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An Early American Fencing Controversy: the Broadsword versus the Smallsword, in Boston, 1808

“Come, Mr. Millet, attack me in your turn, and do it well, or I shall catch you.” – Robert Hewes


Smallsword defense against Broadsword, from Angelo’s plates from L’Ecole des Armes included in “Escrime,” Encyclopédie (Paris, 1765).

Today, it is not uncommon to witness or overhear martial arts enthusiasts arguing over the merits of various weapons and respective martial arts methods, and their supposed superiority (or inferiority) over others.

Such a discussion, it turns out–in the form of a public controversy–also took place in early nineteenth century Boston, at a time when the world of American journalism was quickly expanding, making public arguments even more possible–and likely to occur–than ever before.

At the center of the incident was one Robert Hewes (1751-1830), a Boston native, local eccentric, and fencing master. Described by his contemporaries as an “extraordinary” and “ingenious” man, Hewes was a former member of the secret revolutionary society, the Sons of Liberty, and the first American fencing instructor that we know of to publicly advertise instruction in cane defense. He was described by the Boston press as a surgeon, as well as a “celebrated bone-setter and fencing master.” In acknowledgement of this fact, Hewes hung a sign outside his residence which humorously read, “Bone breaker and bone-setter.”  According to Hewes himself, his training in fencing began about 1770, at which time he entered the school of the Scottish Highlander, Donald McAlpine.

Hewes was not the only fencing master in Boston at that time, as the city played host to numerous schools and academies–including several run by French immigrant fencing instructors. Animosity had evidently sprung up between Hewes and one of his French competitors, for, on January 23, 1808, the following announcement appeared in the pages of the Boston journal, the Columbian Centinel: 

Evidently, Louis Millet had recently arrived in Boston, for very the same day he posted his challenge to Hewes, he also published (in the same issue) his first fencing advertisement in the city, informing the public that he offered instruction in the “polite and useful art of Fencing, with Cut, and Thrust, and Small Sword, at reasonable prices.” Millet was also associated with a group of French instructors, including Messrs. Tromelle and Girard, at the military fencing school of Colonel Amelot De La Croix, also in the Boston area (Independent Chronicle, March 20, 1809).

Only a few days later, on January 27, Hewes published a response in the Centinel, containing an account of a previous combat between himself and Millet. Hewes’ unusually detailed description, related with his characteristic humor, offers insight into the fencing method he was using, as well as a fascinating glimpse into the fencing world of post-Revolutionary Boston:

To Mr. Millet.

SIR—In last Saturday’s Centinel, you charge me with saying, that you know nothing of Fencing, &c—and invite me to a public trial of skill, &c—As to the scurrilous charge of my saying that you know nothing of the use of the Sword, I can in conscience deny it:—But, what I have said, and do now say, is this—That I believe you understand the Small Sword very well; but that you do not so well understand the Broad Sword;—so think some of your friends.

Mr. MILLET, you must give me leave to presume, that I do understand what the Broad Sword is scientifically; having learnt it of the famous DONALD Mc GILPIN, a Scotch Highlander, above thirty eight years ago; and I have had the honor and pleasure of teaching it to many of the Officers of our Revolutionary Army, in Roxbury and Cambridge, in the year 1775—and have done it at times, ever since. During the last ten years I have kept a regular school. But the Broad Sword you understand, is the French Counterpoint—a great difference.

The next thing is you invite me to a publick trial of skill.—With whom? A man I do not know. And for what? Why to please you, and a gaping multitude, that will know no more of the merits of it after it is over, than they did before it commenced.—What I, the hoary head, in boyish martial sports, on publick stage exposed! Oh, no no! Mr. MILLET; my rank in society, my age, forbid it; especially with a competitor I do not know. But why do you want another trial, when we have already had a fair one, by your own application and desire; and contrary to my wish; yet I desire to be thankful it was so public that I have sufficient evidence to full substantiate the merits of our combat.— A plain recital of the facts, attested by the evidence with a technical description of our combat, I will endeavor to relate in truth and dispassionately;—

About a month ago, you was introduced to me by your friend, Mr. ————. After being in the room a little while, you desired to play with me—I declined. There were two young gentlemen, my scholars, in the room—I pointed to the eldest of them, and said, “Play with him.”

“Yes,” said the young gentleman, “I will play with you.”

(MILLET.) “No,” said you, “if I play with any body here, I shall play with the master.”

“Then,” said I, “you’ll play with me, quick time.”

I then presented you with one broad sword Foil; I having the other myself. My two pupils paid strict attention to everything we did; but your friend, Mr. P———, seemed to be regardless of what was going on, for he sat all the time eating nuts as hearty as a grey squirrel.

Now comes the technical description of the combat:—First, we join issue upon an inside guard—I cut you with cut two, on the outside of your arm:—you then come to the counterpoint guard in seconde—I cut you four, under your arm;—we join again and I cut your leg with cut six;—the next was a counter.

