Cavalrymen of the Civil War era often used sabers as a primary weapon.
Cavalrymen of the Civil War era often used sabers as a primary weapon.

For Civil War enthusiasts, collecting and identifying relics from this conflict can be one of the most satisfying of all professional hobbies. Edged weapon designs of this period exhibit the most modern and up-to-date features that existed before swords and sabers became completely obsolete. Not only does identification require a degree of education, but it also requires the energy to search for and locate potentially historical swords and sabers among a plethora of related designs and types of edged weapons.

Research the history of your sword. Primarily, this can be done by contacting the seller or dealer from whom you obtained the weapon in order to learn where the sword came from. At the very least, the seller or dealer can direct you to someone else who is able to tell you the origin of the sword or saber. If you found the weapon yourself, you should know that swords and sabers which were picked up outside of the eastern United States, for example, are probably unrelated to the Civil War, a conflict fought almost exclusively in that region. Finally, books such as "Civil War Cavalry & Artillery Sabers" by John Thillman, "Collector's Guide to Ames U. S. Contract Military Edged Weapons: 1832-1906" by Ron Kickox, and "A Directory of American Military Goods Dealers & Makers, 1785-1915" by Bruce Bazelon are are all excellent guides to identifying your sword within the context of the theaters of the Civil War.

Compare your weapons with curved edges to Civil War styles of sabers using your identification book. According to "Battle Tactics of the Civil War" by Paddy Griffith, cavalrymen of this period were taught slashing, rather than stabbing and thrusting attacks, and therefore use curved sabers designed for this type of attack almost exclusively during this period. Not only cavalrymen, but all mounted officers, artillerymen, and their staffs used curved weapons.

Identify straight-edged weapons as infantry swords of this period using your weapon identification book. Although infantry officers sometimes used curved weapons, this was contrary to the designed purpose of the weapon, and straight or very slightly curved swords were the norm for men of the Civil War who carried an edged weapon.