was never anything so bad before and I know there never has been since.

"The Texans fought from room to room in the convent, using their clubbed rifles and their bowie knives so long as they had life in them. Colonel Travis and Colonel Bonham fell dead early in the struggle near the door. Twice the Mexicans fired a howitzer loaded with grapeshot into the big room of the hospital. Fifteen Texans were found dead in that room and the bodies of forty-two Mexicans lay just outside.

"The last of the fight took place in the church, into which the Mexicans poured in droves, having got through the stockade. Seeing that it was all up with the defenders, Major T. C. Evans started for the powder magazine to blow up the building, as agreed upon by the defenders. But as he entered the door he was shot dead. I shudder when I think what would have happened if he had succeeded. I wouldn't be here, that's certain; no, there wouldn't have been even one survivor of the Alamo. Poor Davy Crockett was killed near the entrance to the church, his rifle in his hands. He was the last to die.

"I had hard work keeping Colonel Bowie on his couch. He got hold of his two pistols and began firing them off, shouting all the while to his men not to give up. He was raving. I had moved his cot to the arched room to the left of the entrance to the church.

"Finally a bullet whizzed through the door, grazing my chin—see, it left a scar which is there to-day—and killed Bowie. I had the Colonel in my arms. I was just giving him a drink. Mrs. Dickenson and her child had gone into the room opposite the one I was in. A wounded man, Walters, I think was his name, ran into that room with Mexicans after him. They shot him and then hoisted his body high on their bayonets until his blood ran down on them.

"At nine o'clock the Alamo had fallen. Not one of its defenders was alive. It seemed to me that the fighting lasted days instead of only a few hours.

"The Mexicans spared all of us women and the children in the fort. The survivors were Mrs. Dickenson and her child; Mrs. Alsbury, a niece and adopted daughter of Governor Veramendi, and her little sister, who had gone to the Alamo with Colonel Bowie, their brother-in-law; a negro boy, servant of Colonel Travis, and myself. They all died long, long ago, and poor old Señora Candelaria cannot live much longer.

"After the fighting was ended, five men who had hidden themselves were found by the victors. By this time Santa Anna had left his shelter and come to the shattered fort. The five men were brought before him. A kind officer asked that they be kept prisoners, but Santa Anna laughed and ordered his soldiers to kill the men with their bayonets.

"Then, by order of Santa Anna, the bodies of all the dead Texans were piled in a heap with brush and wood and burned. That was the end of the heroes of that great struggle. Is it any wonder that the old senora's thin blood runs a little faster whenever she hears 'Remember the Alamo?'"

Señora Candelaria did not tell the story as connectedly as it is here set down. She was very feeble then, but possibly realizing that her end was near she threw all of the fire left in her worn old brain into the telling. Sitting in the sunshine in sight of the Alamo she loved so much, she unfolded the narrative slowly, with frequent intervals for rest. She spoke mostly in Spanish, with occasionally a sentence in broken English. Her voice had lost its force, but her hands had not. Her gestures were eloquent. Much of the story was told by gestures, for which words have been supplied.

Apart from her wonderful experience in the Alamo, Señora Candelaria's life was full of incident. She was born amid turmoil. Her parents, Don Jose Antonio and Señora Castanon, led a party of settlers along the Rio Grande in 1785. They halted for a night on the bank of the river where Laredo now stands. That night they were attacked by Indians. During the panic which ensued, while the settlers were shouting, clapping their hands and swaying the bushes in order to lead the savages astray as to their number, the future Madame Candelaria was born. After soldiers from Rio Grande had driven the Indians away, the settlers returned and founded the town of Laredo. There the battle-born Mexican child grew to womanhood, noted for her beauty. When she was eighteen she married and moved to San Antonio. Her first husband was killed by Indians while on a surveying expedition. She married again, and her second husband met an equally violent death. She had three sons, only one of whom lived to manhood.

The State of Texas long ago voted her a small pension, and she lived in a little cottage near the Alamo. Toward the end she grew blind, and tottered the last few steps of her long road to the grave in darkness.

