Object Title

Model 1811 Cavalry Sabre

Development

Up until the 1806-07 War of the Fourth Coalition, Prussian cavalry carried a range of swords, with different patterns for cuirassiers, dragoons and the light cavalry regiments. These had changed little from the weapons carried under the leadership of the militarily successful Frederick II ('The Great' 1740-86).

The Dragoon Pallasch of 1735 was still in use until 1811, although the 1797 modification had changed the form of the blade from a double-edged broadsword to a hatchet-pointed straight-bladed cutting sword. The brass basket gave good protection to the hand but was restrictive, and alongside the thumb-ring meant the sword could only be used for cutting, despite its long and straight blade. The heavy guard would have taken the sword's point of balance towards the hilt, not ideal for cutting, and the unfullered blade would have also added to the sword's overall weight. Prussian light cavalry, hussars and bosniaks (later termed uhlans), continued to use Hungarian-influenced hussar sabres of 18th century form. These were curved cutting swords, typically with double-fullered blades, with a traditional stirrup hilt and straight knuckle guard.

When the Prussians joined the British against the French in the War of the Fourth Coalition, replacement of these swords followed. As part of the British support for a continental war against France, the British government exported large numbers of arms to its allies. Among these were 6,000 Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry swords, which were sent to Prussia in early 1807. For the next six years Prussia was under French occupation, but imports of the British light cavalry sword resumed in 1813 when Prussia was once again at war with France in the 'War of Freedom'. These British swords were first issued to hussar regiments and then, from 1811, also to dragoons. This saw the Prussian dragoons - technically 'heavy' cavalry - adopt a distinctly light-cavalry-type curved cutting sword.

Therefore the Model 1811 did not really develop in and of itself, but was a direct copy of the British sword. Probably from 1814, the Prussians began producing their own versions of the British 1796 sword in the renowned sword manufactories of Solingen, and termed it the Model 1811 Kavarlierresäbel.

Use and Effect

Alongside the British light cavalry sword, the Model 1811 was used by Prussian hussars, dragoons, uhlans, horse artillery and by the militia cavalry Landwehr who had been raised in 1813 to fight against the French. The only type of Prussian cavalry not to make use of the Model 1811, or its British counterpart, were the kuirassiers, who retained their straight-bladed and brass-hilted pallasch. As no regiments of Prussian kuirassiers took part in the Waterloo campaign, it is likely that, discounting the various captured French swords of differing patterns which some Prussian cavalry made use of, the Model 1811 was the most widely used Prussian cavalry sword of the campaign. As a result of the sword's prominence at the Waterloo campaign, as well as during the War of Freedom, the Model 1811 became known as the Blücher-Sabre, after Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the most famous Prussian commander of the period.

The Model 1811 is of almost identical form to the British 1796 Light Cavalry sword and with its curved, hatchet-pointed blade it was well suited to powerful cutting attacks. Although extremely similar, the Model 1811 and the British 1796 sword have some important differences. In terms of hilts, the Prussian swords tend to have thicker and rounded grips and guards. Whereas the blade of the 1796 flares out to its widest point toward the tip, with its narrowest point typically in the middle portion of the blade, the Model 1811 is of a consistent width throughout. The distal taper of the blade is also much less gradual with the Model 1811, with the blade's back remaining thick until the fuller ends and then tapering sharply.

These characteristics tend to make the Model 1811, despite the deeper fuller, heavier than the equivalent British sword and slightly less well balanced in the hand for cutting, with the point of balance closer to the hilt. The scabbards, with their distinctive asymmetric shoe, are also of heavier construction.

Although first produced during the Napoleonic Wars, these swords saw service with the Prussian cavalry until 1858, with the height of production being in the 1830s and 1840s. Furthermore, the sword influenced other military Prussian military swords, with the hilt being copied almost exactly for the 1873 uhlan and 1879 artillery sabres.

Statistics

Blade length 83 cm
Country of manufacture Prussia
Date entered service 1811
Overall length 94.6 cm
Weight scabbard 984 gm
Weight sword 1049 gm

Author

Henry Yallop