Music "Boots And Saddles, Saber and Spurs March"
CPT Jerome “Jerry” Koltz
This weapon can be traced back to the Crusades where the weapon was a bit heavier and double edged and is a cousin of the cutlass which was also slightly curved like the Cavalry Saber. Swords on the other hand tended to be straight and much lighter. Both the saber and the cutlass were slash and hack weapons meant for close in mean fighting – not to be utilized in the gentlemanly swordsmanship of the other branches. The Navy with its cutlass and the Cavalry with its saber were used to the melee and close in, man to man fighting in the days when most units were lined up like toy soldiers on parade to do battle
This is a drawing of a typical Cavalry Sergeant of the 1870’s 1880’s notice the Cavalry stance – the swagger. Photos and drawings of the same time frame of Infantrymen show them at rigid attention weather sitting or standing. Not so the Cavalryman. The Cavalryman also tended to be a bit bow legged and it is said that you could spot a Cavalryman a mile away by his swagger and his bow legs. They had extreme pride in their units and themselves as well, but they were not going to be “pegged” as rigid toy soldiers at attention. These were men of the same ilk as James Cody and George Armstrong Custer, the famous Indian fighters and not only did they know it, they showed it by their body language. They were to a man lean and mean and weathered brown by the sun and wind and hours in the saddle. This was the attitude and appearance of all Cavalrymen including the Provost Sergeants and what was later to become the Cavalry MP’s
The saber evolved from the falchion design
and bears many similarities to the backsword and cutlass.
The saber was originally a very heavy, curved sword, but a lighter, more easily wielded weapon with only a slight bend was developed in Italy late in the 19th century for dueling and fencing.
The modern fencing weapon is straight, like
the foil and epee, but it still has one cutting edge, which can be used
to make hits on an opponent.
Today, some military officers still wear
swords as a sign of authority. The weapon is also used in modern sport
fencing, with saber fencing becoming an official Olympic event in recent
During the Civil War, the saber was the traditional weapon of the cavalry. It had a curved, single-edged blade, about 36" long and was designed to be used while mounted. It was held in the right hand and was swung in heavy, hacking or slashing blows, much like swinging an axe. The saber is often confused with a sword, which has a straight blade and has sharpened edges on both sides. When the military leaders realized that the cavalry would not be fighting European-style battles with massed charges, the saber’s importance began to diminish. The saber is still in use today by the United States Army, although only for ceremonial purposes.
Photo: National Archives
This corporal proudly shows off the uniform and weapons of the cavalry. His shell jacket is trimmed in yellow braid on the cuffs, back, edges and collar. The crossed saber insignia of the cavalry is visible on his cap. He is holding the M1860 cavalry saber in his left hand and has a Colt revolver tucked in his belt.
The Armes Sword - Model 1862
The Ames Sword Company delivered two sample
swords of a "new pattern" based on the French Light Cavalry Saber of
1822 to the U.S. Ordinance Department in January, 1858. In 1858 Ames
received their first order for 800 of the "new pattern" sabers. This
saber became known as the Model-1862 Light Cavalry Saber, and eventually
replaced the Model-1840 "wrist breaker."
Manual of Arms
The saber is worn by officers while participating in ceremonies with troops under arms, or as directed. It is carried on the left side of the body attached to the belt by the scabbard chain with the guard of the saber to the rear. The sword is worn by all platoon sergeants and first sergeants while participating in ceremonies with troops under arms, or as directed. It is carried in the same manner as the officer’s saber.
Figure F-1. Nomenclature, saber and sword.
Figure F-2. Position of Attention.
Figure F-3. Draw Saber (Sword).
(2) On the command of execution SABER (SWORD), the saber (sword) is pulled out of the scabbard and held in the position of Carry Saber (Sword). The saber (sword) should be held with the inner blade-edge riding in a vertical position along the forward tip of the right shoulder (Figure F-4).
c. Carry Saber (Sword). The Carry Saber (Sword) position is assumed under the following situations:
(2) Present Saber (Sword) may be executed from the carry when serving in the capacity of commander of troops or serving in a command that is not part of a larger unit. On the preparatory command of Present, the saber (sword) is brought to a position (at the rate, of two counts) approximately four inches from the nose so that the tip of the saber (sword) is six inches from the vertical (1, Figure F-5). At the command of execution ARMS, the right hand is lowered (at the rate of two counts) with the flat of the blade upward, the thumb extended on the left side of the grip (2, Figure F-5), and the tip of the saber (sword) about six inches from the marching surface.
