Model 1913 Cavalry Saber
The Model 1913 Cavalry Saber, commonly referred to as the Patton Saber, was a cavalry saber designed for the U.S. Army by Second Lieutenant (later General) George S. Patton in 1913. 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.
It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by light cavalry. Although officially designated a saber, it lacks the curved edge typical of many models of saber.
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 character 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 similar to mounted infantry. 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.
The saber is traditionally the weapon of the U.S. Cavalry; the 1913 Cavalry saber design replaced the Model 1906 Light Cavalry Saber ("Ames" saber), which itself was little changed from the Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber. Patton designed the saber when he was Master of the Sword at the Mounted Service School; unlike earlier revisions of cavalry sabers, however, the 1913 saber was a complete redesign.
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. Cléry 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 Cléry. Patton was next assigned to the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas, as a student and "Master of the Sword", the top instructor in a new course in swordsmanship. It was here he wrote two training manuals in mounted and unmounted swordsmanship, "Saber Exercise 1914", and "Diary of the Instructor in Swordsmanship".
The design was influenced by the French heavy cavalry sword of the Napoleonic Wars as well as French cavalry doctrine that emphasized the use of the point over the edge and is similar to the British Pattern 1908 and 1912 cavalry swords.
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 inches (110 cm) overall with a 35 in (89 cm) blade and weighs two and a half pounds (1.1 kg). 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".
- It has a blued steel (some were nickel plated) "cup-hilt" and a black composition grip.
- The scabbards (three variants) are of wood covered by leather, then covered with green canvas. The furniture (throat and drag) are of blued steel. Others were nickel plated steel—"garrison scabbards".
- It was worn attached to the saddle of the horse, rather than being attached to the waist of the trooper.
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."
Patton's 1914 manual "Saber Exercise 1914" outlined a system of training for both mounted and on-foot use of the saber. Patton's thoughts were expressed in his 1913 report "The Form and Use of the Saber". He expanded on his "Saber Exercise 1914" manual the next year, at the request of his students at the Mounted Service School in Fort Riley, Kansas, with the publication of "Diary of the Instructor in Swordsmanship".
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 almost always caused 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!"
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."
- Charles M. Province, The M1913 "Patton" Saber web page (accessed 20 April 2015).
- Arthur Wyllie, American Swords, (2014) ISBN 1304811964, 9781304811967
- Patton Jr., George S. (1914). Saber Exercise 1914. Washington, D.C.: War Department. pp. 1–66. ISBN 9781941656327.
- Patton Jr., George S. (1915). Diary of the Instructor I Swordsmanship. Fort Riley, Kansas: Mounted Service School Press. pp. 1–65. ISBN 9781941656334.
- Patton, George (1913). The Form and Use of the Saber. George S. Patton (Revised ed.).
- Saber Exercise 1914
- University, Harvard. "The History of Sabre". Harvard Fencing. Harvard University. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
- The garrison scabbard is relatively scarce, as fewer than 10,500 were made between 1913-1914.
- "The Springfield Edge: M-1913". www.springfieldedge.com. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
- 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
- George S. Patton, Jr. "Diary of the Instructor in Swordsmanship" (Mounted Service School Press, 1915).
- Model 1913 Cavalry “Patton” Saber, Springfield Armory Serial Number 1, pp. 24–25. Army History, No. 90, Winter 2013