The "Superior Officer Hussar Style - Consulate" Sabre (Officier Supèrieur à la Hussarde - Consulat)
Before I will describe this specific sabre I want to shed some light on the sabres used by hussar officers. You must understand that the hussars were a very prestigious part of the cavalry and that their uniforms had a very big attraction on young men.
Because Napoleon's light cavalry was used for reconnaissance, flanking, and flank protection it used small, fast horses and its troopers were equiped with light, curved sabres. These sabres were used to cut with and not to thrust as for instance with a cuirassier's sabre.
The troopers had patented, standard sabres but officers, especially the rich ones, could afford to use a quality sabre designed to their own taste.
There are no standard officer sabre types but you can divide the types of sabres carried in two major groups, which also can be subdivided into different styles:
1) The heavy cavalry sabres. Cuirassiers, Dragoons and Carabiniers had a straight bladed sabre with a shell shaped guard that was derived from the sabre type called "sabre à la Garde Bataille"
One has to understand that there is very often only one unique copy of these handmade officer sabres. However, there are many similarities between different types of sabres and the "fashion" of the era in which they were made.
Many officer sabres were influenced by Greek mythology which was the "fashion" during the Consulate period. Medusa, the other Greek gods and the son were very popular designs on sabres of this period.
Officer sabres had engravings on the scabbard as well as on the blade much of the time. Blades were engraved for 1/3rd of their length along the upper part. The engraved part of the blade was blued and the engravings were accentuated with gold, melted in the engravings.
Many officers brought back Mameluk style scimitar sabres or only scimitar blades from the Egyptian Campaign. General Lasalle was amongst those who brought back blades He brought 3 blades back made of damast with him and commisionned a French armourer to fit them with a guard and scabbard in Oriental style. One of Lasalle's sabres is in the collection of the French Musée de l'Armée in Paris and can be seen on many of the prints made of Lasalle It is possible that it was made by the famous armourerer Fatou (Col. Inv. Cc 114). General Claparède also carried a mamaluk sabre of the Egypt style which was on display at the Egyptian Exposition in the Invalides (29 May - 18 October 1998; Musee L'Armée Paris)
The scimitars and blades brought back from Egypt were mostly made out of Damascus steel. This very strong steel could be made (and kept) razor sharp because it was forged by a special technique using different materials. Damascus blades can be recognized by the different sorts of material used on them and they had a very fine relief on them that was very popular amongst light cavalry officers.
The sabre that is described below is an example of the type of sabre used during the Consulate period. It was probably owned by a hussar superior officer. Aides-de-camp also used these types of sabres, because their uniform was in most cases derived from the hussar uniforms.
Description of the Sabre.
The sabre guard and scabbard are made out of a copper alloy and are engraved with beautiful depictions of flowers, the sun and other ornaments. The scabbard is engraved on both sides and that is unusual because usually only the frontside was engraved. The blade has the inscription "N.K" with grapes in between these characters. This is very probably the mark of the Kattenberg family (Cattenberg, Katternberg), a well known family of armourers from Solingen from the second half of the 17th Century onwards. On the top part of the blade there is a variety of flower and "trophées d'armes" engravings. These were elaborated with gold and there are still small bits of gold on it after all these years. The wooden grip on the sabres guard is made out of ebony wood and is beautifully decorated with a line motif. The pommeau (the button on top of the guard) is melon shaped as was very common on officer sabres out of the Consulate period. On top of this pommeau there's a smaller button that connects the blade to the guard. The scabbard has two rings and a boutrolle (trailing edge) made out of the same material as the scabbard itself.
The sabres general condition is very good considering that it is more than two centuries old!
Measurements of the French Hussar Superior Officer Sabre
Views of the French Hussar Superior Officer Sabre
Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2000
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