Confederate Virginia Alteration


Description and Photograph




     Beginning in 1802, the Virginia Manufactory located in Richmond, Virginia manufactured rifles, muskets, pistols and swords for the state of Virginia.  The manufactory fell into disuse after 1822 and was not revived until January of 1861 when war seemed eminent.

     During the twenty years between 1804 and 1822, the manufactory produced two styles of Cavalry Sabres.  The First Model, shown here used a square nut capstan and the Second Model a peened birdís head pommel.  The First Model was produced between 1804-1806.

     As originally made these swords were carried on an over the shoulder crossbelt with frog attachment.  By 1860, crossbelts had been replaced by sword belts equipped with hangers.  In order to utilize the more than three thousand early model swords Virginia had on hand it was necessary to have the huge 40.5 inch bladed swords cut down to approximately 34 inches. Under contract to the state of Virginia, a Chicopee, Massachusetts firm, Ames Sword Company, cut down and slenderized many of these swords in 1860.  Ames also made completely new brass mounted iron scabbards for the altered swords, but made them in the Confederate style, with brass, rather than iron mounts.  The high quality finished product looked much like a standard 1860 light Cavalry Sabre with the exception of the iron guard.  Before all of the swords on hand could be altered, transactions between North and South came to an abrupt end.  A thousand were completed and returned to Virginia.

     The state of Virginia, and then in September 1861 the Confederate Government, continued the alterations and production of arms until Richmond fell in 1865.  The Virginia and Confederate alterations did not utilize the brass mounted iron scabbard, nor did they slenderize the blade in the Model 1860 style, instead they cut off and repointed the blade and cut off the end of the scabbard and closed the hole.

     As many extant images show, these swords were issued to the 1st Virginia Cavalry along with the Model 1851 Sword Belts made by Emerson Gaylord of Chicopee, Massachusetts.

     The early date of the original production of these swords was over 200 years ago, and a poor quality leather was used at the time, so like this one, virtually all are missing there leather grip.  In most swords this would be unacceptable but if I do not accept it in this model, I may never own one in my lifetime.  The disintegration of the leather left some play in the guard and two brass shims have been inserted into the grip at the ricasso; there is now no play in the guard.  The scabbard has one dent in it on the reverse side.  The shims and the dent are shown in the images.   I do not consider the missing grip, the shims nor the dent detractions from this sword, however I do want to point out the one negative that I see.  The sword has been cleaned.  It was done very well, and I think it was the best thing to do in this case, but it is however a negative and that negative is reflected in the price.         




We buy high quality Confederate items.