Collection Initials on 1860 Cavalry Sabre

Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Hi everyone.

I bought this sword from a well-known dealer 1.5 years ago. It's made by D.J. Millard, dated 1862, with C.E.W. as the inspectors mark (blade and scabbard). Of all the manufacturers of the 1860 Cavalry sabre, Millard made the smallest number...only 10,000.

There was no "story" to this particular sword. I bought it cuz it was the right quality at an affordable price point for me.

The sabre has the initials BW scratched into it (looks like it was done with the tip of a pocket knife...what do you think?). At first I thought the initials were unsightly...and I thought who would do that to their sword?...but it was a nice sword nonetheless so I bought it. Now I am wondering if people can do their magic and tell me how many US Cavalry men had those initials. Probably several hundred? Hopefully a lot less.

Was it common for cavalry men to scratch in their initials on their sword? I doubt an officer would, but perhaps the troopers.

I'm not making a big deal about this sword and I know I won't ever identify the owner... but I am just curious what information is out there, and what units that BW might have belonged to.

Does anyone have any information to share about the inspector C.E.W.? For example, can his inspection mark be used to narrow down which theatre of the war this sword might have been carried in?

Here's a few pics of the relevant markings only (no pic of the overall sword but if people ask, then the pics shall be given...we all aim to please here on the Forums! 😀).

Looking forward to your replies...

20210516_230859.jpg
20210516_231541.jpg
20210516_231708.jpg
20210516_231308.jpg
20210516_231150.jpg
 

mrockwell

Private
Joined
Jan 27, 2011
Location
12021 Birch Dr., Corning, NY
My initial guess is that the initials were a post war addition. I believe that most northern units were issued their weapons and at the conclusion of their service they would be returned to the government be it state or federal. Later they could be purchased through outlets such as Bannerman's. Perhaps it was used later in GAR parades or hanging in some establishment and the owner wanted to make sure he got the item back. Could easily been done long afterward. One and a half years is a long time to go back to a dealer, but he may remember who he got it from and from there try to trace it back. If not you still acquired a major piece and in very decent condition.
 

bayonet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
In some cases Troops could buy their weapons at the end of the War or just have it deducted from their pay. The BW was most likely scratched in at Wars end or later. Doubt during the War an Officer would take too kindly if one of his Troopers marking up his government issued equipment unless it was a private purchase and the Trooper owned it outright. Although during the Revolution Americans were well known for craving, scratching, etc. their initials in weapons specially captured ones. But no British soldier dare do that to Crown issued equipment. My GG Grandfather keep his CW cavalry sword but the story goes in the 1930s Aunt Eleanor who ran a Boarding House in New Haven, CT sold it to a "Tinker" or Junk Dealer/Collector. Guess they buy stuff for a dollar then go down the road and sell it for 2 dollars. Too bad I can't go back in time and give her a nice "swift kick in the seat of the pants" (Dad's fav old quote).
Oh by the way nice sword, really I mean it. I get in trouble on this web site if someone posts a train wreak and others call it beautiful etc. but I scratch my head and comment otherwise. Silly me!
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
C.E.W. stands for Charles.E. Wilson. He is one of at least 2 inspectors that inspected the Millard cavalry sabers. With a total of 10,000 Millard cavalry sabers made, I don't think there is any way to tell where any one may have been used. It is possible that many went to an area where they did not see a lot of action, as for a relatively small but early contract, so many are found in nice condition. I'm also afraid there would also be no way to figure exactly who BW may be. But yes, I would love to see more photos of the saber.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Post-war inscriptions are always a possibility for sure. Most often, one can never tell. The bottom of the B shows some wear, so I wondered if that might be an indicator of it having been in service. After 1.5 years, curiousity finally bit me.

