What is a Cavalry Saber?

A Cavalry Saber is a saber or sword used by the cavalry soldiers well into the 1900s.  It was the traditional weapon during the Civil War; and it had a curved, single-edged 36” long blade.  This was designed to use while mounted on horseback.

History of the cavalry saber.

The cavalry saber has been used by cavalry soldiers of Europe and America since the 1600s.  It was an excellent weapon to be used by horse-riding soldiers, as it could slash and stab with different motions.  As time and warfare progressed, the saber became more of a ceremonial weapon and affectation of military officers.  It remains today a sign of authority.

Types of cavalry sabers.

There were dozens of types of sabers used by cavalry during the Napoleonic War.  Britain had two main styles, the 1796 pattern light-cavalry saber, and the straight bladed 1796 heavy-cavalry saber.  This did not stop a whole host of various weapons being used at the whim of the men who led their regiments.

Unwieldy and poorly balanced, the 1796 patterns were used as hacking weapons; and while they would cause terrible wounds, the use of ht edge of the blade rather than the point resulted in fewer killing strokes.

French horsemen preferred to use the points of their swords and run the enemy through so there was a large disparity in casualties between the two styles.  The French wielded more vicious wounds, while the British more initial deaths.

There are many types of cavalry sabers, but the original cavalry saber was a very heavy, curved sword.  A lighter, more easily wielded weapon with only a slight bend was developed in Italy late in the 19th century for dueling and fencing.

Why are cavalry sabers curved?

Napoleon’s Cavalry


Cavalry sabers are slightly curved, single edged, and sharpened on the convex edge.  The saber was primarily a slashing weapon but could also be thrust.  It was originally a very heavy, curved sword, but lightened over time.  The curve allowed for different attack methods by the soldier while mounted on his horse.

Cavalry Sabers during the United States Civil War

During the Civil War, the saber was the traditional weapon of the cavalry.  It had a curved, single-edged blade that was about 36” long and was designed to be used while mounted.  It was held in the right hand and was swung in heavy, hacking or slashing blows, much like swinging an axe.  The saber is often confused with a sword, which has a straight blade and has sharpened edges on both sides.  When the military leaders realized that the cavalry would not be fighting European-style battles with mass charges, the saber’s importance began to diminish.

How is a cavalry saber worn?

The cavalry saber is worn on the left side with the hand guard facing in.  The saber will angle towards the front of the soldier’s body.

Are cavalry sabers used today?

Today cavalry sabers are symbolic.  They are still worn as a sign of authority and tradition by some officers.

Cavalry Saber Traditions

Sabers at military weddings

How do you do the saber sword at a wedding? Military weddings are a formal and privileged event.  Most guests at a military wedding likely remember the Saber Arch, also known as the Arch of Sabers.  The newly married couple walks through the Saber Arch to ensure the couple’s safe transition into their new life together.  After the couple walks through the Saber Arch, they turn to salute the soldiers making up the arch.  Sometimes the custom of the gentle “swat to the backside” the bride receives from the last swordsman can take her by surprise!

Sabering a Champagne Toast

Sabering a Champagne bottle is a technique of opening the bottle of champagne by cutting off the neck of the bottle with a saber.  The bottle is then open, and the pouring can begin!  This tradition dates back to the French Revolution in the late 1700s.  Legend has it that as the victorious soldiers during the French Revolution rode back toward home, the people would throw them bottles of champagne in celebration.  While on their horses, it would be cumbersome and difficult to unwrap the foil and uncork the bottles.  So, one of the soldiers successfully sabered his own bottle of champagne, thereby starting the tradition of sabering a champagne bottle!