Now and then the sword collector meets up with a curious specimen that has a saber hilt paired with a narrow thrusting blade of hollow-ground triangular cross section. Such a blade, when found in such a mounting, is often referred to as a Préval blade. Examples of this sword type are most often French, from the 19th century, and custom made. The examples here are from https://sbg-sword-forum.forums.net/thread/46663/french-m1822-light-cavalry-artillery and depict the French 1822 saber, which became the model for the American 1860 pattern.
|The original model|
The name apparently comes from a General Préval, who liked and recommended triangular-bladed thrusting swords. His ideas were accepted by a certain number of soldiers who equipped themselves with private purchase swords of the kind. The swords were hilted to match the sabers official to the soldiers' units, thus maintaining the appearance of the official pattern. The scabbards were straight instead of curved but the authorities were willing to overlook that.
Something very obvious about Préval swords: In combat, the users would sometimes need to parry saber strokes and then reply with the point. It is a procedure that raises questions about how best to go about it. I touched on the same problem in a previous post. Here I say more about it.
It seems to me that the best approach (chosen out of several bad possibilities) is to use the saber parries against cuts, even though you are armed with a thrusting sword. Saber parries are well calculated to stop the saber stroke, for they were developed for that very purpose. The blades meet at a steep angle, or even at right angles, making malparrying less likely than if the blades meet at a shallow angle.
There is the possibility, alleged, of interrupting any cut by using a time thrust. Perhaps I will examine that allegation in a future post. The trouble with it is that it the timing must be gotten just right and the hit must prove immediately disabling. Parrying and then riposting leaves a much better margin for error.
The problem faced in parry-riposte with the saber parries is that, after you parry, your point then needs to rotate in space so as to aim at the opponent and not off into empty air. If you were replying with a cut instead of a thrust you would simply swing your sword at the other fellow. That is an immediate threat and also has the effect of closing the line with an arc of speeding steel.
It seems best to try to retain that line-closing virtue of the cutting counter-attack when making thrusts from the saber guards. That means changing the timing of your counter, compared to what it would be if you were cutting, but retaining essentially the same motion. The biggest change is that you extend much later. The blade arcs through the air as in a cut, until the point is about to come into line with the target, and only then do you extend fully. The alternative to doing that is to move your sword laterally, disengaging if necessary, while leveling it until it is in place for the thrust you wish to make, which long process seems to allow the other sword rather too much freedom.
Another difficulty is that if your opponent realizes that your sword is without an edge, he may further realize that he can grab your blade with his hand. Of course, opponents 'commanding the sword' in that way was a known problem with triangular blades, and had been for a long time. Presumably, the fellow equipping himself with an edgeless blade would be aware of it.
I admit that I kind of like Préval's idea, despite the challenges it poses in swordsmanship. If you really think the thrust is the answer and using the cut is passé, it makes sense to supply yourself with the best type of thrusting blade available, and never mind about not being able to cut with it--for you wouldn't do that anyway. I am not sure I agree with the premise, though.
The thrust's general superiority to cutting with the edge was more a matter of prejudice than proof, but it was a fashionable idea in the 19th century. In some uses, thrust-only swords had proven superior, but the idea that they were superior in all uses and circumstances was innovative, even faddish. Of course, the idea was not disproven either. Ordinarily, in such matters, time will tell--but not in this case.
The era of the sword was passing away. It scarcely mattered what swords chaps carried, for battles were increasingly decided amid the racket and haze of firearms. Thus, General Préval's ideas about swords never faced the test of time, because time ran out.