Object Title

Infantry Hanger

Development

In most European countries infantry swords passed out of widespread use throughout the 18th century. The development and widespread adoption of the socket bayonet had largely removed the need for an edged weapon sidearm for the infantry, and some militaries - most noticeably Britain - had done away with the regular infantry hanger (short sword) altogether. Other nations, such as France, kept hangers for specialist troops such as grenadiers and the light infantry, where you were more likely to be involved in close combat or operate in loose formation without bayonet fixed. However the infantry of Prussia remained, in theory at least, equipped with hangers throughout the period.

The type of hanger used by Prussian infantryman was first introduced in 1715. Although a Model 1715 can be spoken of, it was produced by different manufacturers over a hundred years so a degree of variation existed, beyond the changing royal cyphers found on the blade. From 1744, what originally started as a 78 cm blade was shortened to a more manageable 64 cm.

Use and Effect

Alongside the most widely issued hanger - the 'infanteriesäbel' (infantry sabre) - the Prussians also made use of other infantry edged weapons. Fascine knives, which were saw-backed machete-like weapons for clearing undergrowth, were issued to pioneers. Light infantry were either issued sword bayonets, that could be fixed to a firearm or used in the hand, or 'hirscfängers' (hunting daggers).

As these specialised edged weapons were issued to those troops that were most likely to need them, the Prussian infantry hanger was able to be a dedicated fighting sidearm - not a compromise tool or weapon.

The heart-shaped stool of the hanger offers additional protection to the top of the hand, beyond that provided by the simple stirrup hilt found on the French sabre-briquet. The slightly curved, single-fullered blade is of good quality, and well balanced, with the addition of ribs on one side of the grip providing a more secure hold when held in the right hand.

However, despite the quality of its manufacture and its functional, if old fashioned design, it is debatable how much hangers such as these would have been used as weapons. The bayonet was very much the main close-combat weapon of infantry in this period, particularly with the Prussians. The Prussian army underwent much change during the Napoleonic Wars and was wracked with problems of supply. Lacking a bayonet frog, their line infantry were expected to have bayonets fixed as a matter of course. Although in theory every infantryman carried a hanger, with a sword knot in the colour of his respective company within his regiment, in reality many soldiers went without, especially during the 1815 campaign.

The sword continued in service until 1870, in the form of the almost identical Model 1816, which was first used by infantry and artillery troops, and later auxiliaries of the hospital and army service corps.

Statistics

Blade length 64.6 cm (25 7/16 in)
Country of manufacture Prussia
Date entered service 1715
Overall length 79.1 cm (31 3/16 in)
Weight 0.807 kg (1 lb 12.5 oz)

Author

Henry Yallop