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EARLY INDIAN WAR 1870 HOFFMAN SWIVEL BAYONET SCABBARD MODIFIED FOR CARRYING THE MODEL 1873 TRAPDOOR BAYONET ON THE NARROW FIRST PATTERN MODEL 1876 PRAIRIE BELT – VERY RARE SOLDIER MODIFIED SPECIMEN:  Through the years, occasionally accoutrements have surfaced which were modified by the frontier soldiers to meet their needs far from the arsenals and Ordnance Department depots.  These special pieces are not only very collectable in their own right, but they provide a realistic view of how the soldiers adjusted and adapted the standard issue equipment to fill the voids overlooked by the Equipment Boards back east.   

Such is the case with this unique ca.1870 Hoffman Patent Swivel Bayonet Scabbard which was modified by stretching the belt loop and forming it to fit over the cartridge loops of the First Pattern Model 1876 Prairie Belt.   

Like so many other pieces of equipment, the First Pattern Prairie Belt was developed and issued to answer one specific problem – that of efficiently carrying a sufficient number of cartridges into the field in such a manner that would protect the soft copper cartridges from being deformed or fouled with the green waxy verdigris which occurred when the cartridges came in prolonged direct contact with leather.  It was a cartridge belt – period.  No provision was made for this belt to carry any of the other belt mounted holsters, pouches, sabre, or for the infantry, the ubiquitous bayonet.  The Ordnance Department fully expected the soldiers to continue to wear their leather sabre and waist belts to support all of their other appendages and the Prairie Belt was to be worn in addition to the leather belts.  It was not only a short sighted plan, but it completely ignored the soldiers’ preferences and ingenuities they had demonstrated with the soldier-made “Fair Weather Christian” leather cartridge belts which dated from the 1860’s.   

Once they received the Prairie Belts, the soldiers set right to work to modify the accoutrements on hand in order that they could carry all of their necessary equipment on the one belt.  In the cavalry regiments, belt loops on holsters were enlarged, or cut and tied over the belt with leather thongs as were pistol and carbine cartridge pouches, and in some cases sabre straps were added to the belts.  Although far from common, enough of  these modified accoutrements survive in collections today as evidence of the soldiers’ efforts.  Certainly this concept must have appealed to the infantryman as well, and in fact, there exists at least one known example of a cut-loop McKeever Cartridge Box mounted on a First Pattern Prairie Belt which was dyed dark blue – an obvious infantry belt.   

While the infantrymen may have employed several different modifications to mount their bayonets on those early belts, to date no bayonet scabbard has surfaced that has been identified as being specifically modified to wear on the First Pattern Prairie Belt, until this scabbard came to light. 

This early Hoffman Patent Bayonet Scabbard was likely produced immediately after the Civil War before the steel scabbards were adopted.  While the majority of the Hoffman Swivel Frogs were mounted on steel scabbards, the line of stitching around the mouth of the opening indicates this Hoffman frog was originally made with the leather tube.  This is prime example of overlapping features as the army transitioned from one design to another.   

Modern collectors, relying on period Ordnance Department manuals and correspondence, model and pattern dates assigned by the army or by later collectors, and the information to be found in the many reference works published in recent years, have developed the impression that there were “bright lines” of obsolescence and issue of new equipment.  In fact, due to budgetary limitations, manufacturing limitations, and the challenges of supplying the frontier army, it is well documented in period records and photographs that the soldier in the West was regularly issued a combination of equipment which at any one time included a wide selection ranging from Civil War surplus to the latest patterns produced by the arsenals.   

In spite of the obvious service and use to which this scabbard was exposed, it has survived in remarkable condition.  The Hoffman frog is full form and the swivel moves freely.  The scabbard is full form, to include the brass finial, and the seam is intact for the full length.  The leather surface shows some evidence of age with only minor flexing and minimal limited flaking.  The belt loop was formed to fit over the empty cartridge loops of the Prairie Belt, and it fits over the belt perfectly – sized exactly to this particular pattern of belt.    

With the scabbard is a standard Model 1873 Bayonet which would have been issued at the time the Prairie Belts were issued.  The bayonet is full form, with a legible “US” stamp.  The surface is overall smooth with only minor age and handling marks, and some very minor patches of light pitting, and the original bright blue arsenal finish is intact.

The modification of this scabbard define it as a classic Indian War Era soldier field used specimen.  That so few of these modified accoutrements survive today can be easily explained when viewed through the Ordnance Department’s process of issue and return.  When the units received new issues of current equipment and returned the obsolete or worn out accoutrements and equipment to the Ordnance Depots, those pieces that had been modified such as this scabbard were looked upon by the Ordnance Department personnel as damaged beyond repair, or the necessary repairs to return the item to its original configuration were not cost effective – especially since it was obsolete equipment.  It is very likely the modified pieces were condemned and destroyed with the other unserviceable equipment, and they simply did not survive to be funneled into the surplus sales that would eventually lead to the collectors’ market. 

The small number of surviving modified accoutrements serves as quiet testimony of the efforts of the soldiers and the Ordnance Department to adapt stocks of surplus material to suit the needs encountered on the Frontier.  In spite of the number that must have been modified during the period, surviving examples such as this are rare and they are a fascinating field of collecting in their own right.  This is literally a one of a kind offering, with no other known specimen documented or offered on the market, and this scabbard would be very special pairing when displayed an early narrow Prairie Belt.  (1020)  $650 

NOTE:  Unfortunately, this has to be said – the belt pictured is not included with the sale of this bayonet and scabbard. 



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