An image showing the numbered cuts from the treatise of Col. Le Marchant, which was edited and republished by Hewes in America.

I then said, “Come, Mr. MILLET, attack me in your turn, and do it well, or I shall catch you.” You then made a little movement and hit my arm. You then came in a very swordsman like manner, and made cut five, at my body—I spring back, slipped your cut, and gave you a plump cut upon the head—and so the combat finished, by my cutting you four times, and you cutting me once.

Now, Mr. MILLET, since you have treated me in this scurrilous manner, by denying the merits of our combat, which was solicited by yourself, and persisting in publishing your scurrilous piece; I am determined never to have another trial of skill with you, publick or private; nor to have any altercation or conversation with you, written or verbal; and if any thing more shall appear in the papers, I am determined not to take the least notice of it.


Jan 25, 1808.

[The two gentlemen scholars of Mr. H. have appeared at this office, and testified to the truth of Mr. H’s account of the combat, above referred to.]

More than a year later, on May 17, 1809, Hewes felt compelled to offer details of another similar incident, in the following nationalistic piece, published in the pages of the Centinel: 

To Young Gentlemen who intend to learn the Art of Defence on foot with the Broad Sword and Sabre or Cut and Thrust.

IT always has been, and with some is still a disputed point which is best, the Broad Sword, or Small Sword.—Some will assert, (not knowing what the true Scotch Broad Sword is) that the Broad Sword is no manner of Defence against the Small Sword.—Others (who understand the Broad Sword well, and can play well, by daily experience) prove, that it is a complete Defence against the Small Sword, by evading or guarding their thrusts—and cutting their head or arm, which they generally do twice out of three:—the reason is, being too much practised in bending the elbow the Cuts of the Broad Sword meet their arm instantly;—as was verified the other day thus:—One of my Scholars introduced a French Gentleman and desired to play the Small Sword with him. We played loose pretty sharp a few moments, and neither hit.—He then desired us to play Cut and Thrust—we did;—but he no sooner moved than I cut his arm three times. He then says to my Scholar the reason Mr. HEWES cut my arm so easy is, because I am too much in the habit of playing the Small Sword with a crooked arm—therefore I cannot play Cut and Thrust. This Gentleman was candid enough to own, that the Cut and Thrust cannot be played with a crooked arm:—Therefore, to play true and with safety with a Cut and Thrust, the Broad Sword, according to the Scotch and Austrian systems, must be well learnt.—Which forbids the bending the elbow, raising or lowering the arm or passing the line to the right or left—in fine, the arms is as an iron bar, the wrist the pivot round which the Sabre flies, or in other words, the hand and hilt of the Sword is the centre of action, as a hob to a wheel; the blade as the spokes.

If there are any young Gentlemen Americans, who believe that a Prophet can have honor in his own country, and that it is not supernatural or notional to be master of an art, they may well have full satisfaction, as to the true system of the Broad Sword, uniting the Scotch and Austrian methods, which constitute the Cut and Thrust, by applying to their humble servant, ROBT HEWES,

Sign of the Gladiators, Ann Street, near the Draw Bridge, Boston—who has had the pleasure of teaching the Broad Sword near forty years.


N.B.—The Horse and Train of Artillery Sabre Exercise—and Cane Fighting taught as heretofore.

May 17.

Hewes’ French rivals were evidently furious, for the next day they published the following in the Centinel: 

Take Particular NOTICE!

SOME Fencing Masters have read in the Columbian Centinel, the observations of a Mr. Robert Hewes, styled Primary Military School—setting forth the advantage of the Scotch Broad Sword—Experience having demonstrated to then, that the gentleman infallible to a mistake, without enlarging on the observations, which would demonstrate that even a slight wound on the arm would not prevent his antagonist from thrusting his sword through his body, and without remarking, that gentlemen in the habit of fencing with baskets, as it has been observed, would soon be disabled in the hand if armed with an ordinary Sabre—In order to prove in an undeniable manner, what they now assert—the Fencing Masters have the honor to invite Mr. Hewes, respectfully to attend the general assault—to be given on the 23d inst. at the Military School, Court-street, No. 17, where he may have his choice in any kind of fencing, or cane-fighting, on the true principles of the Paris Academy. They flatter themselves that Mr. Hewes will not fail to appear—his assertions render his presence indispensible, and the Spectators are entitled to a demonstration.

Boston, May 18.

Hewes, however, true to his word, neglected to take this “bait,” although he remained an ever-present voice, and teacher, in the Boston fencing world until his death in 1830.


