I had every intention of getting up early and hitting the woods in search of more mushrooms. I ended up sleeping in a little and woke to a very painful morning. I skipped mushrooming and spent the morning reading and surfing. What am I reading now? Bill Bagwell's "Bowies, Big Knives And The Best Of Battle Blades". It makes for some interesting reading concerning the history, use, carry, making and science behind bowie knives and other big fighting knives. Most chapters are repeats of his articles from when he wrote for Soldier Of Fortune magazine. In this treatise he compares the lethality of the bowie against the venerable K-BAR, the AK bayonet, daggers and other knives. In doing so he makes some very valid points as to the effectiveness of bowie knives for their versatility and deadly use.
I did not know that by 1837 three states had made it a felony to kill a man with a bowie. The killing wasn't illegal, the use of a bowie to do it was. He makes the point that New Orleans was a gentrified city but steeped in the European tradition of dueling. But by the early 1800 one of the favorite dueling weapons was the bowie knife. Using the traditional sword dueling tactics and inventing new ones specifically for this big blade it became a fearsome weapon in the hands of a trained user. And there were plenty of places in New Orleans to get that training. Sword trainers from around the world opened shop in that port city and rough men of the seas were always in the ports and bars. The trainers from Spain had the most influence on the specialty of fighting with a bowie.
There are some trees in NOLA that are known as the Dueling Oaks. These tree's witnessed over 900 duels a year from 1834 to the Civil War.
Any self respecting man from the South dared not arrive in battle without a huge knife. As a matter of fact may Northern soldiers were terrified of the Southern man with his giant knife.
By the way, the man this type of knife is named after is a true American Badass. Wandered, explorer, duelist, investor, he was known to rope and ride wild deer as well as alligators too! He was shot and stabbed many times in his life and kept coming back for more.
If you have an interest in bowies, get a copy of this book and find out how awesome this decidedly American blade is.