I'll post more pics later...got snap a few more for the hungry wolves in the Forum...it was silly of me to think that I could get away with posting only a few pics! :giggle:
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I think that the number is going to go into the 1000's as a last name that starts with the letter W is one of the largest and a first with a B is not far behind. Love to see the whole sword.
I had the same thought when I was looking at the initials...it seems like half the Anglo names have a W for the surname...sigh.....
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
C.E.W. stands for Charles.E. Wilson. He is one of at least 2 inspectors that inspected the Millard cavalry sabers. With a total of 10,000 Millard cavalry sabers made, I don't think there is any way to tell where any one may have been used. It is possible that many went to an area where they did not see a lot of action, as for a relatively small but early contract, so many are found in nice condition. I'm also afraid there would also be no way to figure exactly who BW may be. But yes, I would love to see more photos of the saber.
Is it a fact that many Millard swords are found in better than average condition? Are there any really good online articles about the 1860 Cav sabre, the various manufacturers, etc?
 

connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
Everyone has an opinion and here's mine. I agree with others for a variety of reasons that the initials are very likely post Civil War. They are unsightly on your sword, quite graffiti looking and add nothing of value. Personally, I would not waste my time trying to identify a soldier with the initials "BW" as such an effort would prove meaningless. Instead I would carefully remove the scratched in intials from the sword. How to safely remove them, I'd don't have a clue, but I am certain others on this forum know how and could guide you in their removal.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
Is it a fact that many Millard swords are found in better than average condition? Are there any really good online articles about the 1860 Cav sabre, the various manufacturers, etc?
I don't think you can beat John H. Thillmann's book "Civil War Cavalry & Artillery Sabers" who goes into the variety of makers one at a time and it full of facts and photos. He does remark upon the surprising number of Millard sabers found in fine condition.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Everyone has an opinion and here's mine. I agree with others for a variety of reasons that the initials are very likely post Civil War. They are unsightly on your sword, quite graffiti looking and add nothing of value. Personally, I would not waste my time trying to identify a soldier with the initials "BW" as such an effort would prove meaningless. Instead I would carefully remove the scratched in intials from the sword. How to safely remove them, I'd don't have a clue, but I am certain others on this forum know how and could guide you in their removal.
That was my initial reaction about the initials....unsightly. I got used to seeing them, though. But I don't think I'm going to mess around with trying to remove them lest I do more harm than good.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
I don't think you can beat John H. Thillmann's book "Civil War Cavalry & Artillery Saber" who goes the variety of makers one at a time and it full of facts and photos. He does remark upon the surprising number of Millard sabers found in fine condition.
Thanks for the suggested book. Interesting...never heard that about Millard swords before. This is why I post stuff...to learn more. I knew that BW could be postwar and, even if not, there'd be hundreds of BW's out there....but posting this was a good way to get people talking and learn more about this iconic weapon of the ACW. Plus Forum members are always looking for new content...and pics(!), of course. Hopefully I made your COVID-era Monday morning more interesting. :thumbsup:
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
How many yankees had the initials B.W.???? An easy question for me to answer, as I subscribe to the best WBTS bargain on the internet, www.civilwardata.com . Their answer is 3821, beginning with Benjamin Waberswiller, terminating in Benedict Wysz. Looking at the skill of adding the initials, my vote is absolutely Waberswiller!
How many of the 3,821 served in the cavalry? Can you refine the search? it will still be in the hundreds, I'm sure.

In any case, we'll never know if the initials belonged to the soldier that actually carried that sword.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
As requested, a few more pics for the pic-hungry hordes. By the way, I find it hard to photograph swords...you are either way too far, or way too close.

Also, the blade is bright silver but alas, when I took the pics, the reflections off the blade make it look dark/smoky, but it actually is the same silver color as the portion towards the tip (ditto the scabbard which shows darker towards the hilt). I think I need to learn how to do proper sword photography...heavy sigh...sorry folks!

20210517_140851.jpg
20210517_140938.jpg
20210517_141052.jpg
20210517_141103.jpg
20210517_141141.jpg
 
Top