|Description and Photograph||
This sabre bayonet was manufactured by the Georgia State Armory in Milledgeville, Georgia in 1862. It was manufactured in the old state penitentiary at Milledgeville. The Armory converted sporting rifles, altered flintlocks, and manufactured the super rare Georgia Armory Rifle on the model 1855 Harper’s Ferry pattern of which only four known examples survive. The Armory also manufactured sabre bayonets for its rifles. Lower serial numbers, 1, 13, 16, 17, 32 are brass hilted, the lower numbers being single qullion models like the Harper’s Ferry and the higher numbers having double qullions. Even higher numbers, 127 and 135, are wooden hilted; number 135 is the first 1863-dated specimen I could locate. The Armory never returned to the brass hilted model, so at most, only one out of four was brass hilted.
The Armory continued using wood slabbed hilts for the remainder of its full production of less than four hundred rifles and bayonets. It is reasonably estimated that less than ten survive of all models combined. The Armory manufactured weapons as opposed to altering for only four months, from December 1862 until March 1863, most likely due to a lack of raw materials. The change over from brass to wooden hilts would tend to support that theory.
The example shown here has a heavy 21 5/8 inch blade and measures 26 3/8 inches overall. The single fullered blade is mostly smooth and semi-bright but there is one section of pitting where it was probably handled before sheathing. The brass hilt has numerous dings and has a beautiful untouched patina. The lock spring and release works perfectly. The letters ATF are stamped into the side of the grip, the meaning of which is unknown at this time, but a Georgia Armory rifle is known to have AWF stamped into it. GA ARMORY 1862 is stamped deep and clearly into the ricasso and serial number one is stamped into the lock mortise. The serial numbers on Georgia armory bayonets and rifles match so I presume that the number one on this bayonet would match the serial number on the first rifle produced at the armory. The scabbard and frog are near mint. Both remain as strong as when they were originally made. The scabbard’s throat and drag are both made of tin. The frog is definitely original to the scabbard and is even riveted to the brass throat with a copper rivet.
It seems most extraordinary that serial number one could have remained in such good condition, under normal circumstances, the earlier made, the more use, hence, more wear and abuse, but there is very good evidence why this one remained in such good condition. Typically, the first arms of any make were submitted as samples, and the Georgia Armory rifle and bayonet were no exception. We have from the August 12, 1862 edition of the Southern Recorder the following account:
“We have the satisfaction to announce that Georgia is now manufacturing in her State Prison a variety of arms, a specimen of which we examined a few days ago, which was made under the direction of Major McIntosh, Chief of Ordnance. The “Georgia Rifle” with sword bayonet attached, is a beautiful piece of workmanship, not surpassed by any arm manufactured in the United States or in Europe, for actual service. For this triumph in the implements of war, the public is indebted to the skill of Mr. Peter Jones, who was 18 years head armorer at Harper’s Ferry. He made all the machinery, or at least the finer portions of it, which is now employed in the State Armory for the manufacture of muskets, rifles, bayonets, sword, &c. The work executed under his inspection is a very great improvement upon the patterns at Harper’s Ferry which used to be considered as near perfection as art would permit. Mr. Jones has no superior in his line of business and we are gratified that his services are faithfully devoted to the South. The first musket manufactured in the Penitentiary bears, on a plate inserted in the breech the inscription- “Presented to his Excellency J. E. Brown, Governor of Georgia” under the coat of Arms of the state. For the present, until the machinery can be increased, we learn that only 300 muskets and rifles will be completed per month, with the prospect of a much larger delivery. The work has been prosecuted under difficulties which have been entirely surmounted and we feel strengthened in our national arm by the happy success of the Georgia Armory”.
From the above account and the serial number stamped into the bayonet, we can see that this example remains in such good condition because it was the one submitted to the Governor of Georgia, Joseph Brown, along with the first rifle produced at the armory.