Old South Military Antiques

North Carolina CS Bowie Knife
Item #: OS-7010

Every soldier North and South needed a knife when they marched off to the War, and in the South it was fashionable, if not practical, to carry a large fighting knife, the bigger the better judging from war era photographs.

Like the Code Duello, knife fighting was a Southern custom that was rarely engaged in by those above Mason – Dixon’s line. In truth, relatively little fighting was done with them North or South, but there are numerous documented cases of Confederates engaging in hand to hand combat with knives.

The maker of this large 22.5 inch Bowie knife is unknown, but because most known examples have been identified to North Carolina soldiers, or found in North Carolina, they have been designated as North Carolina products in Confederate Bowie Knives, by Phillips, Melton & Sexton. These knives are discussed in detail in that fine book on pages 162-164.

The maker produced these in varying sizes, the smallest being 13.5 inches, and this 22.5 inch monster being the largest example by this maker known to exist. The maker designed these specifically as fighting knives, with a bulbous grip. The bulbous grip prevented the hand from sliding off of the grip when wet and slick. The knives are very well made, each having a thick, rounded-diamond cross guard to protect the hand, and an expertly formed blade with a reverse edge. The grip is set into a wide brass ferule, and is secured to the blade tang using a brass washer, expertly inset into the grip. This method works, as testified by the knife being as tight as when it was made 159 years ago. This extensive use of brass suggests to me that these were made early in the War when supplies were plentiful. The expertly formed blade remains bright, it has not been cleaned.

These knives came in both leather and tin scabbards. This one utilized both tin and leather, having a well made leather body, with a tin toe. The scabbard is missing its belt loop, which was small and was secured with only one row of stitching. This was obviously a weak link in an otherwise well made knife. In this case, the thread came loose and the loop detached from the scabbard. The scabbard otherwise is in extraordinarily good condition; it remains strong and all of the stitching is tight, even the tin toe remains tight.