Model 1840 Army Noncommissioned Officers' Sword

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The Model 1840 Noncommissioned Officers' Sword was based on a German version of the infantry sword used by British troops during the Napoleonic Wars. [1] The sword had a 31-inch blade, a cast brass hilt resembling the more expensive wire-wrapped leather grips, and a leather scabbard rather than the steel used by cavalry troopers and officers.

Union soldier armed with NCO sword, Bowie knife and revolver


It was carried by sergeants during the Mexican–American War, and the American Civil War it was worn either on a white or black baldric or with an Enfield bayonet frog. A shorter version with a 26-inch blade was carried by musicians, this was called the Model 1840 musician's sword. NCOs of shorter stature and cadets also carried this variant.[2] Other ranks allowed to carry it included Sergeant-major, Quartermaster, Ordnance Sgt, Hospital Steward, Corporal (as an optional item) and Pioneer.[3]

The primary contractor for the production of the M1840 NCO Sword seems to have been the Ames Manufacturing Company. The weapon was made with a blunt edge as it was intended for stabbing rather than slashing (as in the case of a curved cavalry sabre). It was the main weapon of standard bearers (along with the Colt Army Model 1860 and Colt 1851 Navy Revolver) and hospital stewards, as well as a secondary weapon for infantry NCOs.[4] The sword was also used by the Confederates who captured many after seizing state arsenals.

There was a variant of the M1840 without a handguard called the Musicians Sword which was intended for use by musicians as a personal defense weapon.

The M1840 has had a long service life, seeing frontline service from the Mexican War until the Spanish-American War. in 1868 the ordnance board recommended that no more leather sword, or bayonet scabbards be purchased. so after the leather ones were used up, a black Japanned steel scabbard was substituted. along with a new pattern leather frog. It remained in service as a ceremonial weapon until general orders No. 77 dated August 6, 1875 discontinued its use. A modern version of this sword with steel scabbard is currently permitted for wear by US Army platoon sergeants and first sergeants; in practice it is rarely seen outside the 3rd Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard") and honor guards. Some Army NCOs have this sword and wear it for social occasions, regardless of duty as a platoon sergeant or first sergeant.

See also[edit]


  • Army regulations dated 1841, page 379
  • Brassey's history of uniforms, Mexican-American war 1846-48, ISBN 1-85753-210-4
  • The U.S. Army in the west 1870-1880. uniforms weapons and equipment. ISBN 0-8061-2705-8
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