|Description and Photograph||
The Confederate Naval cutlass shown here was made at the Columbus, Georgia Naval Iron Works. The S guard of this twenty-four inch cutlass is made of iron. Others are sometimes made of brass. The wasp-wasted blade is alike on all of them. The blade is smooth and the color of dark chocolate. There are a couple of small spots of very light pitting towards the end. The wooden grip is secured by having the blade’s tang peened over a large cent, this too is typical. I suppose they figured it would cost more than a cent to make the washer so they used what they had. The iron S guard is also as tight as the day it was made; the only play is in the iron ferule at the base of the grip; it will spin freely.
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.