Original Prussian Austro-Prussian War M1860 Naval Boarding Cutlass by Grah of Solingen

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The word "cutlass" developed from the 17th-century English use of "coutelas", a 16th-century French word for a machete-like mid-length single-edged blade (the modern French for "knife", in general, is "couteau"; in 17th- and 18th-century English the word was often spelled "cuttoe"). The French word "coutelas" may be a convergent development from a Latin root, along with the Italian "coltellaccio" or "cortelazo"; meaning "large knife". In Italy, the "cortelazo" was a similar short, broad-bladed sabre popular during the 16th century. The root "coltello", for "knife", derived ultimately from the Latin "cultellus" meaning "smaller knife"; which is the common Latin root for both the Italian and French words.

This cutlass example was issued to Prussian Naval personnel during and the years after the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. There isn’t much information that can be found on this model cutlass making for a wonderful research project! The cutlass bears strong resemblance to the Italian 1847 cutlass which in turn was based off of the French 1830s pattern but with a heavier, broader blade. The 23 ½” inch blade has the appearance of a Falchion with a flat spine and inward curved edge. The ricasso is marked with what appears to be G. GRAH / SOLINGEN which is difficult to read due to pitting. We are uncertain as to which “Grah” firm produced this example as there are many Grah families who were sword makers based in the Legendary City of Blades, Solingen. The hilt and basket is constructed of heavy gauge steel with wood for the grip scales. The grip scales are definitely an old replacement and are now loose from shrinkage from age and years of life spent at sea. The full cup basket is heavy, heavier than most we encounter and definitely offered phenomenal protection to the user. The overall length of the cutlass is 28 ½” and is in lovely condition for its age!

A rare example Naval cutlass ready for further research and display.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia slowly began to build its own small fleet for coastal defense. Again, more value was placed on the development of a merchant fleet than on a navy. In this connection, the Prussian Maritime Enterprise played a significant role. Its ships were armed to protect against pirates and flew the Prussian war ensign. This protective fleet existed until around 1850.

One of the first to work for the development of a Prussian Navy was Prince Adalbert of Prussia. He had made a number of journeys abroad and recognized the value of a fleet to support commercial interests and to protect one's own navigation. During the Revolutionary era of 1848–1852, at the behest of the Frankfurt National Assembly, the prince was given the responsibility of reestablishing an Imperial Fleet (Reichsflotte) -- a mission which the revolutionary parliament had undertaken in the face of the war with Denmark.

The German Confederation possessed practically no fleet of its own, but relied upon the allied powers of Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Denmark. During the First War of Schleswig of 1848–1851, the failure of this strategy became clear because Great Britain and the Netherlands remained neutral and Denmark became the enemy. Within a few days, the Danish Navy halted all German maritime trade in the North and Baltic Seas. The navy of Austria, Prussia's ally, lay in the Mediterranean and was able to intervene only later in the war.

After the failure of the Revolutions of 1848, Adalbert was able to resume his plans for the establishment of a Prussian Navy. He began with the construction of warships and naval education and training. From the middle of the 1850s, one could find Prussian corvettes and frigates upon all the world's seas.

Besides Prince Adalbert, other important figures of this early period were Prussian naval officers Karl Rudolf Brommy and Ludwig von Henk, who eventually became an admiral in the Imperial German Navy.

At the same time, the first naval base was established on the North Sea. In the Jade Treaty (Jade-Vertrag) of 1853, the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg ceded to Prussia the so-called Jade District. Here, in the following years, arose the great naval port which received the name Wilhelmshaven in 1869. By this time, the Prussian Navy had already ceased to exist.

In 1864 Prussian seamen, with some help from Austria, fought numerically superior Danish Navy again in Jasmund and Heligoland, but without much success.

After the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the North German states had allied under Prussian leadership as the North German Confederation. Out of the Prussian Navy grew the North German Federal Navy, which after the Franco-Prussian War changed its name again to become the Imperial Navy of the new German Empire.

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