Imperial Japanese Cavalry Trooper (Japanese
Civil War) Sword Sold
British Pattern 1853 Cavalry Trooper's made especially by Wilkinson
for forces successfully supporting Emperor Meiji's attempt to wrestle
power from the Tokugawa Bakufu (feudal samurai).
This is one of around twenty specially made 1853 Patt calvary trooper
sabres by Wilkinson Sword in 1866 for forces supporting Emperor
Meiji's efforts to gain authority and control of Japan from the
feudal samurai during the Japanese Civil War of 1863 to 1868.
The distinctive black hilt and scabbard immediately set this sabre
apart from other P 1853's and upon closer the inspection the high
quality non-regulation 34.5 inch central fullered blade with special
tip, etched with the Wilkinson logo and "Yokohama Mounted Volunteers"
confirm this is a special edition sword; very special indeed in
fact as the serial number "14433" is aside John Latham's
(the then owner of Wilkinson Sword) personal signature stamp showing
he was involved in the making and / or testing of this sabre.
The Wilkinson sales ledger reveals around 23 swords, of which 20
are believed to be of this pattern, were sold to a "C. F. Harper
Esq. Japan". I am not sure who C. F. Harper was or even if
that was his real name, given the sensitive conditions surrounding
Japan of the day. What I do know is this sword was made during the
Japanese Emperor supporting Satsuma daimyo mission to London in
1866 seeking and achieving political support and arms for their
fight against the Tokugawa Bakufu (controlling samurai family in
Japan's then feudal system).
The Japanese Civil War was also a struggle of colonial imperialism
between the English, who supported factions who wanted Imperial
(Emperor) rule, and the French who were supporting the existing
and challenged feudal samurai families / system. In 1865 Britain,
which had established a garrison in Yokohama, while still courting
the Tokugawa Bakufu (feudal samurai) began pricing its military
services much higher to them, while secretly then recognizing they
should deal with the emerging Imperial opposition. As a result,
the Tokugawa Bakufu enlisted French military expertise through French
loans, a fact which Japanese officers serving for the feudal state
bemoaned as they preferred British military methods and training
History took its course, likely with the help of this sword in
the hands of forces loyal to the Emperor. In 1866 the main "Choshu"
rebels allied themselves with neighboring Satsuma and defeated the
feudal Tokugawa Bakufu, creating Imperial Japan and the basis of
the modern Japanese state we know today. As a consequence of Britain
being on the winning side, the Japanese developed based on the British
model, hence the reason Japan drives on the left and their railways
are the same gauge as the British. The British did very well out
of the Japanese Civil War, their nemesis France lost their shirt!
This sword in many ways dispels the commonly held contention that
Japanese made swords are the finest in the world. Although there
is some truth in that, ultimately western battle techniques and
their equipment defeated the Japanese samurai and their swords.
Although most Japanese forces at that time still carried katanas
as dress swords, they use British made swords (and guns, and artillery)
and techniques in battle. Only later amidst anti-foreign sentiment
were western style swords replaced with katanas once more for combat.
This sword is generally in very good condition with no movement
or looseness anywhere. Further pictures available upon request.