Turkish 1875 Peabody Martini Sword Bayonet
Single-fullered ‘yataghan’ downward-curving blade, cross hilt with muzzle ring and hooked quillon with ball finial. Black chequered grips (technically, knurled) of pressed leather, attached to the tang with five rivets. External leaf spring which actuates the locking catch, attached by a single screw. Steel beaked pommel. Plain steel scabbard with stepped throat piece, throat lining of black velvet, long frog hook in the German style and ball chape finial.
Blade length: 22.6 inches (57.5cm), overall length 28.2 inches (71.7cm), muzzle ring diameter ~18mm
Stamped with a ‘C’ inspection stamp. The hilt is stamped with a similar ‘H’ stamp. Neither the sword or socket bayonets for the Peabody Martini were given maker’s marks, ownership marks or serial numbers, only these inspection letters.
The Ottoman Empire had a particular interest in American firearms during the late 19th century, becoming the first European army to deploy a repeating rifle, the Winchester M1873, in battle.
In 1873 the Turkish military ordered 600,000 .45 calibre Peabody rifles from the Providence Tool Company of Rhode Island, USA. These rifles were a close copy of the British Martini-Henry rifle. The first and most of the second contracted batches of rifles were fitted with a socket bayonet, but a change was introduced in 1875 for the last 200,000 rifles to be supplied with yataghan-bladed sword bayonets instead, mounting to a new bayonet bar on the top barrel band.
As a result, both a sword and socket bayonet exist for this rifle, the sword being rarer. Sword bayonets were always issued as a rule to the light infantry ‘Tallia’ battalion of each regiment, their use with other units was probably ad hoc. The sword bayonets arrived just in time for the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War.
The Peabody was still being used by some Turkish naval units post-1900, even after Turkey imported more modern bolt-action Mauser rifles. In 1910 the service life of the Peabody was ordered to be extended by rebarreling nearly 125,000 to the Mauser‘s 7.65x53R cartridge. The new barrels were shorter so to maintain balance an unknown number of the sword bayonets were shortened too – this example is at its original length.
Peabody-Martinis of all types were brought out of stores and re-issued across the Turkish military during WW1 due to the shortage of arms. The conversions were seen in use at Gallipoli in 1915 and the Battle of Qatia in 1916, while original models went to reserve units. Once Turkey received enough surplus Mausers from Germany the Peabody left the front lines, and appears to have been retired altogether by 1919.
The scabbard of this piece is non-standard: the Peabody sword bayonets originally came with a black leather scabbard with steel throat and chape mounts. I believe it was originally a scabbard for the French M1866 Chassepot bayonets, which was then captured by Germany during the Franco-Prussian war and modified for German use – most notably by removing the French frog loop from the scabbards, designed to attach by threading the frog’s retaining strap through the loop, and replacing it with a long, tapering frog hook to hang from a German-pattern frog.
The Peabody bayonet is the same length as the Chassepot, but broader, so the scabbard seems to have been modified once again with a wider throat (hence its stepped appearance), with a soft lining to prevent rattling. The German bayonets, which were issued to reserve and guard units during WW1, may well have been available as surplus to Turkey, and their steel scabbards would have made useful replacements for the more fragile leather originals on the Peabodys. Some of the shortened versions were given custom Mauser-style steel scabbards, so the idea is contemporary. If it is a modern replacement then I would say it is a very clever one: the Peabody bayonet fits snugly with zero rattle once sheathed, while a Chassepot fits inside but with movement due to its narrower blade with the new throat.
Some patination and pitting to the blade, increasing towards the point, a number of small nicks to its edge. Speckled light pitting to the hilt and pommel. The grips are in good condition with no losses to the leather and little handling wear. The locking mechanism functions well. The scabbard has only a few very small dents, and has previously been polished, with a few light polishing marks.