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1760 PATTERN BRITISH LIGHT DRAGOON SABER – VERY NICE EXAMPLE OF A VERY RARE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR ERA SABRE:  This very historic British Army 1760 Pattern Light Dragoon Sabre was carried by the British light dragoons who served in North America during the American Revolutionary War, and between battlefield recoveries and the ultimate surrender of British forces, eventually fell into the hands of the American mounted troopers.  Relatively unknown as compared to other British and American sabres, these 1760 Pattern Sabres have an interesting history and they are definitely a significant artifact of American military history. 

In preparation for deploying troops onto the European Continent at the beginning of the Seven Years War, in 1759 Britain created five new regiments of Light Dragoons.  European nations had reached the consensus that the existing regiments of Heavy Dragoons were expensive to raise, equip, and maintain, and they lacked flexibility on the battlefield.  Not only would the new regiments of Light Dragoons be less expensive to create and support, it was believed they would be better suited to a wider variety of duties on the battlefield, such as sentinel assignments in advance of pickets, reconnaissance, scouting, and protecting the flanks of the main force.  One of the primary differences between the Light and Heavy Dragoons was the size of the horse – the Heavy Dragoons which rode larger, heavier framed horses served as shock troops against an enemy formation, while the Light Dragoons were mounted on lighter boned horses chosen for speed and agility, more in keeping with Light Dragoons’ intended assignments.  In kind, the Light Dragoons were armed and equipped with lighter weapons such as this 1760 Pattern  Light Dragoon Sabre, also known as the 1760 Light Horseman Sabre. 

George C. Neumann shows this exact pattern of sabre on page 347 of his seminal work, Battle Weapons of the American Revolution.  He lists the sabre under his code number 132.SS, titled as the “English Light Horseman Saber ca. 1760-1788”.  Neumann’s example is stamped with the same “Crown/9” inspection stamp which is appears on the sabre offered here.  Both Neumann’s example and this sabre are identical in every other feature. 

Only two of these Light Dragoon Regiments were dispatched to North America to reinforce the British Army’s “American Garrison” during the American Revolutionary War – the 16TH and 17TH Light Dragoons (LD).  An interesting intersection of historical record emerged during the War.  The first colonel chosen to command the 16TH LD, tasked with recruiting, mounting, and equipping the new unit, as well as developing appropriate training and tactics, was none other than “Gentleman” John Burgoyne, who would arrive in America as a major general and serve at Boston in 1775, and then in Quebec and New York where in 1777 his forces were defeated at Saratoga and he was forced to surrender.

After serving with distinction on their first overseas deployment in Portugal against the French and Spanish during the Seven Years War, the 16TH LD and 17TH LD were dispatched to North America.  The 16Th LD landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in October, 1776 and within a week was engaged at the Battle of White Plains, New York.  After that campaign, the regiment was primarily employed in patrol and garrison duties, and it returned to England in 1779 prior to the end of the war. 

The 17TH LD arrived in Boston just weeks before the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, and the regiment served in many campaigns of the war, including Boston, Long Island, and Philadelphia, and served with distinction with Colonel Tarleton and the British Legion during the Southern Campaign.

The 17TH was transferred to Philadelphia in the fall of 1777 and were present at the Battle of Germantown in October.  Troopers of the 17TH LD featured prominently in the contemporary painting of that battle by Xavier Della Gatta which now hangs in the Valley Forge Historical Society collection.  The painting is believed to have been commissioned by an unknown British officer, and given the positioning of the 17TH Light Dragoons in the foreground, it is conceivable that the officer served in that very regiment.

This painting is significant to this offering as at least one of the 17TH Light Dragoons painted in detail in Gatta’s rendering of the battle is wearing the 1760 Pattern Light Dragoon Sabre with its distinctive guard and urn-shaped pommel plainly depicted.  The description of the sabre must have been provided by the officer who commissioned the painting, and there is little doubt he was quite insistent as to the details in order that the sabre was depicted this accurately by Gatta.  

