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 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 02:21 pm
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susansweet
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Help!!!  I am reading Craig Symonds book on Joseph Johnston.  In it he talks about Johnston writing to MacCellan in the 1850's when they were best freinds about improving the Army.  One of the things it says is

"Johnston argued repeatedly for the use of gutta percha rather than India rubber in scabbards"

I was telling a friend who is a saber collector about the book and Johnston's friendship with Little Mac.  I read him that passage.  He said what use of India Rubber?   Scabbards are all metal.  Now I am totally confused.   Johann can you or one of the others of you who know weapons help me out . 

Thanks so much

susan



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 05:21 pm
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CleburneFan
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Susan, in what context was this letter written? I ask because coincidentally I just read yesterday in "Heyday" a novel about the late 1840s that is one of the most detailed and heavily researched historical novels I have read in recent years, that --how shall I phrase this delicately? I guess I can't. So I'll say what I read--one of the characters is looking to start up a business in which he manufactures condoms made from the superior gutta percha instead of the commonly used  Indian rubber.

Could the use of "scabbard" have been a veiled reference? I don't know. If I am out of line here, I am certainly much chagrined. It is just that I can't imagine a scabbard being made of any form of rubberized material. Such materials disintegrate in the heat and would not stand up well with constant exposure to severe weather conditions.

Last edited on Mon Apr 30th, 2007 06:26 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 05:49 pm
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susansweet
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Cleburne fan thanks for the informatation .  You might be right.  The chapter is talking about Little Mac and Johnston's friendship.  How they would write to each other about issues and ideas how to improve the Army.

Symonds says "Johnston argued repeatedly for the use of gutta percha rather than India rubber in scabbards, and he was eager to get his hands on new models of revolvers for testing on the frontier ."  Maybe Symonds misunderstood the use of the term scabbard as it was in a letter talking about guns saddles and such . 

That would be a hoot to make such a mistake.  I read right over it at the time.  Only had it called to my attention by a friend who collects  Civil War sabres when I was telling him about the Mac Johnston friendship before the war.  I read him that section .  He said to me but Sabre scabbards are metal they don't have any rubber on them and gutta percha either for that matter.   Then I got curious and figured someone on here would know. 

He will crack up when I tell him what it might be.



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 05:49 pm
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susansweet
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oops posted twice . Hate when I do that.

Last edited on Mon Apr 30th, 2007 05:50 pm by susansweet



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 06:25 pm
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I could still be entirely wrong and totally out of line on my supposition about this. I've spent the last twenty minutes researcing on Google and can't find a thing about India Rubber or Gutta Percha scabbards. I did learn that bayonets also had scabbards, not just swords and sabres, but these were made of bridle leather, often with a brass tip to prevent accidents. I still can't see how any rubber-like material would  be of use in such a scabbard.

I also learned that the Gutta Percha is a latex-like material and more stable than India Rubber for what ever information that is worth, but still don't know how that would be of use in a scabbard for knives, swords, bayonets, etc.

India Rubber was used for waterproof blankets in the Civil War. 

Last edited on Mon Apr 30th, 2007 06:28 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 06:41 pm
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susansweet
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I did the same thing last night after talking to my friend.  It was after searching all these websites I decided to ask the board.  Thanks for the information tough I think you are on the right track.   I looked at the bayonet scabbards and no rubber there either. 

 



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 06:45 pm
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CleburneFan
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Yes, where are our resident weapons and ordnance specialists and experts when we need them? I want to know more about this too now that you have me interested in the matter.:D



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 07:01 pm
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susansweet
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I hope they post later on today.  I figured Johan or Basecat or Steve Cone would know the answer.  Hopefully one of them will come though.   I just read the US Army didn't give out condoms til WW2.  So now back to what is a scabbard in this context.  Help guys !!!!!!  Such a minor part of the book but it is bugging me . 

Well as my history teacher use to say in college at the end of a lecture " well as David Hume would say when he hit a snag in  philosophy  Oh well  I am going to go play tennis"   I actually am not going to play tennis but going to do other things for awhile and wait and see what others post. 

slight hijack:  this same professor use to throw chalk out the window and the mowers down below that always mowed during his class when it was warm and the windows were open.    He was quite a character and a great teacher. 

Okay back to thread . Help guys !!! Inquiring minds want to know.



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 10:35 pm
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Typical bayonet scabbards were leather; though IIRC some imported sabre bayonets used  wood w/ a leather covering.

Sword scabbards were typically steel, again though some private purchase scabbards were wood w/ a leather covering.

The enlisted mans Cav sword scabbard was steel; enlisted infantry bayonet scabard was leather w/ a brass tip.

I just took a minute to thumb through Echoes of Glory & saw nothing about any kind of scabbard made of either gutta percha or india rubber.  That includes naval & marine gear.

I just don't see either Lil Mac or Johnston using veiled innuendo... not really the type of men to do such.

I myself wonder; might you have perhaps caught a blooper?  It is also a possibility that the two were talking in hypotheticals.  Neither Gutta Percha or India Rubber would stand up to abuse anywhere near as well as bridle leather... but as both were a relatively new commodity the men might have been indulging in a bit of their own what if's.