Texas will see that her memory is kept green.
Many authentic accounts of the Alamo's fall can be read here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Tale of James Black and the Bowie Knife

The following is excerpted from an article titled "A Survey of Historic Washington, Arkansas," written by Francis Irby Gwaltney and published in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1958. Unfortunately, the material is drawn entirely from Raymond Thorp's book Bowie Knife, which includes many apocryphal tales. It is presented here as for historical interest, as one of the many legends surrounding the birth of the bowie knife.

James Bowie, born in Logan County, Kentucky, enjoyed a rather wide reputation as a knife fighter long before he gave his name to the famous knife made in Washington. He was the principal in the so-called "Battle on Vidalia Sandbar," in which no less than a dozen men were killed. [PK: This is of course an exaggeration.]

But the principal character in the story of the Bowie Knife is not James Bowie of Vidalia, Memphis, and the Alamo. It is James Black of Washington, Arkansas.

James Black was the man who both designed and forged the Knife. It had a curved forward blade, a short dagger-like backhand blade and it was made from steel which was tempered by a secret process known only to James Black.

Bowie, already a famous man, won everlasting fame when he died at the Alamo. Black died an old man, blind and insane.

James Black was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, May 1, 1800. His mother died when he was four; and shortly thereafter James had a stepmother. He didn't like the woman and when he was eight years old he ran away to Philadelphia. Picked up by authorities, he refused to tell who he was and where he lived. According to the custom of the time, he was apprenticed out to a manufacturer. He was of strong physique and he was thought to be eleven years old.

The man to whom James Black was apprenticed was a manufacturer of silver plate. Black became an apt pupil. When he was officially twenty-one but actually eighteen, his apprenticeship served, he decided to follow the tide of the western migration.

After some wandering about, he landed at Fulton, Arkansas Territory, on the Red River in Hempstead County, and found his way to Washington in 1824. The town had recently been staked out by Elijah Stuart and others.

Black applied for and received employment with a blacksmith named Shaw. It was agreed that Shaw and his two sons would assume responsibility for the rough work, shoeing horses, etc., and Black was to devote his time to the manufacture of guns and knives, an agreement which afforded Black the opportunity he wanted, that of working with precious metals.

Because of Black's skill, the business flourished and Black was taken into partnership. It was a friendly arrangement and Black and one of Shaw's sons became inseparable friends. And Black fell in love with Shaw's daughter, Anne. Nobody knows why Shaw objected to the match. He was, however, violently opposed to the possibility of a marriage.

Black, discouraged but willing to try a plan, made a settlement with Shaw for Black's share of the business and then he moved further into the wilderness. He intended to return because, not understanding, Shaw's real character, he reasoned that the man would relent and the marriage would be approved.

But when he returned to Washington, he discovered that Shaw not only refused to allow the marriage, he also refused to pay Black that part of the money he still owed on the dissolution of the partnership. Disillusioned but not necessarily wiser, Black pressed Anne to marry him over her father's objections. They were married and Black had incurred Shaw's almost manic hatred.

The marriage was happy enough. And Black prospered. Orders for knives were so frequent that Black took his friend and now brother-in-law into the business. But Black never allowed young Shaw nor, for that matter, even Anne to witness his technique in making the knives. He worked alone, allowing only a boy, Daniel Webster Jones, later governor of the state, to enter the curtained-off portion at the rear of the shop.

According to Governor Jones, in whose home Black spent his tragic, declining years, Black didn't consider a knife worthy of carrying his name until it passed what Black called "the hickory test." The blade, when finished, was used to whittle on a piece of seasoned hickory for a period of an hour. If, after having received such punishment, the knife failed to shave the hair from a man's arm, the blade was thrown away."

Of course such skill and devotion to the making of a good product caused Black's knife to become known all over the South and the Southwest. And then, in 1830, James Bowie headed for the plantation belonging to his brother, Rezin (or sometimes spelled "Reason"), stopped in Washington to order one of the knives he had heard about.

Some accounts state that Bowie cut the model for his knife out of a cigar box top, others says he drew a picture of it on a piece of paper, and another merely says that he whittled out a model. Any of the three versions will do, for the model wasn't used.

Bowie, when he returned to Washington some four weeks later, found that Black had made the knife as ordered, but he had also designed and made another knife. Black, knowing of Bowie's reputation as a knife fighter, delicately said that he thought a knife should be made for peculiar purposes.

