|Place of origin||Mamluk Egypt|
|Used by|| Mamluk warriors |
United States Marine Corps
Royal Sardinian Army
Italian Royal Army
A Mameluke sword // is a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically derived from sabres used by Mamluk warriors of Mamluk Egypt after whom the sword is named. Egypt was, at least nominally, part of the Ottoman Empire and the sword most commonly used in Egypt was the same as used elsewhere in the empire, the kilij.
The curved sabre was originally of Central Asian Turkic in originfrom where the style migrated to the Middle East, Europe, India and North Africa. In Anatolia and the Balkans the sabre developed characteristics that eventually produced the Ottoman kilij. It was adopted in the 19th century by several Western militaries, including the French Army, British Army, Royal Sardinian Army, Royal Italian Army and the United States Marine Corps. Although some genuine Ottoman sabres were used by Westerners, most "mameluke sabres" were manufactured in Europe or America; their hilts were very similar in form to the Ottoman prototype, but their blades tended to be longer, narrower and less curved than those of the true kilij, while being wider and also less curved than the Persian shamshir.
In short, the hilt retained its original shape. but the blade tended to resemble the blade-form typical of contemporary Western military sabres. The Mameluke sword remains the ceremonial side arm for some units to this day.
Marine Corps history states that a sword of this type was presented to Marine First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon by the Ottoman Empire viceroy, Prince Hamet, on December 8, 1805, during the First Barbary War, in Libya, as a gesture of respect and praise for the Marines' actions at the Battle of Derna (1805).Upon his return to the United States, the state of Virginia presented him with a silver-hilted sword featuring an eaglehead hilt and a curved blade modeled after the original Mameluke sword given to him by Hamet. Its blade is inscribed with his name and a commemoration of the Battle of Tripoli Harbor.
Perhaps due to the Marines' distinguished record during this campaign, including the capture of the Tripolitan city of Derna after a long and dangerous desert march, Marine Corps Commandant Archibald Henderson adopted the Mameluke sword in 1825 for wear by Marine officers. After initial distribution in 1826, Mameluke swords have been worn except for the years 1859–1875 (when Marine officers were required to wear the U.S. Model 1850 Army foot officers' sword), and a brief period when swords were suspended during World War II. Since that time, Mameluke swords have been worn by Marine officers in a continuing tradition to the present day.
Mameluke swords were adopted by officers of light cavalry regiments in the first decade of the 19th century, some were used as 'walking out swords' (for ornamental wear on social occasions on foot) but others were employed on active campaign. They are prominent in images of officers of the Hussars painted by Robert Dighton in 1807.As officially regulated dress or levée swords they first appear in 1822 for lancer regiments. Later, other light cavalry and some heavy cavalry regiments also adopted similar patterns. Though broadly similar in form, each regiment's swords had individual variations in the decoration of both blade and hilt. The current regulation sword for generals, the 1831 Pattern, is a Mameluke-style sword, as were various Army Band swords.
There are a number of factors which influenced the fashion for Mameluke swords in the British Army.
A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.
A sabre is a type of backsword with a curved blade associated with the light cavalry of the early modern and Napoleonic periods. Originally associated with Central European cavalry such as the hussars, the sabre became widespread in Western Europe in the Thirty Years' War. Lighter sabres also became popular with infantry of the early 17th century. In the 19th century, models with less curving blades became common and were also used by heavy cavalry.
A shamshir is a type of Persian/Iranian sword with a radical curve. The name is derived from the shamshīr, which means "sword" in the Persian language. The curved "scimitar" sword family includes the shamshir, kilij, talwar, pulwar and nimcha.
Presley O'Bannon was a first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, famous for his exploits in the First Barbary War (1801-1805). In recognition of his bravery, he was presented a sword for his part in attempting to restore Prince Hamet Karamanli to his throne as the Bey of Tripoli. This sword became the model for the Mameluke Sword, adopted in 1825 for Marine Corps officers, which is part of the formal uniform today.
A kilij is a type of one-handed, single-edged and moderately curved scimitar used by the Timurid Empire, Mamluk Empire, Ottoman Empire, and the later Turkic Khanates of Central Asia and Eurasian steppes. These blades developed from earlier Turko-Mongol sabers that were in use in lands invaded or influenced by the Turkic peoples.
The talwar, also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent.
