Well, life is never simple as it should be. We all know the rules and know we should follow them. Then comes the bump in the road that draws us off course. All our beliefs are questioned because one thing does not fit in the natural pattern.
Recently a fellow collector created just such a situation. He had purchased a bayonet for the Model 1841 Rifle. As he proudly showed me his new acquisition I felt that bump on the road. Some of what I saw was easily explainable and fit the rules, but there was yet another mystery to be solved.
Upon examination the bayonet in question was a Snell Saber Bayonet also know as the
Ring Type (Type I.) A small quantity of these bayonets were made in an effort to bring the Mississippi Rifle up to the then modern standard, circa 1855. The object was to attach a bayonet to the rifle with minimal modifications. The Snell required a few machine cuts on the end of the barrel because the ring
slid over the front sight of the rifle and supported the
hilt of the bayonet. The owner had purchased the blade form a prominent dealer and had been assured that all was correct.
The Snell was not a successful system. Only 1,646 were made and many of the blades are found today without the ring because it had broken or was removed and thrown away.
The Snell was unique among the Harpers Ferry Saber Bayonets. One finial points forward and the other points aft.
If the purpose of the finial is to catch a blade and prevent injury to the user this style failed the test.
(See figure 1.)
Figure 1 (Hicks)
Figure 2 (Hicks)
This Snell blade was different in that both finials pointed forward. This follows the same style of other Harpers Ferry
bayonets (Type II with guide.) (See figure 2) The workmanship of the blade and hilt indicated that they were original and equal in every way to other Harpers Ferry blades of the period.
So now we have a mystery on our hands. (See figure 3)
Figure 3 Why is this one blade different from other known examples of the Snell Bayonet?
Only time will tell if there are other Snell Bayonets with forward facing finials.
There may also be information hidden in the National Archives that will give more information on this truly unique and mysterious saber bayonet.
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