Topic: The Field of Battle
For good or evil, the saber had one quality that set it apart from all other weapons. It had glamor.
Cold Steel: The Saber and the Union Cavalry, by Stephen Z. Starr, presented in Battles Lost & Won; essays from Civil War History, John T. Hubbell (Ed), 1975
For good or evil, the saber had one quality that set it apart from all other weapons. It had glamor. A cavalry officer of the Napoleonic Wars once remarked that the function of cavalry in warfare was to give tone to what overwise would be nothing but a vulgar brawl. And cavalry derived its distinctive tone from the saber and the saber charge. The long-range rifle, the breech-loading magazine carbine, and the rifled cannon had become instruments of mass slaughter, impersonal machines of destruction, and only the saber remained as a weapon of individual combat, man against man. Of course, given the self-consciously heroic atmosphere of the Civil War, such single combats sometimes occurred in ways not contemplated by the regulations, as when Captain Myrick of the 1st Maine and the colonel of another cavalry regiment settled a crossroads dispute as to which outfit had the right of way by fighting a saber duel on horseback. It may be taken for granted that neither the Confederate nor the Union War Department would have sanctioned the highly unorthodox but eminently sensible proceedings of a party of about one hundred Federal troopers and a contingent of roughly equal size of the 7th Tennessee, C.S.A., when they met by chance near Aberdeen, Mississippi. The commander of the Union detachment proposed, and the Confederates agreed, that rather than have a general engagement with its inevitable casualties each side should appoint a representative to fight a mounted saber duel. The Confederate champion was a "Polander; a German did battle for the honor of the Union. The two gladiators met between the lines, and (the story is told by a member of the Tennessee regiment) it was but an instant after they clashed the sword of the German went flying from his hands." The issue thus settled, the two groups parted "the best of old friends," with mutual expressions of esteem.