The Battle of Derna at Derna, Cyrenaica, was the decisive victory in April–May 1805 of a mercenary army recruited and led by United States Marines under the command of U.S. Army Lieutenant William Eaton, diplomatic Consul to Tripoli, and U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon. The battle involved a forced 521-mile (839-km) march through the North African desert from Alexandria, Egypt, to the eastern port city of Derna, Libya, which was defended by a much larger force.
A spadroon is a light sword with a straight-edged blade, enabling both cut and thrust attacks. This English term first came into use in the early 18th century, though the type of sword it referred to was in common usage during the late 17th century. They were primarily used as a military sidearm in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and for officers and NCOs in the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The type of sword also saw widespread use across Europe and America, though the term ‘spadroon’ is unique to the Anglophone world.
The shashka or shasqua, is a kind of sabre; single-edged, single-handed, and guardless backsword. In appearance, the shashka is midway between a typically curved sabre and a straight sword. It has a slightly curved blade, and can be effective for both cutting and thrusting.
The 1908 Pattern Cavalry Trooper's Sword was the last service sword issued to the cavalry of the British Army. It has been called the most effective cavalry sword ever designed, although its introduction occurred as swords finally became obsolete as military weapons. In use, it, like other thrust-based cavalry swords, is best described as a one-handed lance, due to its complete lack of utility for anything but the charge. In fact, the closely related US Model 1913 Cavalry Saber was issued with only a saddle scabbard, as it was not considered to be of much use to a dismounted cavalryman. Colonial troops, who could expect to engage in melee combat with opposing cavalry frequently carried cut and thrust swords either instead of, or in addition to, the P1908/1912.
The gothic hilted swords were a family of swords carried by officers and some NCOs of the British Army between 1822 and the present day. They were primarily infantry swords, although they were also regulation pattern for some other officers such as surgeons and staff officers. The term “Gothic hilt” is derived from a perceived similarity between the curved bars of the guard and the arches found in Gothic architecture. They were elegant aesthetically pleasing weapons, although they were considered by some to be mediocre fighting swords. The weapon and its variants had a very long service life.
The 1796 Pattern British Infantry Officers Sword was carried by officers of the line infantry in the British Army between 1796 and the time of its official replacement with the gothic hilted sword in 1822. This period encompassed the whole of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Marine Corps noncommissioned officer's sword is a sword worn by noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and staff noncommissioned officers (SNCOs) of the United States Marine Corps. The NCO sword was adopted in 1859 and is patterned after the United States Army's foot officers' sword of 1850. The M1859 NCO sword continues service today as the Marine Corps drill and ceremonial sword. The sword's use is restricted by regulation to ceremonial occasions by an NCO or Staff NCO in charge of troops under arms or at weddings and wedding receptions where at least one of those being married is in uniform and has the rank of Corporal or higher.
The 1897 pattern infantry officers’ sword is a straight-bladed, three-quarter basket-hilted sword that has been the regulation sword for officers of the line infantry of the British Army from 1897 to the present day.
The Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British light dragoons and hussars, and King's German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.
The pattern 1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword was the sword used by the British heavy cavalry, and King's German Legion Dragoons, through most of the period of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It played an especially notable role, in the hands of British cavalrymen, at the battles of Salamanca and Waterloo. The pattern was adopted by Sweden and was used by some Portuguese cavalry.
Military forces of the Ottoman Empire used a variety of weapons throughout the centuries. The armoury in Topkapı Palace has a large collection of which it shows select items.
In English the word scimitar refers to a backsword or sabre with a curved blade. Adapted from the Italian word scimitarra in the mid 16th century from an unknown source, the word became used for all 'Oriental' blades which were curved, compared to the more commonly straight and double edged European swords of the time. This is apparent in Thomas Page's The Use of the Broad Sword. Published: 1746:
"The Sword was of enormous length and breadth, heavy and unweildy, design'd only for right down chopping by the Force of a strong Arm; till Time and Experience discovering the Disadvantages, by Degrees contracted its Length and lighten'd its Weight in to the more handy Form of the Scymitar; which was first invented by the Eastern Nations, and has continued to be their principal Weapon to this Day:....""The Saracens, Turks and Persians, made use of but three different Throws with the Scymitar, and one of those, only on Horseback; the other two on Foot."
These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 8th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.
The Pattern 1831 sabre for General Officers is a British army pattern sword prescribed for the use of officers of the rank of major-general and above. It has been in continuous use from 1831 to the present. It is an example of a type of sword described as a mameluke sabre.