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Yesterday’s WHAT is it Wednesday showed weapons that many of your recognized: bayonets. These come from a very large collection of military weaponry, uniforms, flags, and other related items that came to the Clark County Historical Society in the early 1990s from the Dayton Society of Natural History. The image we showed included just a few items from that collection represented in reference photos of artifacts that were taken as we prepared to open the Heritage Center in the late 1990s. We’ll tell you a little bit about what we know of the weapons in the photo and share a few more images from the collection.

The full image includes a sword blade that was recovered from the Franklin Battlefield in Tennessee following the Second Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864 during the Civil War. Below that is a remnant of a Model 1816 bayonet found at Port Hudson that would have been used with an M1816 flintlock musket. The Model 1816 musket improved upon the Model 1812 that was used during the War of 1812. Between 1816 and 1844 675,000 of these flintlock muskets were made at the Springfield and Harpers Ferry Armories, more than any other flintlock in U.S. history. These were used in the Mexican-American War and in the early years of the Civil War through about 1862. Prior to 1860 a lots of the M1816s had been converted to percussion firing. However, older models made before 1821 were considered to be too outdated to be converted. Some unfortunate soldiers who got their stock from southern arsenals in the early part of the Civil War found themselves stuck with these relics, some dating back to the War of 1812! Next to the 1816 bayonet is a remnant from a Model 1842 bayonet. The M1842 flintlock musket was considered to be a continuation of the 1816 improved models, but it is often referred to as its own model. 275,000 of these muskets were made between 1844 and 1855. The other two bayonets shown here are longer spike bayonets. The rest of the collection that these items come from includes muskets from the early to late 1800s, French, Prussian, and Swiss weapons (particularly French bayonets), cannonballs, shells, cartridges, flags, pieces of uniforms, and more.

Now, more on the bayonet itself. They were designed to fit in, on, over, or under the muzzle of a rifle, musket, or other similar type firearm to allow it to be used as a pike. In the historic record, the use of the term bayonet (from the French baionnette) dates back to the end of the 16th century, but the use of a similar style weapon goes back even farther. The types of bayonets we shared are socket style, meaning they could be attached to the firearm such that the firearm could be loaded and fired with it in place. An earlier bayonet type, the plug, would stick directly into the barrel and the firearm could not be fired. (Regardless of the type, you definitely did not want to be on the business end of a bayonet!) They were most important in armed combat from the 17th century through the 19th and were even used (infrequently) through WWII. During the Civil War, the accounted for less than 1% of the battlefield casualties. We’ve included a training image from our archives showing soldiers in WWI being trained to use bayonets.
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