Pirate Weapons: The Cutlass The Sword of the Seas 17th to the 19th century One of the most famous swords was the cutlass, used by navalmen for centuries, but made famous by pirates. The overall build of the cutlass made it extremely popular among seafarers in the 17th to 18th centuries. As a short broadsword, generally about 28 inches in length, the cutlass was ideal for use on ships where space was limited. In comparison, a longer sword may get tangled in the ship’s rigging or be difficult to swing below deck during the battle. The straight or curved single edged blade was extremely rugged and sturdy, making it appealing to pirates not only as a weapon, but for also hacking through thick ropes, canvas and wood. Something that a different type of sword would break from if done regularly. Additionally, a large guard specific to the cutlass allowed for sailors and pirates to keep a grip on their swords while climbing or swinging from ropes while simultaneously also serving as a protector for the swordsman’s hand. The cutlass sword became associated with pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy, which ran during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Of great importance to these men the cutlass sword meant for slashing didn’t require lengthy periods of training, and was fairly inexpensive. Unlike other swords popular in the era for thrusting attacks, such as the rapier, its features were well-liked by vicious pirate-folk, for it was so cheap and easy to use as a shipboard weapon. The cutlass was especially attractive compared to other options for pirates at that time. Among the best examples are fliplock hand-guns. Such guns often let down seafarers as it only released only one shot at a time and were painstakingly slow to reload. Additionally, they became even more undesirable for pirates as the oceanic environment constantly proved damaging, as gunpowder became damp, and guns became water-logged. It is also said that the cold-hearted nature of many pirates made the cutlass all the more attractive as the broad, flat side of the blade could be utilized to beat a prisoner during an interrogation without ruining the risk of killing them in doing so. Among those known to favor the cutlass was the Gentleman Captain Stede Bonnet and his pirate crew aboard his ship, The Revenge. Although known for his gentlemanly status, Captain Stede Bonnet wrecked havoc off the coast of Virginia and South Carolina and in the Caribbean by plundering numerous ships. Sources document that the cutlass was the favorite weapon by his pirate crew in hand-to-hand combat. The cutlass was so well-suited to naval life that its design was made considerably consistent over its more than 400 year history. During the use of the cutlass by pirates, the sword was adopted by military powers. For example, in the 18th century, the British Royal Navy produced a slightly updated version, the Military Hanger Sword, which was essentially a cutlass with a lengthened blade. The French Navy too sought to alter the cutlass for its own means by equipping a cupped-hilt as well as thickening the blade and including a distinct curve towards the end. It proved so useful that the United States Navy adopted this version in the American Civil War, as well as the Spanish-American War. In fact, the cutlass has proved so timeless, that it was used by the British Royal Navy and US Navy well into the 20th century. Subscribe and click the notification bell for more history videos. Hey guys, check out this Simple History Merch on teespring! There’s T-shirts, mugs, stickers, phone cases and much more. Link in the description below.