Is this a D-Guard Civil War Bowie knife?

Joined
Mar 14, 2019
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#1
The attached photos show a knife that I recently inherited from my family. My parents were big antique collectors in Lancaster County and bought everything. All of this stuff was in storage in Leesburg from 1967, when the parents relocated to Europe. They might have had it in the family already as a number of Elizabethtown relatives fought in the Civil War and we have their correspondence and even a piece of hard tack. This knife was accompanied by two socket bayonets marked B and PO on the ricasso which are supposedly of Civil War era vintage.

The knife is 17 3/4 inches long, the single edged blade 13 1/2 inches long, 1 7/8 inches at the base. The handle appears to be oak. There are no markings other than three notches at the base of the non-edged side. It has surprisingly good heft and balance for a rather rustic object.

Hoping you can tell me what this is!
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KnifeA.jpg
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Patrick H

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#2
That's an interesting knife, for sure. I think the wooden grip might be hickory, which would be a fairly standard wood choice for a tool handle, then and now. The D-guard seems heavier and better fashioned than we often see them. I don't know if this is Civil War era, but I think it's genuinely old. We have some edged weapon experts here who can probably show you pictures of very similar examples made by the same person or company. My guess is: Yes, it's a fighting knife. Yes, it's a genuine antique. Yes, it could be CW or older. But understand those are only guesses.
 
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#3
I now have from a reputable source that it is Confederate Civil War but handmade by a blacksmith, not an arsenal or weapon producing company. One of my ancestors was at Fredericksburg so he may have brought it back as a souvenir.
 
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#9
Welcome to the forum from South Carolina.
Just unpacking from the Baltimore show, so missed the OP.

@Jobe Holiday got it right. It is a blacksmith made Confederate D-guard {I'd be leanin toward North Carolina on this one}. Too bad the scabbard was lost in time. Still it's a great knife.
 

James N.

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#10
Nice looking, but I wouldn't trust that on a bet! These were probably the most-faked items in the very time period you said it was originally stored, the 1950's - 60's. Whenever I see these I tend to run the other way!

Welcome to the forums anyway.
 

Jobe Holiday

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#11
Most people should "...run the other way!" because what you have said is quite true. I have seen and handled a fair number of true Confederate D-Guards and other Confederate knives in the past 50 odd years or so. And, yes I've also handled a lot of these items that were not what they were purported to be! Only because the photographs of this particular D-Guard are so well done with excellent resolution was I comfortable with my original statement. I am not good at attributing these to a particular area, such as Lanyard Puller has done, and I thank him for that because it just makes it that much more interesting!
J.
 
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#13
I share Jobe's and your experts opinion and I guessed North Carolina 'cause to me, your knife sings Dixie with a touch of that accent. Here's a book you must have to help you get safely through the minefield of Confederate blades.

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Sorry but yours isn't in there, but could be if there's ever a second edition.
 
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James N.

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#15
Most people should "...run the other way!" because what you have said is quite true. I have seen and handled a fair number of true Confederate D-Guards and other Confederate knives in the past 50 odd years or so. And, yes I've also handled a lot of these items that were not what they were purported to be! Only because the photographs of this particular D-Guard are so well done with excellent resolution was I comfortable with my original statement. I am not good at attributing these to a particular area, such as Lanyard Puller has done, and I thank him for that because it just makes it that much more interesting!
J.
I have recently showed the knife to an expert and dealer who specializes in such things and he has no doubt whatsoever that it is authentic.
I wasn't so much doubting this particular specimen as the entire subject of "Confederate" Bowies and side-knives due to exactly that degree of fakery, some of which was quite good. The same problem can be encountered with Confederate-made swords and sabers and I feel lucky to have bought the two I own from a reputable old-time dealer who was selling another long-time collector's things. Since my limited knowledge doesn't extend to knives I avoid them.
 

ucvrelics

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#17
Welcome From The Heart Of Dixie. Nice Piece. I w and maybe a closer look where the blade goes into the hilt. Would love to see photos of the pommel and the spine of the blade. I totally agree with @Jobe Holiday @Lanyard Puller, and as jobe stated "handling" which is one thing and looking at photos is another especially with CS items. If you showed it to an expert and he says it authentic and you believe its authentic, Then its authentic. Thanks for sharing.
 
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#18
As requested--more shots. I am in the art business where we deal with many fakes. This knife appeared with two genuine bayonets, a piece of hard tack, and several Civil War letters, all of which are correct. So that is good. Unfortunately they taped the bayonets to the knife so I had to be very careful peeling it off as it had been there over 50 years. There is still some on the handle. So I don't think anyone in the family though this stuff was worth more than $10 back then.

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byron ed

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#19
The blade isn't a Bowie per se because no section of the upper edge is sharpened or recurved into a stabbing and backslash-capable point (the very improvement the Bowie family initiated, as made by James Black for them) but my understanding of it is that spear-point knives like this one (both edges entirely sharpened) are within the Confederate D-guard Bowie category anyway based on general layout.
 
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#20
I am new to all this but my understanding is that many authentic things were called Bowie knives. There was no standard issue type in the Civil War because if they were not made by a manufacturing company or an arsenal they were often made by individual blacksmiths like this one. Probably there were plenty of regional variants from place to place. Even the materials were different and someone told me that rustic things like this were made from files. A number of people thought this predates the Civil War but of course could well have been used at that time. I was curious if Union soldiers ever used them or they were strictly a Southern things. Anyhow, it is a fascinating subject and interesting to learn about. The term short sword seems appropriate with these things.
 



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