Modelled very closely on the French Model 1816 Light Cavalry Saber, the original Model 1840 "Old Wristbreaker" Saber was deemed too heavy for purpose and replaced with the shorter and lighter Model 1860 Saber variant seen here. It featured a distinctly French-style three bar hilt that offered superior hand protection on the charge and two weight-saving grooves on its heavy blade to aid in balancing.
The heavy curved blades of the Model 1840 and Model 1860 revision traded some versatility and thrusting ability for better blade edge alignment during a swing and a superior cut, while the single edge strengthened the blade. This was crucial in speedy mounted combat with quick encounters.
Example A was taken from the Spotsylvania battlefield and later given by an unknown African American man to Spotsylvania resident William “Mars” Barclay Dillard after the Civil War. The scabbard is from the older Model 1840 Saber but matching patina suggests it was paired with the sword around the time of the war.
(Gift of Diane Dillard)
Example B was used by Lancaster County resident John Robert Chilton of Company D, 9th Virginia Cavalry, during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Wrist strap made from scabbard suspension belt. Scabbard is correct for the Model 1860 but most likely not original to this specific saber.
(On loan from Spotsylvania Historical Association, Inc)