The presence of the 17TH LD continued to be felt by the American forces throughout the remainder of the war, with notably successful engagements in the northern colonies, and upon being transferred to Savannah in 1779, they joined the British Legion.  The regiment was involved in numerous engagements in the south, and their mobility and performance illustrated the value of Light Dragoons on the battlefield to both the British and American commanders – a lesson which would prove valuable as the United States began to move west in the next century.  The 17TH remained in the field through the end of the war, surrendering in 1781 at Gloucester as Cornwallis surrendered across the York River in Yorktown, and they were some of the last British soldiers to leave America in 1783.   

As the 17TH LD troopers became casualties, and then upon their surrender, their sabres passed into the possession of the American forces.  So, it reasons that at some point the 1760 Pattern Sabres were employed by the American mounted soldiers until they were worn to destruction or were replaced by a new pattern.  That this particular sabre was found in New York opens the imagination to any number of different scenarios as to how this sabre remained behind when the British Forces departed for home.   

British Heavy and Light Dragoon Sabres generally featured straight blades until the 1796 Pattern Light Dragoon Sabre was adopted.  The Heavy Dragoon sabres bore a strong resemblance to the Scottish Broadsword with their full basket guard, large grip and heavy blade.  The design of the 1760 Pattern Light Horseman Sabre was a distinct departure from those heavy blades, and it began the trend towards more refined designs which were less expensive to manufacture, lighter in weight in consideration of both the soldiers and the horses who carried them, and easier to wield.   

Prior to 1788, the colonels of British regiments were allocated a budget for the purchase of arms and equipment, as opposed to a central top-down supply system as we know it today.  The colonels exercised total control over the selection of the civilian contractors and the pattern and quality of the arms - in this case, the sabre.  It is generally believed that in order to stay within the budget, cost was more often the chief concern rather than quality.  This practice is revealed in the characteristics of this sabre with the iron rather than brass guard, a somewhat crude grip, and indications of minimal polishing of the metal surfaces.   

This 1760 Pattern Light Dragoon Sabre presents in very nice condition, retaining its full form and length, and while showing evidence of service, is not damaged by abuse or neglect.   

The blade is generally bright with no heavy pitting, limited frosting and some minor pitting peppered evenly over the surface.  The majority of the blade surface still retains a smooth, bright, shiny surface.  The blade is full length at 36” and has not been sharpened out of profile or shortened.  The edge is straight and even with a couple of small nicks, only one of which is visually apparent.  The blade is legibly stamped with the British “Viewer’s” or inspector’s mark – the government crown over the numeral nine – the number denoting the inspector.   

The iron guard is full form with no bending or misshaping, and it is seated tightly on the tang.  The iron surfaces are clean and bright with light frosting and some minor pitting present.  The interior of the branches show some of the original forging marks which were not polished out at the time of manufacture, additional evidence that controlling cost was a concern to the regimental commanders.  The guard assembly is attached to the tang with what appears to be the original peening of the end of the tang, and there is no evidence that it has ever been tampered with.     

The grips on the extant 1760 Pattern Sabres all seem to share the same characteristics, in so far that they were made of wood, featured a spiral groove, and were covered in black leather which was secured with a twisted brass wire wrap.  The base wooden grips all appear to be hand carved – including the spiral groove – and the shaping was executed somewhat crudely, with irregularities and flat chisel or knife cuts left visible with no effort having been made to smooth the surface by sanding.   On those grips which the leather covering has survived intact, the carving marks are plainly visible under the light weight black leather used to cover the grip.   

The grip on this sabre is covered with lightweight black leather and secured with a single wrapping of twisted brass wire.  Given the age and overall condition of this sabre and based on the condition of the leather covering, I have to assume that the leather was replaced at sometime in the sabre’s life, however if this is the case, it was very nicely executed by skilled hands – perhaps during an arsenal refurbishing.  The leather wrap is very tight and secure and it does not present as a cheap or careless later addition.  

The 1760 Pattern Light Horseman Sabre remained in service until replaced by the 1788 Pattern Light Cavalry Sabre, in service through two major conflicts – The Seven Years War and the American Revolutionary War.  The 1760 Pattern was only intended for use by the five regiments of Light Dragoons, so as a result they were produced in very limited numbers and in turn, their survival rate has been proportionately low which is evidenced by their rarity on the market today.    

This 1760 Pattern Light Dragoon Sabre is a very attractive historical saber from the early days of our nation’s history.   This specimen presents in very nice condition and it will be a pleasure to own with no need to upgrade it.  (0439)   $3250 



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