The History of The Bowie Knife

BOWIE KNIFE. In 1838 Rezin P. Bowie, sibling of Alamo hero James Bowie declared that he made the initial Bowie knife while the Bowies resided in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. He designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to James for security after his sibling had actually been shot in a battle. Herzehian Dunham, Notary Public in Avoyelles Parish certified that blacksmith Jesse Clifft, who survived on Bayou Boeuf as well as was a friend and also a neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s, built the knife according to Rezin Bowie’s design. The original Bowie knife was like a butcher knife in the account, with a thin blade but no silver places. Bowie wore it in a silver-mounted black-leather sheath. The Bowie knife obtained extensive prestige after the well-known Sandbar Fight on September 19, 1827, near Natchez. On that particular date Samuel Levi Wells, as well as Dr. Thomas Maddox, took part in a battle on the very first big sandbar above Natchez on the Mississippi state side of the river. After shooting handguns at each other without result, Wells as well as Maddox shook hands and also began the field. However, members of the Maddox team suddenly fired at Wells’s followers, who consisted of James Bowie. Bowie dropped, shot via a lung. An archenemy, Norris Wright, in addition to Alfred Blanchard, stabbed him repeatedly with sword canes. In the last initiative, Bowie increased himself, got hold of Wright, as well as sank the huge knife into his assailant’s heart, killing him immediately. Contenders and also eyewitnesses explained the “big butcher knife” in letters and also meetings, and a legend began. Papers across the country printed lurid as well as through stories of the Sandbar Fight. The general public savored the expertise of James Bowie and his deadly weapon. In a day when guns often misfired, the Bowie knife was a reputable and reliable backup weapon. As its popularity spread, colleges were established, specifically in the old Southwest, to educate the arts and also dodges of Bowie knife battling. The Red River Herald of Natchitoches, Louisiana, reported, “All the steel in the country it seemed was quickly exchanged Bowie knives.”

In 1828, some months after the Sandbar Battle, James Bowie made a trip to the East. In Philadelphia, he evidently put his knife in the hands of Henry Schively, a cutler. His sibling Rezin desired a premium knife drawn on the lines of the very first, total with an elegant silver sheath. Rezin wore the knife for numerous years, his initials R. P. B. etched on the pommel cap. In 1831 he offered the knife to a friend, Jesse Perkins, of Jackson, Mississippi. The Clifft knife is the immediate progenitor of the classier Schively knife. Rezin Bowie indulged in the magnificence surrounding his bro James as well as the knife. He on a regular basis wore a silver-mounted Bowie, which he ultimately presented to a close friend, typically a vital individual. He had numerous knives made by Daniel Searles of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the 1830s. Rezin offered the Searles knife now presented in the Alamo to H. W. Fowler, USA Dragoons. Fowler’s name is etched on the sheath.

Early Bowie blades do not fit the preferred image of the tool. One considers a blade with a concave arch (clip factor) cut right into the end of the blade, and also a cross-guard to secure the hand. Early instances, nevertheless, had a thick, hefty butcher-knife-like blade, with a straight back (top) and no clip factor or hand guard. The blade differed in length from 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 inches and also was honed on the true side. Wood manages were affixed with silver pins as well as washers. The Searles blades of the 1830s were one-piece ebony, checkered, as well as enhanced with tiny silver nails. Blacksmiths made most of the subsequent Bowie blades as well as added fundamental crossguards to keep the hand from gliding onto the blade. At some point, they extended the guards as defense from a challenger’s blade, however the proprietor frequently located the expanded guards clumsy and also cut them off. The clip factor, a curve on the top of the blade rear of the point, came to be popular. The clip was typically sharpened to make sure that a backstroke would certainly inflict a major injury. Spear-point Bowie blades likewise were built, dagger-shaped, with both edges sharpened. Blacksmith-made Bowies were typically simple and also anonymous, had iron or brass mountings, as well as hardwood, bone, or horn takes care of. The knife was both a searching knife as well as a device. With it, one can get rid of a path, hack a sapling, dig an opening, or butcher game. In the siege of Bexar in 1835, Texans used Bowie knives to dig with roofs and walls and also take part in hand-to-hand battle with the Mexicans. The knife was not created or balanced for tossing.

