Patton the Swordsman
George S. Patton played a significant role in the development of Cavalry tactics.
In late 1912, the Cavalry Board was completing testing on their experimental saber, dubbed the M1911 (or 1912) Experimental. It had a curved blade, a “cut-n-thrust” compromise.
2ndLT Patton had recently returned from participating in the Olympics (placing 5th in the pentathlon ). The pentathlon was built around an officer carrying dispatches (i.e., horse, sword, pistol, swimming, running). Rumor has it that he would have placed first, but the judges could not decide if his pistol round had punched through the same hole twice (so they counted it as a complete miss). Patton had spent the summer at the Samur Cavalry School in France, where he earned the title “Master of the Sword.” His training and experience led him to believe that a Cavalry saber should be a thrusting weapon. He leveraged his reputation as a fencer and his personal relationship with General Leonard Wood to “backdoor” the Cavalry Board and get his own design approved. That’s why it’s called the “Patton”…he designed it. The original nomenclature was the “M1913 Cavalry Sword”, but was soon officially renamed a “saber” due to its Cavalry association – this is one of the few, if not the only, straight blade saber.
They were produced at the Springfield Armory from early 1913 to early 1918. Additional sabers were contracted to the firm of Landers, Frary, and Clark for production in 1917 and 1918, though some of these blades were not accepted and dated until 1919. The original contract called for production of 29,592 sabers, but there is anecdotal evidence that LF&C produced many more than that, up to 93,000.
In inter-war manuals, the LF&C blades are occasionally referred to as the “M1917 Cavalry Saber”, the year the contract was approved. Many of these sabers were never issued and were later cut up to make bayonets and other weapons for the war effort.
Pictured below is the SWORDSMAN badge.
William K. Emerson speculates in his book, Marksmanship in the US Army, that the badge was only issued in 1914 and 1915, then abandoned during the Mexican troubles and WWI and not picked back up until ~1920. It was soon superseded by the regulation changes of 1922, when a qualification bar marked “SWORD” was authorized, and a new, more difficult, course was designed.
Only two men per troop could win the 1914 bar, running the best number of points in Patton’s qualification course.
The original course was established in 1914 by then 2Lt. George S. Patton, at the request of the War Department.
Course requirements prior to 1922:
1) Over course of approx 275 yds, covered at gallop, men attacked set target dummies. There were diff types of lunges, forehand and backhand motions, etc. The dummies were mounted at diff heights, and there were obstacles present.
Two men per troop would win the award. After 1916, a troop was approx 70 men.
The 1914 “Saber Exercise” manual, written by George Patton:
Great links on Patton’s work with the Cavalry:
An analysis of the 1914 manual for Saber Exercise
THE FORM AND USE OF THE SABER – By Lieutenant G.S. Patton Jr., March 1913
MOUNTED SWORDSMANSHIP – By Lieutenant G.S. Patton Jr., 1914
The Cavalryman, by Major George S. Patton Jr., 3d Cavalry 1921
The Patton Cavalry Saber Drill
Basic Patton Saber Information
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