The knife designed by Black was the one Bowie chose to buy. Soon thereafter, on a journey to Texas, Bowie was set upon by three ruffians who had been hired by one of Bowie's enemies for the express purpose of killing him. They attacked from ambush. Bowie was slightly wounded on the leg, but the wound didn't stop him from killing all three men. The knife was used to completely sever the head of one man from his body. A second man was disemboweled by a vicious upthrust. The third man made an effort to flee but Bowie, his leg wounded, overtook the man and, with one blow, split the man's skull to the shoulders.

The incident became, of course, a piece of lurid news which was printed in almost every paper in the country. James Black became famous. The knife was the most terribly bloody devise of its kind ever made. Orders poured in for a "knife like Bowie's." Then, as more knives were made, it became known simply as "The Bowie Knife."

Even intrepid Davy Crockett, in his Autobiography when he met Bowie and had occasion to see Bowie draw the knife, remarked: "Colonel, you might tickle a fellow's ribs a long time with this little instrument before you'd make him laugh; and a many a time I have seen a man puke at the thought of the point touching the pit of his stomach."

Black became the father of three boys and a girl. Anne died in 1836, Black had tried, but he had failed in his efforts to appease his father-in-law.

It was in the summer of 1839 that the tragedy of Black's final days began, although he was to live many years. Black was very ill and was being cared for by his children. It should be pointed out, however needlessly, that the children present were the grandchildren of Shaw.

Shaw, seeing his opportunity, attacked the sick Black with a heavy club. Black's death would have come then had it not been for his dog. The beast rushed in and seized Shaw's throat. Shaw tore himself loose from the dog and fled.

But the damage had been done. The beating administered by Shaw and his club caused a severe inflammation of Black's eyes. He became almost totally blind. As soon as he was well enough, he traveled to the east in an effort to find a doctor who could help him. A quack in Cincinnati ruined what vision Black had left. He returned to Washington, his finances damaged by the search for help, and there he discovered that his father-in-law had somehow managed to liquidate all of Black's property and had fled with the proceeds from it.

The remainder of the tragedy can be best told by a manuscript written by Governor Jones and published in the book, Bowie-Knife, by Thorp:
Dr. Isaac N. Jones was my father, and at the time James Black came to live with us, I was an infant just beginning to Prattle. My father used his best skill in an effort to restore Black's sight, but all to no avail. Being honest, he told his patient that it would be futile to torture him with further treatments. "But said my father," you need have no fears. You shall live with us always."

My father died in February, 1858; but Black, with the full consent of the family, remained with us. Following the decease of my mother in January, 1867, I took him to my home, where he lived until his death, which occurred June 2, 1872. Altogether, he lived with us some thirty years.

Black was always a welcome member in our family. His kindly mien and fatherly advise to my brothers and myself endeared him to us all. He was especially attached to my eldest brother, Isaac, and after Isaac's death at the age of fourteen, the old man transferred his affection to me. While he lived in my father's house, the doctor's office was his room, and I slept there frequently, read to him, and led him about the premises.

Mr. Black was a man of extraordinary memory, and was always made the referee in controversies among the older settlers when they failed to agree concerning some occurrence of earlier times. Time and again, when I was a boy, he would say to me that notwithstanding his great misfortune. God had blessed him by giving him a good home among friends, and that one day, when I reached maturity, he would disclose to me his secret of tempering steel.

I did not press him as to this, although naturally very curious, and it was not until my mother's death, when he moved into my home, that it seemed he was getting ready to trust me with his secret.
On May 1, 1870, which was his seventieth birthday, Mr. Black told me that, since in the ordinary course of nature he could not expect to live much longer, he had decided that the time had arrived.

He stated that I was old enough and sufficiently well acquainted with the affairs of the world to properly utilize the secret, and that if I would procure pen, ink and paper, he would communicate his knowledge to me.

I lost no time in bringing the materials to him. After sitting in silence for awhile, he said: "In the first place"---and then stopped and began rubbing his brow with the fingers of his right hand.

He continued in this way for some minutes, as if trying to reconstruct something in his mind, and then, still rubbing his brow, said: "Go away and come back in an hour."

