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French Infantry Smallsword

1725-1750
Origin: France
Overall: 36 3/4" Blade: 30 1/2" x 1 1/8"
Steel, brass, iron and wood
Museum Purchase, Mitchell Arms and Military Accoutrements Fund
Acc. No. 2017-1
Infantry epée of classic "smallsword" form with an ovoid pommel and a plain bilobate guard distinguished by heavily reinforced edges. The plain wooden grip, now missing its wire wrap, has banded sheet brass ferrule at each end. Its blade is broad and double edged with a median ridge and narrow but prominent base guard where it meets the hilt.
Label:Like their British counterparts, French soldiers commonly carried infantry swords which took the form of a gentleman's smallsword. While those carried by the former were made in innumerable varieties, those carried by French troops during the first half of the 18th century are known to be of a few distinct patterns. Amongst the most commonly used type is this robust example. Its brass hilt components are devoid of decoration, and are mounted on a stout double-edged blade. Though its grip is now missing the twisted wire binding which once covered it, the banded brass ferrules remain at either end.

The archaeological record of early America is especially rich with fragments of these recognizable swords. Not only have they been found in French colonial military sites like Fortress Louisbourg and Fort Ticonderoga, but remote trading posts like Fort de Chartres in Illinois as well. An identical pommel was found at the site of Fort Dobbs, a 1750s fort in western North Carolina, and a partial counterguard was recovered at the Governor's Palace site in Colonial Williamsburg.