Tag Archive | Weapons

Object: Sword

Materials: Leather, Metal, Wire

This object is a US Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber. This model of saber was used during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars by dragoons, mounted riflemen, and cavalry regiments in the Army. Dragoons and cavalry are both soldiers who fight from atop a horse, dragoons are a lighter form of cavalry. The mounted riflemen are soldiers who have been trained to shoot guns from atop of a horse, like the Texas Rangers, and once they are in the midst of a battle they dismount from their horses.

Lts. George A. Custer, Nicolas Bowen, and William G. Jones The Peninsula, Va., May 1862. Photograph by James F. Gibson, via WikiMedia Commons.

The M1860 Light Cavalry Saber was created to replace the M1840 Heavy Cavalry Saber, which was heavier and longer, but looked exactly the same as its successor. Cavalry from both sides during the Civil War preferred the M1860 Cavalry Saber for use in battle. George Armstrong Custer used the M1860 Saber throughout his military service. Custer started his military career by graduating from West Point and joining the cavalry two months after the Civil War began. Custer was promoted several times during the war, eventually rising to the rank of Major General by the end of the war in 1865. In 1866 he was promoted again to Lieutenant Colonel and placed in command of the newly formed 7th Cavalry Regiment. The 7th Cavalry was charged with protecting settlers from the Platte River in Nebraska to the Staked Plains in Texas, and from the Missouri River to the Rockies and the railroad that crossed the area from attacks from attacks by Native American tribes living on the plains.

The last U.S. saber was issued in 1913. Today officers only carry sabers as a part of their dress uniform. During the 1920s the M1860 saber could be purchased cheaply in bulk. This has made them one of the most commonly seen types of military sabers today. They are commonly seen in Hollywood western movies, Civil War recreation battles, and given as military retirement gifts.

Military Saber Arch at a Wedding, 2005. Photo by AzureCitizen, via WikiMedia Commons.

Saber teams also use the M1860 Cavalry Saber when they perform the Saber Arch at weddings and other ceremonies. This tradition started with the United Kingdoms Royal Navy and has carried over to multiple countries, including the United States. The saber arch is a tradition for military weddings and usually takes six people to perform but, can be done with as few as four people. The six line up into two rows with three on each side. The commander then orders them to present the sabers, in which they are to bring their sabers to their chins. After presenting the sabers the commander tells them to arch the sabers, thus creating an arch for people to walk under. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Custer, George A., and Stephen Vincent Brennan. An Autobiography of General Custer. New York: Skyhorse, 2013.

Smith, Graham. Civil War Weapons. New York: Chartwell Books, 2011.

Smith, David Paul. Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas’ Rangers and Rebels. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2010.

West, Elliott. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, & the Rush to Colorado. Lawrence, Kan: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Swartz, Oretha D. Service Etiquette. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, 1997.


Object: Sword

Materials: Cloth/Metal

This sword is a dress sword for the Philippine Constabulary, but was found here in Texas. This sword, though it is from the Philippines, represents an interesting time in American history, the Spanish American war and the subsequent occupation of the Philippines by the United States. During this occupation, there were conflicts between American and Filipino forces.

In the aftermath of the Spanish American war, the United States would find itself in control of the Philippines, which had up to that point been a colony of Spain. The Filipinos however, had already been fighting for independence, and on January 23, 1899 the First Philippine Republic was created, with Aguinaldo as its leader. The Americans had different plans for the Philippines however. President McKinley would release the “Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation,” which called for the United States to take over. This would lead to war between the two young republics.

The initial conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States lasted until 1902. After 1902 however, guerilla warfare would continue until 1913. To govern the Philippines as the revolt continued, Congress passed the Spooner Amendment, which authorized the president to create a civil government there. The first civil governor appointed was the future president Howard Taft.


The troops of the First Regiment, the Philippine Constabulary, swear allegiance to the U.S. Flag and to the cause of the United Nations. Office of War Information Collection, Feb-Mar 1942. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

From this new civil government was created the Philippine Commission, which was formed to look over the creation of local governments and maintain law and order. To accomplish this task, the commission saw the need to create a police force made up from the local populace. The Philippine Constabulary was created with the passing of Act No. 175 on July 18, 1901. The job of the Constabulary was to establish law and order, whether it was fighting revolutionaries and guerillas, or patrolling already pacified areas. They would accomplish this task over the next 16 years.

United States involvement in the archipelago would become substantial as the fighting continued. At its peak, the United States Army had 70,000 men trying to pacify the area, not including local forces like the police or the constabulary. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources

Blount, James H. The American Occupation of the Philippines, 1898-1912., 1973.

Linn, Brian M. A. The U.s. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Silbey, David. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.

Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984.

Zaide, Gregorio F. The Philippine Revolution. Manila: Modern Book Co, 1968.

