The Model 1840 Non-Commissioned Officers’ Sword was based on a German version of the infantry sword used by British troops during the Napoleonic Wars. The sword had a 31-inch blade, a cast brass hilt resembling the more expensive wire-wrapped leather grips, and a leather scabbard rather than the steel used by cavalry troopers and officers. It was carried by sergeants during the American Civil War and worn either on a baldric (LEATH-20) or with an Enfield bayonet frogg (BAY-007 or BAY-008). A shorter version with a 26-inch blade was carried by musicians and was called the Model 1840 musician’s sword. NCOs of shorter stature and cadets also carried this variant.
Other ranks allowed to carry it included Sergeant-major, Quartermaster, Ordnance Sgt, Hospital Steward, Corporal (as an optional item) and Pioneer. Many were very badly made with a blunt edge but still effective in combat, used like an iron club to break bones. It was the main weapon of standard bearers (along with the Colt Army Model 1860 and Colt 1851 Navy Revolver) and hospital stewards, as well as a secondary weapon for infantry NCOs. The sword was also used by the Confederates who captured many after seizing state arsenals.
The M1840 has had a long service life, seeing front-line service from the Mexican War until the Spanish-American War. It remained in service during the 20th century as a ceremonial weapon. A modern version of this sword with steel scabbard is currently permitted for wear by US Army platoon sergeants and first sergeants; in practice it is rarely seen outside the 3d Infantry Regiment and honor guards. Some Army NCOs have this sword and wear it for social occasions, regardless of duty as a platoon sergeant or first sergeant.
The sword is 37 1/2″ overall in length, blade is 31 3/4″ in length and 7/8 inches wide at the hilt.