I did so, but remained close to the open door where I could see him, and not for one moment did he take his fingers away from his brow, or change his position.

At the expiration of the hour I went in and spoke to him. Without a perceptible movement, he said: "Go out again, and come back in an hour's time."

This I did, and the same process was again repeated, and again. When I came back to him at the end of the third hour Mr. Black burst into tears, saying: "My God! It is all gone from me! All these years I have accepted the kindness of these good people in the belief that I could partly repay it with this, my only legacy. Daniel, there are ten or twelve processes through which I put my knives---but I cannot remember even one of them. A few hours ago, when I told you to get the writing materials, everything was fresh in my mind. Now it has flown. I have put it off too long!" I looked at Mr. Black in awe and wonder. His forehead was raw and bleeding, where the skin and the flesh had been rubbed off by his fingers. His sightless eyes were filled with tears, and his face expressed utter grief and despair. I could only say: "Never mind, Mr. Black. It is all in the wisdom of God. He knows best; and undoubtedly He had His reasons for allowing the secret of the Bowie-Knife to remain with You.

The inventor of the Bowie-Knife lived with me slightly more than two years following this scene---but from that moment he was a hopeless imbecile. The struggle to impart the secret had destroyed his mind. God gave him the secret for His own purposes, but was unwilling for him to impart it to others.
So the old artisan, "a hopeless imbecile" because, indirectly, of the hostility of his father-in-law, was buried in the old cemetery at Washington.

It is called The Old Presbyterian Cemetery today. It has gone unused since pioneer days. The grave is unmarked because wooden headstones were used in those days and soon rotted.

Few authentic Bowie-Knives can be found today. Certain people do own knives they call Bowies, but the shape of the weapon was characteristic enough that the real thing is unmistakable.

For the artisan Black was the only one who made the real Bowie-Knife. Millions of knives were manufactured, mostly in England, and employed the shape of the blade, but the authentic Bowie-Knife was made by James Black at Washington, Arkansas.

To all but those who are interested in the true history of the Bowie-Knife, James Black is forgotten. Recently, however, since the publication of a popular novel The Iron Mistress, by Paul I. Wellman, and the subsequent motion picture, Black has become slightly more widely remembered.

Bowie himself, of course, died a death spectacular enough to match the life he had led. Killed at the Alamo, along with another one-time visitor in Washington, Davy Crockett, he used his Washington-designed and Black-made knife as a last melodramatic gesture: the knife was still with him, its blade bloody, and the sentimental Mexicans, appreciative of both the talent of the man and the effectiveness of the weapon, tossed both man and Knife upon the pyre. Bowie and his knife, along with the corpses of the other defenders of the Alamo, were burned. The knife has lived on, both in legend and history, and possibly for that reason, Bowie himself is remembered.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Knife vs. Fixed Bayonet

The following article appeared in The Critic in 1888. The author, Archibald Forbes (1838 - 1900), a British war correspondent, was responding to a letter published previously by someone identified only as "C.B." Forbes makes the case for the fixed bayonet over bowie knives, kukris, or other stabbing implements.
A Good Word for the Bayonet. [Archibald Forbes, in The Pall Mall Budget.]

BOTH in Afghanistan and in Zululand it befell me to see something of the use of the cold steel, and I cannot agree with your correspondent 'C. B.' that against foes armed with stabbing implements as their main weapon, any advantage would be gained by discarding the bayonet for the short swords, the Ghoorka kukrie, the American bowie knife, or any other kindred instrument. Napier was right; the bayonet is the 'queen of weapons'—that is, of all varieties of l’arme blanche [bladed weapons]; of death-dealing instruments that one man can wield, the repeating rifle is unquestionably the most lethal.

