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British Small Sword Style Infantry Hanger ca. 1720-1768
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Small sword style English infantry hanger c. 1720-1768.

Anthony Darling, "A Regimentally-Marked, Mid 18th Century British Infantry Sword in the Concord Antiquarian Museum," had this to say of privates' swords that were purchased by British regimental colonels, paid for from "off reckonings" (money withheld from soldiers'pay) in the first half of the 18th century: "Contemporary pictorial evidence in the paintings of artists such as William Hogarth and Thomas Sandby indicates that battalion company privates were normally issued straight-bladed swords with brass hilts of about the same configuration as that of the civilian small sword, made up of a knuckle bow and shell counterguard."

Mullins, Of Sorts for Provincials, 173-174, shows a very similar sword, differing only in the motifs cast in the hilt, and calls it a "Small sword style English infantry hanger c. 1720-1750." Gale, A Soldier-like Way, 105-106, shows a British 23rd Regt. regimentally marked sergeant's small sword (similar, but with a boat-shaped counterguard and colichemard-like swelling to the blade) that he dates 1760-1770. He also shows a portion of a David Morier painting showing a British grenadier sergeant with what certainly looks to be a small sword style sword at his hip. (Interestingly, Darling notes that he has found no indication that British grenadiers carried swords differing from battalion men before 1735.)

Swords for privates in battalion companies were officially abolished in 1768, and may have seen limited field use before that, but they are certainly a sort that may have made their way into the hands of provincials before the French and Indian War and been brandished again in the early years of the Revolution.

This one measures 35 inches overall with a 28 3/4 inch blade that has a short central fuller running out about 5 1/2 inches from the guard, identical to the blade form shown in Mullins. Cast into the counterguard, inside and out, are four panels showing a resting warrior. On the quillon block and the knuckleguard, the warrior is standing guard with spear and shield. The pommel is spherical with vertical channels.

The wire binding to the grip is long gone, but the turkshead wire ferrules at top and bottom are still present and the wood grip has a nice patina. The counterguard has a slight bit of play and the top of the pommel shows that it was given a slight thwack at some point to tighten it. The blade has a good edge and point, cants ever so slightly to the left, and shows bright metal mixed with darker spots, but no pitting or nicks.

I show part of a Morier painting with a British Grenadier sergeant carrying one of these; part of Hogarth's March of the Guards to Finchley, showing two soldiers with similar hangers; and, part of the Laguerre painting of the Battle of Malplaquet showing Anglo-Dutch infantry wielding their swords in the French entrenchments.

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