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The Civil War Sword

Updated on November 14, 2010

Though it has been almost 150 years since the last war on American soil, the American Civil War still holds much mystique in the minds of history buffs, war re-enactors, and collectors of antique civil war items. One of the more popular pieces of civil war memorabilia is the civil war sword. Often used by officers, the cavalry, or artillery men, many of these swords (and their replicas) can still be found today. Read on to learn more about the identification, appraisal, and history of the great civil war swords.

Civil War Swords Age and History

The age of a civil war sword may vary greatly. Even though the civil war was fought between 1861-1865, this does not necessarily designate the years of manufacture of the sword. Civil war swords can range in origin from before 1830 to 1860. The sword’s style, manufacturer, and history will vary depending on the year in this range. Before 1830, America’s poor manufacturing base meant that many swords were imported from Europe, and thus were very similar to European swords at the time.

During the next decade (1830-1840), the sword was innovated as the United States continued to lessen its economic dependence on Europe. Sword specifications were standardized to ensure that every blade was similar in feel in order to standardize training and usage across all sword owners.

By 1840 American production of swords had increased markedly. Many of the newly produced swords were of great quality, including the heavy cavalry saber. Up through 1860, many different models of swords were introduced, and during the war there was little appreciable difference between a confederate sword and a union sword. Swords were given to soldiers who earned them. Many legitimate civil war swords still have the appropriate markings on them, depicting the branch of the military they served in and their rank.

Civil War Sword Types

Many models of swords have been preserved to this day. Older models include the M1840 Calvary sabre sword, a favorite of the Confederacy, the M1840 NCO, light artillery, and naval cutlass sword. One of the more popular swords was the 1845 heavy cavalry saber. Later swords include the foot officer sword, Marine NCO sword, and the M1860 cavalry sabre.


If you have an old sword in your attic you think may date from the civil war, or you are interested in purchasing one, it’s important to know how to identify an authentic sword from sword from a different era or a replica. In addition, the condition of the sword, particularly the blade, matters. First, you need to classify the weapon into the family of weapons to which it may belong. Any markings or individual history may be important, and may help you identify the maker or owner. If you’re not knowledgeable enough to make these determinations, go ahead and hire a professional to authenticate and officially appraise the sword for you. They have a lot of experience in the identification of these artifacts, so seek out their help. If the sword is worth anything, it will be a well-spent investment.

Once you’ve determined its authenticity, then comes value determination. The value of the sword is based on the condition of the sword (particularly that of the blade), the rarity of the particular class of swords it belongs to, and to the individual history of the sword: if someone famous or notable used it, it will have more value on the open market. Remember also that “condition” is relative: a sword that’s over 150 years old shouldn’t be totally flawless (a red flag should come up if you find one that is), but it also shouldn’t be poorly preserved. Nicks and imperfections are totally normal, especially if the sword was used in battle. Also, if the sword has been changed or modified at all through its lifetime, its value may decrease. Again, a professional may be best suited to make these judgments.

Buying or Selling

Before buying or selling, learn about the history of the swords and what an actual sword looks like. You may find it helpful to go to a museum or look online for examples of real swords. After you determine what particular sword groups you like and your budget, or after you determine the identity of a sword you’d like to sell, you’ll need to find a dealer. This dealer will help you buy or sell your sword. Be careful purchasing swords online, especially off E-bay, especially without the proper paperwork. Many dealers on the internet (and in real life) play fast and loose with the facts, so it’s always good to have third-party verification.

If you end up buying an antique civil war sword, congrats! Make sure to keep it in great condition to preserve its value. You also might consider complementing it with a civil war scabbard and belt (make sure to find the right one for your sword).

Keep in mind that if you don’t want to spend the money on an authentic, a replica may suit your needs just fine. It is simple to search online for dealers of replica swords. While authenticity obviously won’t matter, still be concerned with maximizing the quality of the sword you purchase.


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    • profile image

      Jason 6 years ago

      What up man

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Welcome to hubpages, Will and congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. Interesting hub-informative and well organized. Down here in NC I run into a lot of civil war referencing and paraphenalia. In fact, I actually wrote one of my hubs: Memorial Day... referencing info about this. Good luck to you in the contest. :)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Wow - interesting information on civil war swords - I was just thinking about how many years that occurred today to tell the truth! Many congrats on the nomination!