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Two French Military Officer Daggers, Circa 1560
The bronze hilts of two daggers are shown at the right. They are almost identical, but it`s likely that the one on the left side of the photo spent most of the last 450 years buried in South Carolina near Port Royal Sound. It was unearthed by Jack Williams in the early 1960s. The other he purchased from a private collection over a decade later. This second dagger still has its original scabbard. Williams believed that the excavated dagger came from the French settlement of Charlesfort, or from the Spanish occupation that followed called Santa Elena.
French Daggers
Charlesfort and Santa Elena
In May of 1562 French Huguenots began building an outpost on what is today Parris Island, South Carolina. The Island is located in Port Royal Sound. The Huguenots were protestants seeking refuge from religious persecution in France and hoping to found a protestant community in the new world. The expedition was lead by a Norman navigator, Jean Ribault. Ribault named the outpost Charlesfort (Charles forte) after Charles IX. On June 11, 1562 Ribault departed leaving behind twenty-six men. He planned to return before the end of the year with supplies and additional settlers. When he didn`t return, Charlesfort was abandoned in April of 1563. (1)

In 1566 the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded Santa Elena on the site of Charlesfort. Menendez intended Santa Elena to be the permanent capital of Spanish Florida. Native tribes attacked and burned the settlement and its fort San Felipe, in 1567. A year later the Spanish rebuilt the settlement and a new fort which they called Fort San Marcos. Forced to repel repeated native attacks, the Spanish abandoned the site in 1587. (2)

Detailed Description
Both daggers have cast bronze hilts with steel blades. The period clothing and armor of the French officer that forms each hilt indicates their origin. The officer is leaning on matchlock, his left hand wrapped around its muzzle. His right hand rests on a dagger in a leather carry which was called a frog. Below the frog hangs a pouch to hold balls and cloth patches, a large flask to hold priming powder, and several small flasks to hold premesured single charges. The scabbard is also of cast bronze with classical motifs in high relief. Ornate designs like these would have been expensive, so the daggers must have belonged to men who were well off. (3)
Type: 16th Century Dagger
Style: Quillon
Country: France
Overall Length: 12 inches
Overall Width: 2 5/8 inches
Hilt Length: 5 1/16 inches
Blade Length: 6 15/16 inches
Weight: 14 1/4 ounces w/o scabbard
Grip: French Officer, Cast bronze
Scabbard: 8 1/4 by 1 1/4, 6oz

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(1) The History of Charlesfort, University of North Carolina, The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and The Institute for Southern Studies

(2) Santa Elena History, see the First and Second Spanish Occupations,
University of South Carolina, The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and The Institute for Southern Studies

(3) Powder Horns in the Southern Tradition, see Plate III on page 11, Museum of Florida History (1985), Powder Horns Exhibit Team Curator: Patricia R. Wickman,

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