Confederate Shotgun Bayonet - Hardin's type I
The onset of hostilities in 1861 quickly stripped Southern Arsenals of their military arms. With many thousands more volunteers than arms the new Confederate Ordnance Department quickly began purchasing arms abroad and issuing contracts to private domestic manufacturers alike. The agrarian South began, quite literally in some instances, turning their plowshares into swords to prepare for war.
With military arms in such short supply it comes as no surprise that many Southern recruits rallied to their colours with sporting arms brought from home. While any weapon was certainly better than no weapon the lack of standardization and general lack of suitability for military use was a great handicap for Confederate Ordnance officials. Many thousands of these weapons were modified to help alleviate this problem.
Sporting rifles could be shortened to a more consistent length, rebored to a more common military caliber, usually .50 to .58 caliber, fitted with sling swivels and even adapted to mount bayonets. Often, we think of Confederate used shotguns as being cavalry weapons, but large numbers were modified for infantry use as well by fitting them with bayonets; usually an intimidating saber bayonet.
The bayonet offered here is an example of one such Confederate shotgun bayonet. This style of bayonet was first identified in Albert N. Hardin’s work “The American Bayonet 1776-1964". Five styles of sword and knife bayonets were profiled in the book and attributed to Confederate usage. Our example is one of Hardin’s “Type I” bayonets; an impressive brass hilted saber bayonet with a nominally 24-inch-long straight blade. Like the other Confederate shotgun saber bayonets illustrated by Hardin, and also in “Confederate & Southern Agent Marked Shotguns”, the left side of the hilt is fitted with two apertures on the distal ends of the grip. These apertures would accept the two lugs of the brazed-on bayonet lug. A channel down the back of the grip contains an iron spring with locking clasp that projects down into the rear of the hilt securing behind the rear lug of the bayonet mount. A thumb spur extending behind the pommel serves as the release for the bayonet. Generally, these bayonets are found with a mating number stamped onto the right-hand side of the grip, just behind the cross guard. The number would have been repeated on the bayonet mount as well. No markings have been observed on these bayonets that would identify the manufacturer.
Our bayonet is in relic condition. It does not strike me as having been excavated. Rather, I believe it to be an early field or barn find. The nominally 24-inch-long blade has a dark brown patina and shows moderate pitting down the entirety of its surface. Though it has not been sharpened in modern times, it would seem that it was fairly heavily sharpened during its working life. The blade measures approximately 1 1/8 inch at its widest portions, but varies 1/16th of an inch before the taper begins. The locking spring is likewise very pitted and frozen into position. The head of the screw that secures the spring to the channel in the hilt had rusted away, and the clasp release tab at the pommel has broken off flush against the hilt.
The 16-rib brass handle has a commensurate dark patina that is undisturbed, with a few lighter spots on high points. The handle has numerous scratches and dents, the largest of which are on the center of the cross guard on the right-hand side of the hilt. Though most example show a mating number just below the cross guard, this example is unmarked.
With the condition issues in mind, I have priced this example quite reasonably. Though currently unidentified, this is a nice relic example of a scarce Confederate saber bayonet that was likely mounted on a brought-from-home shotgun wielded in defense of hearth and home.