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French Model 1779 "Sartine Pattern" Naval Cutlass
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A very scarce French naval cutlass dating to the American Revolution.

Gilkerson (1991), followed by Neumann (1998,) called this the French Model 1782 cutlass, though both authors admitted that such dates often only mark the formalization of existing styles for ordnance records. More recently, Petard (2006) has designated it the Model 1779 based on a reference in the papers of Gribeauval, who also credits its design to Sartine, Minister of the Navy at the time. Further, Petard's list of manufacturers marks dates this no later than 1783.

This cutlass stylistically conforms to Petard's guidelines for the early version of the Sartine cutlass. The blade is slightly shorter and narrower than those used on the later versions of the model, and the two outer branches of the hilt join the knuckleguard independently, rather than joining together and meeting the knuckleguard at only one point.

Dating the cutlass to no later than 1783 is the Crown/R maker stamp on the blade and hilt. A version of this stamp with a larger crown was introduced at the Klingenthal royal manufactory in 1756 and used until 1776, when it was replaced by this, the R a la petite couronne. Petard illustrates this version of the Small Crown/R as number 4, plate 117, page 256, and states it is the earliest of three variants, all of which were superseded in 1783 by a Crown/K stamp. (This change apparently came about when other establishments were given the royal imprimatur and the R for Rex or Roi was changed to a K for Klingenthal to designate this particular manufactory.)

Overall length about 30 inches. Blade is 24 inches long; 1 7/16 inches wide at the guard. Single narrow fuller along the upper edge of the blade from the guard to within 6 inches of the tip. False edge extending back from the tip 6 inches. Blade and hilt are tight. Small piece of leather washer at blade shoulder. Small crown/R stamp on the blade 1 1/8 inches from the guard and on the inside of the counterguard along the base line of the palmette and what seems to be a faint R sideways on the front top lobe of the palmette. Very good point and edge with no nicks. Blade is smooth metal with a mix of gray, thin brown, and pewter tones. Brass was polished at some point and is beginning to tone down.

American warships and privateers certainly used a variety of locally made, imported, and captured cutlasses. Neumann felt this pattern was likely among those imported, and Gilkerson notes that it is even scarcer in France than the U.S. It was developed early enough both to be shipped to America and be supplied to American privateers and warships, such as the Bonne Homme Richard, outfitting in French ports under the auspices of Benjamin Franklin. All in all, a very scarce naval weapon of the American Revolution.

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Gilkerson, Boarders Away, (1991) 1.78-79; Neumann, Battle Weapons, (1998) 186.SS; Petard, Le Sabre d'Abordage, (2006) 55-56.