the Captains' Fund

 

The Captains’ Fund was created to pay pensions and widows’ stipends for the commissioned officers of Napoleon’s South American Navy.  A part of each officer’s pay, including a share of prize money, is contributed to the fund.  And, while many a captain has grumbled about having to pay into the fund, none have complained about the money they receive from it in old age, nor of the care received from the Captains' Fund Hospital.  Despite the Fund's beneficent nature, it is more famous for the class of sword that bears its name, the Captains’ Fund Cutlass.

The equivalent to being posted Captain, or the ‘Post-Captain’ of the British Royal Navy, is to be listed as ‘with Seniority’ in the Navy of the United Republics of South America.  A Captain with Seniority is presented with the ignominiously dubbed ‘Captains’ Fund Cutlass.’

“The Captain’s Fund Cutlass – an unwieldy and clumsy name for such an elegant weapon.” E. Bronsan

President Bonaparte loved and resented his navy.  He loved the victory and the glory they brought to his new country and he resented the reliance he must place in them to defend and patrol 20,000 miles of coast.  It was he who called it the Captain’s Fund Cutlass, saving the more glorious appellation of ‘Wolves’ Teeth’ for the swords presented to his army and militia officers.

Although the pattern is usually that of the French An XI sabre, the actual sword is very different.  The blade is traditionally made of Brazilian steel, folded many times, and crafted in Lima by a sword smith using secrets from the Orients.  But, no matter how the pattern or craftsmanship may change, all swords from the Captains’ Fund bear the same eagles’ head upon the pommel, marking them for the badge of rank they are.

The swords are engraved with the letters 'R-UN' or 'R-UM' for Républiques-Unis Navy or Républiques-Unis Marine.  When given a choice, American and English officers typically chose the 'R-UM' lettering and the Captain’s Fund Cutlasses are sometimes referred to as the ‘Rum Swords’ and the officers who carry them as 'Rum Captains'.

 

the Captains' Fund Cutlass

 

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