(3) On the command Order ARMS, the saber (sword) is returned to the position of Carry Saber (Sword).
Figure F-4. Carry Saber (Sword).
Figure F-5. Present Saber (Sword).
Figure F-6. Parade Rest.
NOTE:Whenever the saber (sword) is at the Order Arms position the saber (sword) is straight, not at an angle inward or outward in relationship to the body.
e. Return Saber (Sword). This movement is executed from Carry Saber (Sword) in three counts.
(1) At the preparatory command Return of the command Officers (Noncommissioned officers), Return, SABER (SWORD), the saber (sword) is brought to a vertical position (1, Figure F-7). The forearm (wrist) is held parallel to the marching surface about three inches from the body; the guard is pointed to the left.
(2) At the command of execution SABER (SWORD), three actions take place simultaneously: the saber (sword) is pivoted downward toward the guard, at the same time grasp the scabbard with the left hand just above the upper brass ring mounting. Tilt it forward and turn it clockwise 180 degrees. The scabbard should form a 45-degree angle with the ground, and the saber (sword) bearer turns his head to the left and, looks down to observe the mouthpiece of the scabbard (the shoulders remain squared to the front and level). As smoothly and as quickly as possible, the saber (sword) is inserted into the scabbard and stopped so that about 12 inches of the blade is showing; the right forearm (wrist) is horizontal to the marching surface and three inches from the body (2, Figure F-7).
(3) At the command of execution CUT of the command Ready, CUT, the saber (sword) is thrust smartly into the scabbard, the scabbard is rotated so that its tip is forward, and the saber (sword) bearer comes to Attention (3, Figure F-7).
Figure F-7. Return Saber (Sword).
Figure F-8. Marching position.
a. Eyes Right
While Marching. The command Eyes, RIGHT is executed while
marching at Carry Saber (Sword). The command Ready is
given as the right foot strikes the marching surface (no action is
taken). The second time the right foot strikes the marching surface, the
command Eyes is given and the saber (sword) is brought to the
position (count one position) of Present Arms. No action is
taken the third time the right foot strikes the marching surface. The
fourth time the right foot strikes the marching surface, the command
Right is given. As the foot strikes the marching surface, the head
is turned sharply to the right at a 45 degree angle, and the saber
(sword) is brought downward (Figure F-9).
Figure F-9. Eyes right while marching.
(1) While marching at Present Saber (Sword), the right arm is swung naturally (nine inches to the front and six inches to the rear) in a vertical plane, flexing the wrist to keep the tip of the blade level (about six inches) above the marching surface. This requires extending the wrist on the forward movement and elevating the wrist on the rearward movement.
(2) The command Ready, FRONT is executed as follows: The command Ready is given as the right foot strikes the marching surface (no action is taken). The second time the right foot strikes the marching surface, a second command Ready is given (again, no action is taken). The saber (sword) is returned to the Order position while maintaining the arm swing (subparagraph b) as the right foot strikes the marching surface the third time. The fourth time the right foot strikes the marching surface the command FRONT is given. The head is turned sharply to the front as the right foot strikes the marching surface and the saber (sword) is returned to the Carry position the next time the left foot strikes the marching surface.
b. Port Arms. Port Arms (Figure F-10) is executed on the preparatory command Double Time of the command Double Time, MARCH. This position is assumed only from the position of Carry Saber (Sword). The right arm swings naturally across and 6 inches in front of the body. The saber (sword) is canted 45 degrees from the vertical with the guard pointed to the left. The left hand grasps the scabbard.
Figure F-10. Port Arms.
US Army Cavalry Sergeant 1866
Shown in this photo is the old Model 1840
Heavy Cavalry Saber, fondly known among the Cavalry Troopers as The
Wrist Breaker which was still in use in many Cavalry units well after
the issue of the newer, lighter model