Let me clear the air a little before coming to 'close quarters' with ' C. B.'—not, I hope, with 'tiger-like ferocity.' Hand-to-hand fighting is a thing of the past, except in campaigns against savages such as our three latest—those in Afghanistan, in Zululand, and this one on the Red Sea coast. The bayonet was but once used in the Franco-German war—in a street-fight in the village of Villiers-le-Bel; and only once to my knowledge in the Russo-Turkish war, at Skobeleff's final capture of the redoubt outside Plevna on the Loftcha road. Our men occasionally used the bayonet at Inkerman, where ' C. B.' thinks a shorter weapon would have been 'serviceable.' Why? They were fighting with men armed with bayonets like themselves, and in the single combats it was the man who was handiest with his bayonet who won. Those men of ours at Inkerman who were armed with shorter weapons—namely, the officers with their regulation swords—had rather a bad time against the longer-reaching bayonets. The Prussian infantry did, and perhaps still do, carry a short, straight sword, without a guard, which is never used in fighting; and in the Russian army the Guards and Grenadiers carried a similar weapon, concerning which Lieutenant Greene truly observes that the 'only use to which this antiquated weapon was put was in hacking twigs and wood for campfires, for which it is not adapted, and it will probably soon be abolished.'

We come then to 'special service'—our combats against savages. If there is one certainty in war it is this, that no beings armed with the white weapon—be they Zulus, Afghans, Arabs, or demons incarnate—can get within striking distance of, let alone break into, a resolute square armed with breechloaders. As an old dragoon, I make bold to hold that a cavalry charge ridden home can make a fiercer and weightier onslaught than any footmen in the world, yet the bayonet-fringed square with but muzzle-loading muskets remained intact against the most furious cavalry charges. Even a square of Persian infantry—poor creatures as the Persians were—held its own against our Indian cavalry till Malcolmson rode at it as if it had been a fence. I fear there was very little bayonet work done at Isandlana, where the cause of the catastrophe was simply the absence of close formation. At Ulundi no Arabs could have 'meant it' more intensely than did the Zulus, yet not a Zulu got within twenty yards of Lord Chelmsford's close-locked square. Again at El Teb, while the square was maintained, no Arab fell but by the bullet; nor at Tamanieb could the furious fanatics get up to within striking distance of Redvers Buller's firm-gripped square formation from whose faces streamed the deadly hail. The Arabs did not break the square formed by the 2d Brigade at Tamanieb, nor could have broken it, had it been true to the square formation. The charge of the front face—I do not now care to inquire how that charge came about—dislocated the square, and then the gaps thus made gave the Arabs their opportunity. The square, it is true, is not a handy offensive formation, but I have the strongest conviction that savages can always be made to take the initiative with teasing and patience.

It is only if they will not do this that close-quarter fighting can come into requisition, and now I, too, close with ‘C. B.’ On the one hand, you have the Arab armed with a driving, stabbing spear, with a shaft six feet long. For the sake of the balance, he cannot grasp it at the butt, but the length of his reach, including his aim and thrown forward body, makes up for this. You have the other Arab armed with a cutting sword, short and one-handed, or longer and two-handed. Opposed to either you have Tommy Atkins, with his bayonet, a stabbing weapon with which he can lunge well on to six feet. If he knows how to use his bayonet the swordsman Arab cannot reach him, that is surely clear enough. In fighting the spearsman, given the two men of equal physical calibre, the bayonet-wielder should have the best of it. Both Arab and Briton are tied to stabbing practice; neither has a striking weapon while they are at ‘out-fighting’; but the bayonet has advantages not possessed by the spear. It has greater strength for the parry; by reason of the weight of the rifle, which is its shaft, it has greater force for the lunge than the spear, which, even when lead-weighted at the butt, can accumulate no such impetus of penetration. It is for these reasons that in the school of arms the skilled footman with the bayonet has the mastery of the smartest mounted lancer; with him the dismounted lancer is simply ‘not in it.’ But there is no question that, spite of all I have urged, the Arab with his spear has the advantage of the British soldier with his bayonet. Why, then? Simply because in the one case you have a man inured to suppleness by constant exercise, lean and lithe and sinewy, an acrobat in agility, keen of sight, awe-inspiring of aspect, utterly unhampered by vestments. On the other, a man mostly of moderate physique, not in the best of condition, cramped inside a tunic, constricted by belts, weighted with ammunition and appurtenances, and, above all, not a master of his weapon, superior as that weapon is; unused to bayonet play in contradistinction to the formal bayonet exercise, and none too much practised even in this latter. I should like to see the champion Arab of them all stand up spear in hand against such a man as Corporal Macpherson of the Blues armed with the bayonet. Some of your readers may have witnessed the Corporal-major’s exploits at the Agricultural Hall Tournaments. As to 'C. B.’s’ ‘trap’ argument against the bayonet, that applies to every stabbing weapon, but less to the bayonet than to any other, except the rapier. Its shape renders it more easily extricable than lance or sword, to say nothing of the pulling-out purchase afforded in the greater weight of its shaft—the rifle.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Swords Ruined by "Torture Tests"

