Model 1860 Naval Cutlass
By Patrick McSherry
The naval cutlass, though antiquated for purposes of naval warfare in
the era of the steel vessels of the new American Navy, was still officially
in use. The crews of the Spanish American War period were drilled in cutlass
exercises, known as "single stick" drill.
The 1860 naval cutlass was apparently adopted by the U.S. Navy in approximately
1860. The new U.S. Navy cutlass was based on the cutlass then in use with
the French navy. The word "cutlass" is derived from the term "curtal axe",
an ancient heavy, but short weapon. The cutlass has the same characteristics.
The cutlass was used in ship-to-shop melee, in boarding parties and to
At top is the naval cutlass, just above the leather
scabbard. At bottom is a wooden practice cutlass, or "single stick"
(photo from the Doug Howser Collection)
The cutlass was an excellent weapon for it intended use of fighting
in onfined areas. However, by the time of the Spanish American War, the
combatants seldom, if ever, met face to face. The weapon was outdated.
Farrow, Edward S., A Dictionary of Military Terms. (New York:
Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1918).
||1-1/8" at hilt
||Single-edged, with a rudimentary double edge within 5
||inches of point. A broad fuller (groove) runs from the
||hilt to within 7 inches of the point. The blade is curved.
||Broad "half basket" guard of sheet brass, generally unornamented.
||Wood, covered with leather, wound with twisted brass wire.
||Most commonly Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA.
Howser, Doug (photo of cutlass, scabbard and single stick).
Peterson, Harold L., The American Sword. (Philadelphia:
Ray Riling Arms Books Co., 1965).
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