Dear John, several years ago, I inherited a sword from my uncle. I think it is real just because my uncle was fairly wealthy and collected nice items. I remember seeing it at his house when our family visited him in 1960. But, I really have don’t know if it is authentic. It looks identical to one I found on a popular Civil War website. It has a “C” and “S” cast into the quillon (cross guard) on both sides. There is no maker’s/manufacturer’s mark on the sword. It is very heavy, 3.18 lbs. The blade is 18.5 inches long, and it is pretty darn sharp.
Would you take a look at the attached photos and let me know if you spot any obvious signs of it being fake? If not, what do you think it might be worth?
JS: Your uncle left you a very nice Confederate relic. This particular pattern of Confederate short sword is fashioned after a US model 1832 short artillery sword. The pattern dates back to Roman times and was readopted in modern warfare by the French in the early 19th century. The purpose of this sword for an artilleryman was to protect his position as a last-ditch measure against cavalry attacks. This short sword theoretically could be used not only against a mounted horsemen but against the belly of a horse charging your position. This sword was standard issue in the U.S. Army from 1832 through the end of the Civil War, though very rarely used in combat.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederates made several patterns of this short sword, more to be used as a large knife in hand-to-hand combat—or that's what many young Confederates thought. Early in the war, Confederate soldiers thought they would be disemboweling their Yankee foes with such big knives! However, those dreams of fighting with these short swords was short-lived. They were quite heavy, and after the first year of the war, soldiers pretty much decided they didn't need them and didn’t want to march many miles carrying this extra four pounds of weight.
These knives and short swords were popular souvenirs taken home by Union soldiers after several of the first battles, as seen in museums and collections with wonderful old tags telling where they were picked up.
There are a dozen or so distinct manufacturers of Confederate short swords, this one being among the most massive and among the few patterns marked "CS" and the only pattern with a raised "CS" in relief in the cross guard. This pattern is reproduced and faked, as are many other Confederate swords are, but your photographs are excellent, and there is no question your sword is original and authentic.
The approximately 19-inch blade varies a little on every sword in this particular pattern and usually, if untouched is very sharp, so be careful with it. I can tell from the photographs the brass hilt has good yellow patina, and the blade is also very good with just minor rust, staining and pitting that happens on a forged piece of steel after 150 years.
The manufacturer of this sword is unknown. Regardless, it was most likely made between 1861 and 1862, early in the war. It is a very popular sword among Civil War collectors, and at the peak of the market, nice examples of this sword without a scabbard sold for between $5,000 and $6,000. With the Civil War market a little soft over the past few years, your nice example should still sell for about $4,000. The original scabbard made for this sword was of tin-mounted leather, and they are very scarce. The addition of the original scabbard typically doubles the value of this sword.