Object: Pike-halberd

1970s replica of a 15th century halberd
Materials: Cast iron

Castle of Nideggen, exhibits in keep (pole arms, including halbred, voulge and pollaxe). Photo by Sir Gawain, via WikiMedia Commons

This object is a replica of a halberd – a type of pike weapon used in Medieval Europe. A halberd is a medieval weapon that evolved from a two-handed axe. Over time, parts of the axe changed: the handle became much longer, more like a spear, the axe head became more oblique instead of square, a beak was added on the opposite side of the blade, and a long, pointed blade was added to the top end. Not all these changes were made simultaneously, but gradually and by different peoples.

The halberd was useful in battle when fighting against heavily armored foes, as the long handle allowed for a full body swing, enabling the blade to cleave through metal. The point at the end could be used for thrusting, and the beak on the back allowed the fighter to hook and drag horsemen from their mounts.

Halberds were used primarily between 1300 and 1650. They provided a weapon with a longer reach for infantry to use, especially when fighting against mounted enemies since they could be used as both a pike and an axe. They began to decline in use after that time, however, when fighting styles began to change. By the 1800s when firearms started to come into use, the halberd became almost exclusively ceremonial, instead used as a symbol of authority as with the Papal Guards.

During the Civil War in 1861, Company B of the Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers consisted entirely of soldiers armed with lances, which are a type of pike similar to a halberd but without the axe head. The idea of being a lancer was very popular in Southern Texas and in 1862, George Washington Carter received permission to recruit an entire brigade of lancers, which were designated as the Twenty-first, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth cavalry regiments. The Twenty-first regiment was divided into eleven companies. They served mainly as scouts and raiders to protect Texas from invasion and were finally disbanded in the spring of 1865. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Snook, George A. The Halberd and Other European Polearms, 1300-1650. Bloomfield, ON: Museum Restoration Service, 1998.

The Art of Chivalry: European Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1984.

Guilmartin, John F. “Military Technology”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. December 28, 2011.

Bailey, Anne J. “Twenty-first Texas Cavalry.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. April 11, 2011.

Sneak Peek

The Exhibits and Collections staff is busy installing Faces of Survival. This exhibit was developed and curated by University of Texas at San Antonio graduate students, taught by Dr. Kolleen Guy. The exhibit discusses topics of genocide and the holocaust.  The show officially opens on April 15th, but you can get a sneak peek of our progress installing it below.

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Object: Club

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United States
20th Century
Materials: wood, beads, threads


Pre-contact Ute tribes. Map via: University of Utah, http://www.utefans.net

Native Americans have a rich history in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Ute consisted of eleven nomadic tribes, spread throughout what is now he states of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. These tribes were allies, but lived separately in different regions of their territory. All of the tribes were nomadic and would travel within their region based on the seasons, in order to find the best areas for hunting and gathering at any given time of the year. As a result, each tribe adapted to living in different environments with slightly different customs and ways of life.

In 1868 the Ute tribes signed a treaty with the United States in which the Ute agreed to give up their territorial claims, and live in a reservation. Two government agencies were established inside the reservation as a home base for the US government agents, who were appointed to ensure that the tribes complied with all the provisions of the treaty. The Ute tribes were divided between the two agencies, one on the White River and the other on the Rio de los Pinos. Each agency included building for a store-room, an agency-building for the residence of the agent, a mill, a school and buildings for a carpenter, farmer, blacksmith, and miller. Today there are three Ute tribes still recognized today, the Northern Ute, the Mountain Ute and the Southern Ute.

The following video is a demonstration of the traditional Ute bear dance by the Southern Ute tribe.

Native Americans made many different types of weapons. Some were used to hunt animals, others for fighting, and others served largely ceremonial purposes. Clubs, like the one at the Institute of Texan Cultures, were only one of these weapons. They are simple weapons usually made of wood with a stone, or other weight, at one end. There have been a number of different styles of clubs used by Native American tribes. The style and construction of these weapons varied over time and certain types were more common in specific areas. While war clubs like this one are no longer used as weapons they are still produced for use at traditional pow wow gatherings throughout the United States, and for sale as craft items.


Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) beaded boots. Image via: http://www.powwows.com

Beadwork, like seen on our Ute War Club, is a longstanding tradition throughout nearly all Native American groups. The materials used to make beads have changed over time. The earliest beads were handmade from shells, bones and seeds. After European trade goods became available ceramic, glass, and metal beads were quickly adopted to add new colors and textures to the designs. Beadwork is applied to many objects using a variety of different techniques. Common styles of beadwork include: gourd stitch, lazy stitch, applique stitch, and loom woven beadwork. The style used on an object would depend on the shape, size and  type of materials the object was made of. Certain beadwork designs were traditional to specific tribal groups or regions but over time the number and variety of designs has greatly expanded as Native American beadworkers continue to develop this art form. [Abby Goode, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Simmons, V. M. C. (2000). The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Niwot, Colo: University Press of Colorado.

