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Twilight of the sword

The period from 1775 to 1900 continued to see swords being used in combat. In the hands of both the infantry and cavalry, swords were wielded in action from the battlefields of colonial America to those of China and India, Yet during the 19th century , the value of the sword declined massively as firearms became more sophisticated and powerful. By the end of the century, the sword's role in deciding the outcome of battles was negligible.

During 19 century, blade design more or less ceased to evolve. During their colonial expansion, British soldiers often encountered opposition from warriors wielding medieval-style swords. In Burma, for example, during the wars of 1824-86, British and allied Indian soldiers faced Burmese warriors swinging the "Dha", a curved, single-edged blade similar in shape but not in quality to the Japanese samurai swords. In the Middle East, Turkish warriors still seen carrying  the " Yataghan " sword, even as the Ottoman empire faded.

However, the prominence swords declined further as the century wore on. By the 1890, firearms had evolved into breech-loading guns ( loaded from the rear of the barrel) that were fed by magazines of cartridges. A single infantryman could  now fire 10-15 accurately aimed shots per minute. The introduction of automatic guns such as the multi-barrelled Gatling and the self-powered Maxim machine guns turned individual firearms into weapons of mass destruction. The development of firearms meant that by the end of the century most battles were decided by exchanges of firepower, not in close-quarters engagements with the sword. This raised questions about the relevance of the sword in combat. At the same time, the civilian use of swords also dwindled and faded.

Advances in gun making transformed warfare, but did not remove blades from the battelfield. At the of the 19th century every modern army still used hefty bayonets, and officers often wore dress swords to distinguish themselves from their man. New models of bayonet were issued in Europe throughout the 1890s, and promised to keep the blade-bearing warrior a reality into the 20th century.

By the time of French Revolutionary (1789-99) and Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), cavalry swords had evolved into the long, straight, thrusting sword of the heavy cavalry, and the light cavalry's curved sabre that was designed for cutting and slicing.

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