Model 1913 Cavalry Saber
The Model 1913 Cavalry Saber, commonly referred to as the Patton Saber, was a cavalry saber (though in the strictest sense, it was not a saber, but a sword due to the lack of curve in the blade) designed for the U.S. Army by Second Lieutenant (later General) George S. Patton in 1913.
It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by light cavalry. Patton's 1914 manual "Saber Exercise" outlined a system of training for both mounted and on-foot use of the saber. The weapon came to be known as the "Patton Saber." There is no one sword that this saber was modeled after. Patton suggested the revision from a curved sword and edge and cutting technique to a thrusting style of attack, following his extensive training in France. Patton's thoughts were expressed in his 1913 report "The Form and Use of the Saber":
In the Peninsula War the English nearly always used the sword for cutting. The French dragoons, on the contrary, used only the point which, with their long straight swords caused almost always a fatal wound. This made the English protest that the French did not fight fair. Marshal Saxe wished to arm the French cavalry with a blade of a triangular cross section so as to make the use of the point obligatory. At Wagram, when the cavalry of the guard passed in review before a charge, Napoleon called to them, "Don't cut! The point! The point!"
This weapon, the last saber issued to U.S. cavalry, was never used as intended. At the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I, several American cavalry units armed with sabers were sent to the front, but they were held back. The nature of war had changed, making horse-mounted troops easy prey for enemy troops equipped with Gewehr 98 rifles and MG08 machine guns. Those cavalrymen who saw combat did so dismounted, using their horses only to travel. Patton instead adapted his style of move forward and attack technique to his use of tanks in battle. This became his trademark combat style in World War II.
Patton designed the saber when he was Master of the Sword at the Mounted Service School. Following the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Patton traveled with his family to Dresden, Berlin, and Nuremberg. Seeking the greatest swordsman in Europe to study with, Patton was told the “beau sabreur” of the French Army would be the one. Adjutant M. Clèry was a French “master of arms” and instructor of fencing at the Cavalry School at Saumur. Patton went to Saumur to undergo an intense study with the master.
Upon his return, Patton wrote a report on his sword studies that was revised for the Army and Navy Journal. Patton’s first article for the well-known Cavalry Journal appeared in the March 1913 issue. In the summer of 1913, following his advising the Ordnance Department on sword redesign, Patton was allowed to return to Saumur to study once again under Clèry.
The Model 1913 saber features a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by heavy cavalry. It was designed in accordance with Patton's system of swordsmanship, which was published by the War Department as the 1914 Saber Exercise manual, and which emphasized the use of the point over the edge.
Its design was wrongly thought to have influenced today's Hungarian saber, which is used in sport fencing, however, there is no connection to the modern fencing sabre, which developed from traditional Hungarian and Italian weapons and was introduced in 1910. A modern reproduction is 44" overall, 35" blade and weighs two and one-half pounds. The blade is straight and tapered, the front edge running the whole length of the blade and double-edged for half its length. Considering the weight of the bell and grip assembly, it would be balanced much closer to the hand than the typical weapon associated with the name "cavalry saber".
According to KJ Parker, Patton's saber was light, slim, exceptionally ergonomic and well-balanced – in short, "more or less perfect, the best sword ever issued to an army." Amberger, on the other hand, considered the weapon to be poorly suited for the cavalry use intended, since at the speed of a cavalry charge, a thrust that transfixed an opponent could not be withdrawn quickly enough, and thus the attacker must either abandon his blade, break his wrist or dislocate his sword arm by holding on to it, or risk worse consequences: "At worst, his dead opponent would drag him off his own horse-- making him an unarmed foot soldier in an ocean of falling saber blades and trampling hooves."
In any case, when it was issued, it was already militarily obsolete because modern warfare did not allow the cavalry charges for which it was intended. According to Parker, "if it was ever drawn in anger, I can find no record of it."
- Patton, George (1913). The Form and Use of the Saber. George S. Patton (Revised Edition ed.).
- Saber Exercise 1914
- Charles M. Province, The M1913 "Patton" Saber web page (accessed 20 April 2015).
- University, Harvard. "The History of Sabre". Harvard Fencing. Harvard Universitz. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
- Parker, K. J. (Fall 2011). "Cutting Edge Technology". Subterranean Press Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- J. Christoph Amberger, "Patton's Folly", page 41-45, The Secret History of the Sword, 1996 Hammerterz Forum, revised edition 1999 Multi-media Books, Inc.. ISBN 1-892515-04-0