United States, & Perry (1888). Southern Ute Indians. Washington, D.C.: G.P.O.

D’Amato, J., & D’Amato, A. (1968). Indian crafts. New York: Lion Press.

Object: Shillelegh

I-0183a (3)

Shillelagh, walking stick
Patrick Ledwith
Material: wood

This walking stick, sometimes called a shillelagh, an Irish walking stick or club, was donated to the Institute of Texan Cultures by an Irish immigrant from west County Meath, Ireland, who immigrated to Texas in the 1870s. The shillelagh is reputed for being a fighting club. As travelers in Ireland would use it defend themselves from bandits and thieves when traveling on the road. Traditionally, Irish walking sticks are made from Blackthorn wood, a very hard durable wood.

Photo via Cold Steel

Photo via Cold Steel

Photo via irish-stick-fighting.com

Photo via irish-stick-fighting.com

The walking stick itself is named after the Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow, Ireland, which was once full of massive oak trees until it was cut down for wood exports. During England’s occupation of Ireland, the term shillelagh became common when referring to Irish walking sticks, as the name was applied to the sticks by an Englishman. In Ireland, it was considered a “badge of honor” to carry a shillelagh for an Irishman. For young boys, carrying a walking stick was a sign that they had entered into manhood.

The shillelagh is a focal point of Irish stick fighting, and part of Irish tradition and culture. The walking stick associated with Bataireacht stick fighting, a form of Irish martial arts, and is a common weapon used in Irish stick martial arts. During the 17th and 18th centuries, fights would break out between community factions that opposed each other. Factions would be formed for many reasons, ranging from family feuds, dowry payments, to inheritance disputes. As these fights broke out more often, stick fighting martial arts developed as walking sticks were used as weapons. Each faction had its own martial arts style, using code words if needed to keep their fighting style known only within their community. Irish stick martial arts is practiced today in Ireland, and across the world is certain schools, such as the I.S.F. WORLDWIDE (ISFW) Association.

Demonstration and clips of martial stick fighting

Demonstration of Bataireacht stick fighting

As Irish immigrants came to the United States after the Great Potato Famine, these Irish-Americans became prominent advocates for independence of their home country. Under the influence of Americans ideals of freedom and democracy, Irish-Americans became active supporters of Irish independence from Britain, appealing to legal policies but also resorting to violent methods on occasion. As Irish-American fights broke out between factions in American cities, shillelagh stick fighting became associated with Irish culture during the late 19th century. [Caitlin VanWie, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:

Bubb, Alexander. “The Life of the Irish Soldier in India: Representations and Self-Representations, 1857-1922”. 2012. Modern Asian Studies. 46 (4): 769-813.

Curtis, Edmund. 2002. A history of Ireland: from earliest times to 1922. London: Routledge.

Hurley, John W. 2007. Shillelagh: the Irish fighting stick. Pipersville, PA: Caravat Press.

Ó Murchadha, Ciarán. 2013. The great famine: Ireland’s agony, 1845-1852. London: Bloomsbury.

Object: Rifle

2011_1_1 both sides

Rifle, long
John Hunt
Date: 1836
Materials: Wood, Metal

This rifle is a percussion rifle which has been in the donor’s family since 1836 when according to family tradition the rifle was given to Jose Antonio Menchaca by Sam Houston sometime after the Battle of San Jacinto.  The rifle has been passed down the family until it was donated to the Institute of Texan Culture in 2011.  This particular rifle is believed to have been made by John Hunt.


Photo via: International Hunter Education Association

A percussion rifle uses a percussion cap, which allowed a muzzle-loading weapon to fire reliably in any weather compared to the earlier flintlock ignition.  Many black powder rifles have been converted from flintlock to percussion cap firing systems in the past. The percussion cap is a small cylinder of copper or brass that contains a small amount of a shock-sensitive explosive material, such as fulminate of mercury, called the “primer.” The percussion cap is placed over a hollow metal “nipple” at the rear end of the gun barrel. Pulling the trigger releases a “hammer” which strikes the percussion cap and ignites the explosive primer. The flame travels through the hollow nipple to ignite the main powder charge.  The percussion cap was designed in 1807 by  Reverend Alexander John Forsyth to prevent many of the problems that would occur with the flintlock ignition device such as misfire or failure to fire during wet weather.

The following video demonstrates how to load and fire a muzzle-loading rifle with a percussion cap.


