The naval cutlass, though antiquated for purposes of naval warfare in the era of the steel vessels of the new American Navy, was still officially in use. The crews of the Spanish American War period were drilled in cutlass exercises, known as "single stick" drill.


The 1860 naval cutlass was apparently adopted by the U.S. Navy in approximately 1860. The new U.S. Navy cutlass was based on the cutlass then in use with the French navy. The word "cutlass" is derived from the term "curtal axe", an ancient heavy, but short weapon. The cutlass has the same characteristics. The cutlass was used in ship-to-shop melee, in boarding parties and to repel boarders.


The cutlass was an excellent weapon for it intended use of fighting in confined areas. However, by the time of the Spanish American War, the combatants seldom, if ever, met face to face. The weapon was outdated.


Overall length: 32 inches
Blade length: 26 inches
Blade width: 1-1/8" at hilt
Blade type: Single-edged, with a rudimentary double edge within 5
inches of point. A broad fuller (groove) runs from the
hilt to within 7 inches of the point. The blade is curved.
Guard: Broad "half basket" guard of sheet brass, generally unornamented.
Grip: Wood, covered with leather, wound with twisted brass wire.
Manufacturer: Most commonly Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA.

Sources used for this information

Farrow, Edward S., "A Dictionary of Military Terms", New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1918.

Peterson, Harold L., "The American Sword", Philadelphia: Ray Riling Arms Books Co., 1965.

1904 Cutlass Drill Manual