Columbus Naval Iron Works Cutlass


Description and Photograph





     The Confederate Naval cutlass shown here was made at the Columbus, Georgia Naval Iron Works by A. McAllister.  The guard of this twenty-four inch cutlass is made of cast iron.  I knew when I saw it 10 or 12 years ago that it had to have been cast at a major foundry, it could not have been done by a blacksmith.  The blade has the name A. McAllister stamped into it three times.  I also recognized that the nineteen inch blade was similar in form to the cutlasses made at the Columbus Naval Iron Works in Columbus, Georgia.  I traveled to Columbus to research A. McAllister.  I found that a 52 year old mechanic of that name worked at the foundry and lived across the river in Alabama. None of the documents that I found listed his full name, only A. McAllister and I found he had a son in his twenties by the same name.  I do not know if he was making this as a sample or for his own use.  Perhaps others will turn up eventually and answer this question.  The grip is made of wood, with the bark left on, which serves the purpose of giving a good grip even when wet, normally naval swords are gripped with shagreen for this same reason. 

     The cutlass has traces of gold paint left on it as a result of its having been displayed in a G.A.R. Post.  It is strange to note, but it was very common for the men who had lived through hell to view it as the best time of their lives in later years, and it was very common for them to paint their War trophies gold.

     The scabbard it is sheathed in is well known for having been made at the Columbus Iron Works, but it was not originally on this cutlass, I placed it on it, and it fits like a glove.

     These swords were originally intended to be used by Naval boarding parties.  The idea being that when two ships engaged in close quarters combat, the attacking party would leap from their own ship onto the enemy ship.  The cutlass would then be used in hand to hand combat, but more importantly they could hack through the enemy ships rigging, thereby disabling the ship.

     By the time of the War Between the States, rifled cannons made boarding parties obsolete just as the rifled musket had made smoothbore musket tactics obsolete.  Though obsolete, cutlasses were standard equipment on Confederate ships.

     The cutlass is as tight as the day it was manufactured, being of much higher quality than most any I have encountered due to its cast iron guard.  The grip, though having minor bark loss is solid, strong and stable.  The scabbard is impeccable.




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