Original U.S Civil War Era M-1840 "Wrist Breaker" Heavy Cavalry Saber by P.S. Justice with Scabbard

Item Description

This heavy Cavalry Saber, known as "Old Wristbreaker" among troops, was designated the U.S. Model of 1840, and was the principal cavalry saber used until the Model of 1860 was introduced. As such it was widely used in the War between the States on both sides. Some examples were made in the United States, while many others were imported from Germany. This example is marked by U.S. Military Contractor P.S. Justice of Philadelphia, who also produced contract rifled muskets during the war. We assume that they produced the entire sword, but they may also have used unmarked German blades.

The saber has a very nice brass wire bound leather grip, which is mostly intact with some leather degradation, and a brass three branch brass hand guard. The original leather blade buffer washer is still present, and the sword comes with its original heavy steel scabbard with two hanger rings.

The wicked heavy 35 1/2 inch curved blade's ricasso is marked on one side with maker's name, which is still partially clear -


The blade does have staining, but there is little real rust, and it has been sharpened during its service life. Some of this was not done very carefully, so there is some scuffing on the blade surface. There are also a few tiny nicks and dents on the edge. The hilt is in lovely shape, with a nice patina.

The scabbard is in very good condition, with no dents we can see, and a great aged oxidized patina. It still retains both original hanger rings, and is a very good example of this type of scabbard though it was repainted at some point.

A great example of a Civil War Era M-1840 Wristbreaker Saber by a rare maker, complete with scabbard and ready to display!

Blade length: 35 1/2”
Blade style: Curved Saber with Double Fullers
Overall length: 41 1/2”
Handguard: 5”x 5”
Scabbard Length: 37"

The Model 1840 Cavalry Saber was based on the 1822 French hussar's sabre. Unlike its replacement, the Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber, the M1840 has a ridge around its quillon, a leather grip wrapped in wire (rather than grooves cut into the wooden handle) and a flat, slotted throat. It is 44" long with a 35" blade and weighs roughly 2.5 lbs.

The M1840 was designed for slashing and because of its heavy flat-backed blade was given the nickname "Old Wristbreaker." It was adopted due to the army's dissatisfaction with its predecessor, the model 1833 Dragoon Saber, the first cavalry sword adopted by the US Army.

The iron-hilted M1833 was based on a Napoleonic-era British sword used by heavy cavalry and reputed to wrap "rubber like around a man's head and was only good for cutting butter" An ornate gilded version of this earlier sword was used by General Philip Sheridan during the Civil War; Sheridan had its sheath engraved with the battles he participated in.

It was evident a replacement was needed so in 1838 the US Ordnance Dept bought British, French and Prussian swords and field-tested them. The troopers overwhelmingly preferred the French saber, and a copy of it was put into production in 1844. A total of 2000 were ordered and by 1846, 600 were in frontline service.

The 1840 saber was used during the U.S.-Mexican War by US Cavalry. The main contractors were Ames of Cabotville, Horstmann, and Tiffany but due to the large number of swords required at least 1000 were made in Germany by S&K and imported. Some troopers used Prussian sabers as an alternative, which in contrast to the M1840 had straight blades.

When production ceased in 1858 over 23,700 were made. During the US Civil War it continued to be issued to Union Cavalry as in the early years it was more readily available than the M1860. George B McClellan carried one at the front, keeping his regulation officer's sword for full dress occasions. Many were also used by the Confederacy including General Nathan Bedford Forrest who had both edges of his sword sharpened to increase combat effectiveness.

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