Sword-pistol 'brandished by Lord Nelson' at Battle of Trafalgar goes up for auctionSilver-mounted DB flintlock tap-action weapon expected to fetch 15,000Discovered in possessions owned by his closest friend Alexander DavisonAuctioneer: 'Pistols of this period and quality do not often come up for sale'
18:02 GMT, 6 December 2012
'Truly exceptional': This sword-pistol, which is believed to have been used by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, is going up for auction
A sword-pistol thought to have been brandished by Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar is set to fetch up to 15,000 when it goes up for auction tomorrow.
The weapon was discovered in a collection of his possessions owned by his closest friend Alexander Davison.
The silver mounted D.B. flintlock tap-action weapon with attached 69.4cm blade was made by H.W. Mortimer in 1805.
Ben Gamble, head auctioneer at Cuttlestones, said: 'This is a truly exceptional piece of British history with a very interesting back story. It is a very fine, rare item in its own right.
'Pistols of this period and quality and by makers of this caliber do not often come up for sale and its links to Nelson are only set to broaden its appeal.
'To say we’re excited by the prospect of selling this piece is an understatement.
'All the evidence said it did belong to him and came back from Trafalgar with Hardy, the captain of the Victory.
'The likelihood is Nelson would have used it in Trafalgar.'
He said the sword-pistol was battle-worn and had suffered some damage, but could be made to work again by a good gunsmith.
Mr Gamble added: 'It’s quite unusual, they were fashionable for a short period of time. They weren’t that practical to use, only high-ranking officers had them.
'The idea was you would try and shoot the enemy first but if they got too close or you couldn’t fire, you had a chance of using your sword – a simpler form of bayonet.
'Naval collectors would be interested in owning this item. Nelson is a significant historical figure.
'It’s a beautiful item – it’s such a fascinating object – the workmanship is incredible. You could be holding something used my Nelson in battle.'
Nelson met Davison, the son of a Northumbrian farmer, in Quebec in 1782.
Rich history: The weapon was discovered in a collection of his possessions owned by Lord Nelson's closest friend Alexander Davison
Finest quality: The silver-mounted D.B. flintlock tap-action weapon with attached 69.4cm blade was made by H.W. Mortimer in 1805
'Interesting story': The auctioneer says all the evidence points to the weapons belonging to Nelson and came back from Trafalgar with Hardy, the captain of HMS Victory
Ready for restoration: The weapon is battle-worn and has suffered some damage, but could be made to work again by a good gunsmith
WHAT EXACTLY IS A PISTOL-SWORD
A sword-pistol is a sword with pistol or revolver attached alongside the blade.
Unlike a rifle and bayonet, the two components cannot usually be separated.
As a general rule of thumb, it also differs from bayonet-fixed rifles in that it is mainly used as a sword with the gun being deployed as a secondary weapon, although this was not always the case.
A young post-captain at the time,
Nelson was escorting supplies to the British army fighting the
rebellious American colonists to the south.
The pair became good friends and after his victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, Nelson made Davison his prize agent.
It was a highly lucrative appointment
that made Davison responsible for negotiating the sale of any enemy
ships captured during action.
The proceeds were then distributed among Nelson and his men.
In 1804, Davison was jailed for six months for election fraud after trying to bribe himself a seat in parliament and found guilty of fraud again five years later for falsifying purchase orders and receipts.
Supreme commander: Lord Nelson led the British to victory over the French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar was fatally injured during the battle
Decisive: A painting of Trafalgar where 27 British ships defeated 33 French and Spanish ships off the south-west coast of Spain
Upon his release, he lived quietly in Brighton until his death in 1829 at the age of 79.
Lord Nelson joined the Royal Navy at
the tender age of 12 through the influence of his uncle Maurice Suckling
and was given command of his first ship more than 20 years later.
He lost his right eye and right arm
on active service but continued to inspire his men in subsequent
battles, three of which – at the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and
Trafalgar (1805) – were the most decisive in British history.
During the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson was hit by a French sniper and mortally wounded. His body was brought back to England where he was given a state funeral.
The sword-pistol is being sold by Cuttlestones Auctioneers and Valuers tomorrow.