Photo via:Joyce Willingham Jackson, http://www.earlytexasfamiles.com

The Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 20-21, 1836 and was the final battle for Texas Independence.  The commander of the Mexican forces was Santa AnnaSam Houston commanded the Texas forces.  Both forces were trying to reach and gain control of Lynch’s Ferry which crossed the San Jacinto River near the point where it joins with the Buffalo Bayou.  Fighting on the 20th forced the Mexican troops to retreat to an area about 200 yards east of the ferry, with marsh and water to their rear and along their right side.  On the 21st the Texans were able to quietly advance until they were only a short distance in front of the Mexican forces, who had not posted sentries or lookouts.  The battle itself lasted about 20 minutes before the Mexicans started retreating and the Texans began their pursuit.  Santa Anna was captured on April 22nd and  reluctantly agreed to the terms of the Treaties of Velasco, which promised that all Mexican forces would leave Texas, and seized property would be returned.

Sometime after this battle that Jose Antonio Menchaca was given this percussion rifle by Sam Houston.  Sam Houston was the commander of the Texas forces during the Texas fight for Independence.  He served as President of the Republic of Texas for two terms until 1846 when Texas joined the United States.  Houston then served as a Texas Senator until 1860 and then was Governor of Texas until the outbreak of the Civil War when he was then removed from duties as Governor.  He we removed from office for refusing to pledge allegiance to the Confederate States of AmericaHouston retired from Politics after this and died at his home in Huntsville, Texas, on July 26, 1863 [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud].

Additional Resources:

Association of Ohio Long Rifle Collectors Newsletter, vol. XXV, no. 2, August 2002.

Battle of Flowers Association (San Antonio, Tex.). 1922. San Jacinto. San Antonio: Flower Battle Association.

Haley, James L. 2002. Sam Houston. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Houston, Sam, Donald Day, and Harry Herbert Ullom. 1954. The autobiography of Sam Houston. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Houston, Sam. 1964. The Battle of San Jacinto. Austin, Tex: Pemberton Press.

San Jacinto Museum of History Association. 1993. The honor roll of the Battle of San Jacinto: the complete list of participants and personnel on detached service. La Porte, Tex: The Association.

Tolbert, Frank X. 1959. The day of San Jacinto. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Object: Shotgun

I-0051a scan

Designed by John F. Browning, manufactured by Remington
New York
Date: 1911-1948
Materials: Metal, wood


Photo via: Dave Coustan, HowStuffWorks.com

This Remington model 11 shotgun was produced from 1911 to 1948 and was one of the first auto-loading shotguns ever produced in the United States. Though made by Remington, this gun was originally designed by John M. Browning. It is a 12-gauge shotgun, the gauge of a gun is measured by the number of bore-sized lead balls it takes to weigh one pound. Generally, the bore diameter for all 12-gauge shotguns is 0.73 inches, therefore 12 lead balls of this diameter weighs one pound. Shotguns use cartridges (sometimes called shells) as ammunition. These cartridges contain varying numbers of small “shot,” small metal (either lead, steel, or tungsten) balls, along with a propellent (typically smokeless powder) to force the shot out of the barrel. Cartridges come in a variety of different sizes, weights, and amount of propellent. Different types of cartridges are used for different types of game. The spread of the shot can be controlled by the use of a “choke,” or constriction, located at the very end of the barrel. The barrel of this gun (long cylindrical chamber bullets shoot out from) has been shortened to 19 inches, likely by a previous owner, and both its stock (the wood part of the gun) and forestock (portion below the barrel intended for a grip) are made of walnut wood. The end of the stock has a leather butt pad attached to cushion the stock against the shoulder.


Photo via: Texas Ranger Research Center, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, http://www.truewestmagazine.com

According to the donor, this particular gun may have belonged to Captain Albert Mace, a Texas Ranger. He was born in 1872 in Lampasas County, Texas. His parents had moved from Mississippi just prior to his birth due to the opportunity Mace’s father had to acquire quite a bit of land for fifty cents an acre. After entering the ranger force at age 21, Albert Mace enjoyed a law enforcement career as Texas-Mexican border boss under the command of Captain John R. Hughes. His notable achievements were escorting the first railroad down into the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and patrolling the border between the towns of Alice and Brownsville.

After resigning from the Rangers, Mace became the deputy sheriff of Lampasas County. Some years later he traveled to the town of Borger to become the police chief; he also served in the same position in Corpus Christi. He died in 1938 after suffering a stroke of apoplexy, or bleeding in brain. [Jordan Kinnally, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Cox, Mike. The Texas Rangers. New York: Forge, 2008.

“Model 11 Autoloading Shotgun.” Model 11 Autoloading Shotgun. Remington, n.d.

Morrow, Laurie, and Steve Smith. Shooting Sports for Women. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Paddock, B. B. A History of Central and Western Texas. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1911.

Parsons, Chuck. Captain John R. Hughes, Lone Star Ranger. Denton, TX: University of North Texas, 2011.

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