Monthly Archives: April 2012

Civil War Sword

The American Civil War was one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history. The reason for this was because both the Unions and the Confederates knew each other’s techniques so well, and could counter and re-counter the opponent’s attacks.

Also, the Civil War was a time when many military advancements were being made, such as more powerful cannons, and even Gatling guns were being developed! These weapons were powerful and just cut down the enemy’s infantry and cavalry. Have you ever played a strategy game such as Age of Empires? If so, when the enemy brings in their artillery, what do you do? I just ignore everything but destroying the cannons and so, in real war, the person firing the cannon needs a sidearm to protect himself, and his Colt Revolver only has so many bullets. What does he use? His sword, of course.

The types of swords did not differ very much between the Confederate and Union armies, because the rebel Confederates, like the rebel Americans in the previous war against England, just picked up any weapons they could find among the enemy’s dead.

Generally, the sword consisted of the hilt, or handle, wrapped tightly in leather with twisted copper wire wrapped around that. There was always a large (and elaborate, if an officer) hand guard that went around from the beginning of the blade to the bottom of the hilt. This hand guard was normally made of brass. Now for the most important part: the blade. Thanks to the Bessemer Process, steel could be made in large quantities, so the blades could be made thinner and longer without much risk of breaking. When the blacksmiths pounded the edge, it went flat while the back of the blade did not move, pushing the blade into a curve, perfect for slashing. 






Indian Silversmithing

Today, Native American silversmiths are among the best in the world. But how did they learn this craft, from the Europeans? When the colonists arrived in America, they brought with them the art of silversmithing, especially the Spanish, who in general cherish beautiful things. So, it was after Mexico broke away from Spain that one day, a Navajo Chieftain walked into the shop of a Mexican silversmith and asked to be taught the beautiful craft.

The chief learned, and became quite good at it, so he then taught his four sons the art of silversmithing. All was going beautifully, the Navajo were making gorgeous jewelry, when in 1864 the American cavalry took them captive and the Navajo were kept in prison. Still in prison, the old chief kept making jewelry, and taught the other Navajos the art as well. Four years later, they were sent to live on a reservation. The Indians took their tools along and silversmithing spread further among the Navajo.

in 1872, one of the old Chief’s sons, Astidi Chom, showed his friend, Lanyade (from the Zuni tribe) how to silversmith. Lanyade then traveled around the country, selling the silver Jewelry he made, and one day traveled into the territory of the Hopi (which was within the Mexican border).

There, Lanyade taught the craft to the Hopi, who embraced the new form of Jewelry making.

As the Navajo were the first tribe to begin silversmithing, the Hopi and Zuni tribes made their jewelry in the same style as the Navajo, which was not many gems, but the silver was intricately cast into beautiful shapes and designs. After a while, however, the other tribes began making their own signature style: the Zuni made theirs with the stones in a regular, radiating pattern, and the Hopi use the silver merely to hold the mosaic of bright stones, which were very colorful and in spectacular patterns.


Colt Revolver

Colt Navy Revolver Italiano: Colt Navy Revolver

Colt Navy Revolver Italiano: Colt Navy Revolver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 In the Civil war, a sidearm was developed by both Union and Confederate sides called the revolver. It consisted of a handle, rotating cylinder and barrel.

To load this fast-firing weapon, first a small copper cap is placed on the back of each hole, of which there were normally about six.

 the revolver was then put on a stand (not everyone had a stand, actually, hardly anyone did have one) with the barrel pointing upward, and a little less than a teaspoon of black powder was poured down each hole in the cylinder.

Now, a lead ball is placed on top of each hole, and do you see the extra stick thing underneath the barrel? It folds down and pushes the lead ball all the way into the hole, sort of like a garlic crusher. Then a bit of wax is pushed manually on top to keep the bullet in. Finally, the gun is ready to shoot.

The hammer of the gun is cocked back, the gun is aimed, and when the trigger is pulled, the hammer shoots forward, hits the copper, and a spark is ignited which lites the powder, blowing the ball out with considerable force. 

By the way, I actually don’t know yet what the copper caps did. Obviously they were essential, but Copper does not produce a spark when struck, but maybe it is because it transports heat so well. If anyone knows and would like to comment, please do!

Bowie Knife

Bowie Knife (500x206)(15884 bytes) - a typical...

Bowie Knife (500×206)(15884 bytes) – a typical James Black/Musso pattern S-guard Bowie knife, with its hallmark large blade and unique shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Bowie Knife is a heavy-duty cutting knife used in the early days of the United States.

It was used in the Arkansas backwoods for chopping through dense underbrush and hacking or stabbing at fierce animals that got too close. In fact, while hunting, Davy Crockett was attacked by a bear and his hunting rifle struck away! So, in the dark (the bear was kept busy with the hunting dogs -for the moment) he managed to grapple behind the bear and plunge his Bowie Knife in the bear’s shoulder up to the hilt. And Bowie Knives were long: around a foot long!

The beginning of the edge begins to curve up and then down a bit, providing an indent where the branch you are intending to sharpen for a spear goes, preferably the sharpest part of the blade. You can also put your thumb on the back of the blade for leverage and pressure. A little further forward of this, it begins to curve up again. This “bump” was used for slashing or hacking. Finally, it curves up into the point, where, on the back of the knife, it curves down into the point.

The Bowie knife was invented, well, not exactly invented, but was first made by a blacksmith named James Black, renowned in that area for his knives. It was named after a man named Jim Bowie who used one of Black’s knives to very good effectiveness in the sandbar fight (I read it off of wikipedia, and let me just say PG13). After Black heard about this, he made a new type of knife made specifically to Jim’s uses, the Bowie knife.

Among the more “civilized” states, people said that the people down in Arkansas (a frontier state) picked their teeth with big hunting knives. The English heard about this and developed a knife similar to the Bowie knife which they called the “Arkansas toothpick” and sold them to the Americans.