During the War of 1812 British Army field musicians were considered combatant soldiers, and therefore were armed with short swords for their personal defence. ‘Backsword,’ a sort of informal fencing using sticks or wooden swords, was a favourite pastime among drummers.
The regulation weapon for British musicians was based upon the 1796 pattern sergeants’ sword, having a brass ‘clamshell’ hilt and short 24 inch blade. Some regiments, however, purchased their own unique regimental pattern swords, of the same overall dimensions. There are several accounts of fifers and drummers using these short, clumsy swords to defend themselves in combat during the period.
The swords carried by the regimental bands of music were even more varied, being privately purchased by the regiment’s officers. After the Egyptian Campaign in 1801, sabres resembling Middle-Eastern scimitars were particularly fashionable; these often bore brass T-shaped hilts cast with an animal’s head (usually a lion, horse or dragon) for the pommel, and either straight or highly curved blades.