 

Just my two cents.  If you find out anything please let me know as this has my curiousity up a touch as well.



 Posted: Mon Apr 30th, 2007 10:53 pm
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susansweet
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Well darn , you are my weapons expert that I refer to  when in doubt.  You have said exactly what my South Carolina friend said last night on the phone.  It jumped right out at him when I read the quote from the book. 

What could gutta percha be used for that would be a replacement for India Rubber?  Would ground covers be made out of guttapercha instead of India Rubber? 

I even searched on line today for a way to Contact Craig Symond but he is retired from the Navy Academy now.   He told us that when he spoke to the West Coast Round Table Conference in Novemeber.   Wish I had been reading this then .  I could have asked him . 

Thanks for the information.  You are still my Weapons expert when I don't understand something. 

Susan



 Posted: Tue May 1st, 2007 12:29 am
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THank you for the compliment... expert; not quite but I do study the arms of the era pretty thouroghly and it has become my concentration over the last year or two.

Both gutta percha & India Rubber were used for ground cloths, parkas & rain capes, officers valaise, private purchase haversacks and I believe a patent canteen or two as well as a myriad of other peripheral items.  I believe both were quite a bit pricier than leather or tin.

 



 Posted: Tue May 1st, 2007 02:46 am
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So far one friend found a saber and scabbard in a Cowen's auction catalog that she says is gutta percha.  I have not seen the catalog and when I look on line nothing shows.  I would bet if it exist it is very rare. 

As I said before I would love to talk to Craig Symond and ask him about the comment.  .  Oh well I will wait and see what happens.  At least the friend with the catalog lives near by  I can drive over there and look at it maybe if I don't find information at the Drum Barracks on Wednesday. 

Susan



 Posted: Tue May 1st, 2007 01:13 pm
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 http://home.att.net/~dmercado/Tom_Tex.htm   This is an interesting article about George Thomas , in the article it mentions a gutta percha scabbard.  aha!  Another friend found a presentation sword in an auction site with gutta percha handle , so they were used.  Just must have been fairly rare.  

Thanks all who sent information.  

susan



 Posted: Wed May 2nd, 2007 11:17 pm
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Well the mystery is solved .  I went to work at the Drum Barracks today.  After doing two tours I set down to work on cataloging the Civil War Magazines I have been working on for several months.   I picked up the first one to enter the information into the computer.  I opened it and there was the article  .Rubber and gutta-percha goods used during the war. . . by Mike Woshner.  America's Civil War  January 2003.  He has also written a book Indian Rubber and Gutta-Percha in the Civil War Era: An Illustrated history of Rubber and Pre=Plastic Antiques and Militaria. 

The second page of the article says In the 1850's . . . "The Army conducted extensive tests on gutta-percha sword and bayonet scabbards. . . . . A board of officers met on April 12, 1855 to examine a number of military articles made of gutta-pecha -coated babrics and gave them general good marks. Despite the arguments of some that thelonger life of the equipment would still not justify the cost of the difference between gutta-percha and standard issue equipment, thousands of troops were equipped with gutta-percha equipment gear during 1855-56 The talma a type of cape was the only gutta-percha article formally adopted by the military during that time."  . . . . . ."On May 21, 1860 secretary of war John Floyd , ordered that 50 gutta-percha sword scabbards be purchased for use at the Cavalry School in Carlisle Pa. "

So there is the story .   Now I can finish Craig Symonds book on Joseph Johnston knowing that was not a mistake  By the way it is a really good book.



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 12:11 am
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Thanks for that additional information. I had read a small reference that said Gutta-Percha, although a latex material, could be hardened into a material that could be carved like wood. In fact, one senator was known to carry a carved  Gutta-Percha cane!

I never cease to be impressed how serendipity works at this message board. Someone asks a question or makes a statement and then more and more people add what they know. Then the facts just keep increasing with all kinds of compelling tidbits of Civil War life and times coming forward.



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 01:42 am
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Susan... thank you... I too stumbled across a reference to the Army testing of India Rubber & Gutta Percha but saw nothing on their use in scabbards.  It does answer the question; but will make me look for the report... I see how you are; giving me more to read!



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 03:03 am
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Oh yeah coming from the man that list the books in his personal library every so often and makes me jealous that I don't have or have read all those books.  I am still a newbie to Civil War.  Only four years serious but I am learning .  A friend from the book discussion group I belong to wrote back and said now that is putting the fine point on the study of the Civil War. 



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 01:35 pm
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In fact, one senator was known to carry a carved  Gutta-Percha cane!

Preston Brooks did carry a gutta-percha cane until he broke it while whaling the tar out of Charles Sumner.

Ole



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 02:53 pm
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In the South Carolina State museum in Columbia I saw a ring made out of the cane that did the beating.  Also some of the collection of canes sent to Brooks after the caning . 



 Posted: Thu May 3rd, 2007 07:36 pm
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During TWBTS, POWs carved very beautiful and intricate rings from gutta percha buttons.  Often, the guards provided the buttons and sold the finished products, then the guards and prisoners split the loot.  Kept moren' a few prisoners from starving to death.



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