Southerners replaced their swordcanes with Bowie knives, and also sought professional cutlers, North and South, to craft great blades. The cutlers generally were surgical and also oral instrument manufacturers in large cities. The majority of authorized their works; Peter Rose and John D. Chevalier were prominent in New york city, English & Huber as well as Clarenbach & Herdsman in Philadelphia, Reinhardt in Baltimore, Thomas Lamb in Washington, Dufilho in New Orleans, Alfred Hunter in Newark, Marks and also Rees in Cincinnati, Daniel Searles in Baton Rouge, and Rees Fitzpatrick in Natchez. Henry Schively also made enhanced versions in numerous designs. English cutlers in Sheffield, that had actually controlled the American cutlery market considering that colonial times, took advantage of the attraction with the Bowie knife. They profited from vivid reports by English reporters of murder and trouble in America including the weapon. A flow of Sheffield Bowie knives in the early 1830s developed into a flood before the Civil War. Bowie knife collections show that only regarding one in ten was American made. English cutlers used creative concepts and also blade etchings that appealed to American tastes and patriotic spirit. Examples include such tags as “American Bowie Knife,” “Texas Ranger Knife,” “Arkansas Toothpick,” “Patriot’s Self Defender,” “Death to Abolition,” “Fatality to Traitors,” “Americans Never Ever Give Up,” “Rio Grande Camp Knife,” and “I’m A Genuine Ripper.” Handle and secure mountings additionally carried signs as well as slogans with American charm. Cutlers affixed deals with of cream color, pearl, tortoise shell, black as well as grey buffalo horn, India stag horn, as well as great timbers. Handle pommels of nickel silver included horseheads, shells, and also geometric styles. Manufacturers generally signed their blades as well as added such distinct hallmarks as I * XL, B4ANY, and also XCEED. At the episode of the Mexican War in 1846, the Bowie knife was a preferred tool in Texas. Texas Rangers under Jack (John Coffee) Hayes and Ben McCulloch brought Bowie knives and also Colt Dragoon handguns into fight. Knife blades stamped and etched with Mexican War motifs showed up. Zachary Taylor, mounted on Old Whitey, was a favored subject. Bust etchings consisted of “Old Zach,” “General Taylor Never Surrenders,” “Palo Alto,” as well as “Buena Vista.” Pommels included a Taylor bust with a patriotic motto.

In the late 1830s a concerned public in a number of Southerly states demanded strict regulations to curtail the increasing “rule of the Bowie knife.” In January 1838 the Tennessee legislature passed “An Act to Subdue the Sale and Use of Bowie Knives and also Arkansas Toothpicks in this State.” However, the sale of the blades remained to increase, getting to a top after the Civil War. Throughout that battle, unrefined Bowie knives were preferred amongst Confederate soldiers. Some had big, large blades, like those of artillery shortswords; most were unmarked. The Confederates took into consideration the knife an important accoutrement in the early months of the war, however as the problem endured the knife was changed with the bayonet. The knives had hickory or wood handles and also iron places, and also were used in hefty leather sheaths with throats as well as ideas of tin, iron, or brass. Blades had scratch inscriptions as well as crude acid etchings, with such patriotic themes as “Sunny South,” “Confederate States Protector,” or “Death to Yankees.” A couple of Confederate Bowie knives were made by seasoned cutlers as well as displayed excellent craftsmanship. Union soldiers usually wore Sheffield-made Bowie knives.

“In the background of American arms,” wrote historian Harold L. Peterson (1958 ), “three weapons stand apart above all the remainder: the Kentucky rifle, the Colt’s revolver, as well as the Bowie knife.” Each came to be a component of the “great American Legend.” The appeal of the Bowie was developed in the 1830s, expanded throughout the 1840s, and also reached its optimal in the 1850s. After the Civil War the knife reduced in favor, and by the mid-1870s was delegated to utilize as a searching knife. The effectiveness, dependability, as well as large distribution of Colt revolvers retired the Bowie knife from its famous role in the nation’s background.