The following is an excerpt from an article titled "Swords and Bayonets," written by Lieut.-Col. W.N. Lockver, R.A., which appeared in the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution and was reprinted in the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, 1899. Lockver argued that the tests performed on swords manufactured for the British army were subject to unrealistic torture tests that were in many cases damaging the blades. As information pertaining to swords is so often applicable to knives, I thought I'd post it.
In the year 1887 Messrs. Kirshbaum and Co., of Solingen, were making 1885 pattern cavalry swords for us, and swords for many other European nations. I am aware that there was a considerable outcry as to our obtaining swords and bayonets from Germany, and that to this fact were attributed by many the causes of complaint which had arisen in regard to these weapons in our service. I am satisfied that this idea was entirely groundless. Solingen had been for centuries the manufactory of swords for the greater part of Europe, and for the excellence of the weapons produced could not be surpassed; while we had certainly then, as now, not more than two or three manufacturers in England who turned out swords in any quantities.
 1885 Pattern Cavalry Sword
An extraordinary idea was at this time generally prevalent, which was that no matter what test or treatment a sword was subjected to, under no circumstances should it take a permanent bend or set. Nobody seemed inclined to complain should the blade break—that proved that it was "good steel," but if it retained a bend, under any circumstances, it was at once put down as no better than "hoop iron." Notions had evidently changed from Shakespeare's time. He tells us that on Henry V. 's return from France, his Lords desired him—

"To have borne
His bruised helmet, and his bended sword
Before him through the city."

They evidently thought that having a "bended sword " was a credit to a soldier, as proving the good use to which he had put it. If they had lived in 1887 they would have had the maker and the inspector—especially the inspector—hanged.

It must be remembered that a sword is after all a bundle of longitudinal steel fibres, and if it is bent beyond its "limit of elasticity," if of high temper, some of these fibres will break; if the bending is continued the sword will snap in two. In the same way, if the sword is of low temper, the fibres will bend when overstrained and not recover their straightness, and the sword will remain bent.

I had for some time been certain that our swords were being over-tested, and many of them much injured before being issued into the service, as they were subjected to a very severe bending test. Now, though a sword may stand this very severe test once, it runs a chance of being so over-strained thereby and so injured as not to be able to stand anything afterwards.

On one of my visits to Solingen, I had an opportunity of comparing the various tests to which the swords of different nations were subjected, and the result was that I found our tests infinitely more severe than those of any other nation. Our view-room at Solingen was known as the "Chamber of Horrors," and this was at the very time when the responsible authorities were being clamorously assailed for not insuring that our weapons were sufficiently tested. On my return on this occasion I wrote a strong report on the unwise severity of our tests to Colonel King-Harman, then the Superintendent at Enfield, who forwarded it, fully endorsing my views. Shortly after this the testing of our swords and bayonets was revised, and the tests all modified, so that those to which each description of sword or bayonet was subjected should be well within the limits of elasticity of that particular weapon.

Swords and bayonets have suffered much, and much trouble has been given by amateur testing, and it would surprise you to hear some of the severe strains that these unfortunate weapons have been expected to stand.

Soon after the sword and scabbard was first carried attached to the trooper's saddle, the following incident occurred: A trooper dismounted, and allowed his horse to get away; it lay down and rolled in the hard road over the sword and scabbard. The very natural and certain consequence was that the sword and scabbard was so bent that the sword could not be withdrawn from the scabbard; there was a considerable fuss about it, and it was said that our swords and scabbards ought to stand this test; all I can say is that they don't and never will. I could recount several similar cases.

Again, on several occasions complaints have been made that swords have been notched at drill, and on inquiry it has been found that one man held a sword while another cut at it. Now, when the edges of two swords meet violently in this way, one of them must be damaged, and the weapon that will stand this test has yet to be invented.