In the end, Hewes merely defended his method as a “complete defence” against other weapons such as the small-sword, and did not necessarily assert its superiority over them. By contrast, Donald McBane–a Scottish swordsman regarded as one of the most prolific duelists of all time–wrote in his treatise that the small-sword had “great odds” over the broadsword, and over nearly all other weapons. If anything, the outcome of Hewes’s combat with Millet (if we are to believe the former’s account), attests to the usefulness (and during the period, the necessity) of a swordsman being familiar with both (or all) predominant methods and weapons in use at the time. Indeed, in considering the entire history of fencing, it is evident that the ultimate superiority lies in the fencer who wields the sword, not in the particular type of weapon wielded.

As a treat for readers, we end with another lengthy, colorful, and humorous period fencing advertisement, courtesy of Robert Hewes:

Boston Democrat, Jan. 13, 1808.


“Irish Swordsmanship: Fencing and Dueling in Eighteenth Century Ireland”

Out of This Century

Announcing the release of the book, Irish Swordsmanship: Fencing and Dueling in Eighteenth Century Ireland, available in October 2017.

The product of more than ten years of research, the first part of this book tells the story of eighteenth century Ireland’s most renowned duelists, gladiators, and fencing masters, as well as that of Ireland’s most celebrated fencing society, the Knights of Tara—whose lavish fencing exhibitions won fame and glory for Ireland, and whose member’s innovative writings on bayonet fencing found their way into the hands of George Washington.

Notably, this book also includes extracts from several Irish texts on the martial arts (written or published between 1780 and 1860) which have previously not been noticed by scholars, and contains the complete text of A Few Mathematical and Critical Remarks on the Sword (1781)—an almost completely overlooked Irish fencing treatise, now published again for the first time in more than…

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Colonel Thomas Monstery, and the Training of America’s Swordswomen

“It is a great mistake to suppose that women cannot learn fencing as quickly as men…the fact is the women are much the quicker pupils. They are more flexible of body; their limbs are more supple and elastic—that’s one advantage. Their mental brightness enables them to pick up the strategy of the art quicker—that’s a second advantage. And, thirdly, they have more nerve—it’s a fact; I don’t know why, but it’s a fact.” – Col. Thomas Monstery, 1888


Continued from Part I.

By Ben Miller

In 1870, one of America’s most distinguished martial arts masters opened a “School of Arms” in New York City. He was a fencing master, boxer, marksman, sailor, adventurer, street fighter, soldier of fortune, and world traveler. He was Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery.

When it came to combat, Monstery had an impressive resume. He had fought under twelve flags in numerous wars and revolutions, had survived participation in more than fifty duels with the sword, knife, and pistol, and had twenty-two scars on his body to prove it. In addition to being a “master of all arms” (which included the rapier, dagger, broadsword, Bowie knife, lance, bayonet, and quarterstaff, among others), Monstery was also a “professor of sparring,” and taught a special system of bare-knuckle self-defense that integrated punching, grappling, and kicking techniques, designed to be effective against a wide range of fighting styles.

Above: Hans Hartl’s troupe of female fencers, who toured America during the late 19th century

One of Monstery’s most unusual traits, however, was that he encouraged women to take up fencing with a variety of weapons, as well as boxing, long before it was both popular and fashionable for them to do so. Monstery claimed that he taught his female pupils no differently than he did men. This was a great point of distinction; typically, the scarce fencing instruction available to women during this period was limited to the use of the foil, an academic training tool. Monstery, however, did not limit his instruction to the art of the sword; in 1888, he was teaching “two classes of lady-boxers”; in New York City, he also held several ladies’ classes in stick self-defense. Evidence also suggests that to select female students, he also provided instruction in the rapier, dagger, knife, and bayonet. Additionally, Monstery included a special drill in his curriculum intended to prepare his female pupils for potential street encounters, teaching them to deliver a “bayonet thrust” with their parasols, which, he said, “would break a rib, or a one-handed thrust, that would put out an eye.”

Perhaps due to this progressive attitude, Monstery was able to attract a remarkable number of high-profile female students, some of whom led truly extraordinary lives. Following are their stories.

Ada Isaacs Menken (1835-1868)

On the right, Ada Isaacs Menken poses with sword and shield for her role in the melodrama “Mazeppa.” According to the Daily Inter Ocean of Oct. 29, 1893, Colonel Monstery personally prepared Menken for this role; although she had only intended to learn fencing for this specific production, she afterwards became a regular student of Monstery’s.

Menken was the highest earning actress of her time, all the more impressive considering that she had to overcome the society-imposed stigma of mix-raced ancestry. Her parents were Auguste Théodore, a free black, and Marie, a mixed-race Creole, and Ada was raised in the New Orleans area as a Catholic. Ed James, a journalist friend, wrote after her death: “Her real name was Adelaide McCord, and she was born at Milneburg, near New Orleans, on June 15, 1835.”

Menken with Dumas

Menken became best known for her performance in Mazeppa, with a climax that featured her apparently nude and riding a horse (lying on her back face-up) on stage. She was also an accomplished writer and poet, and became close friends with Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, and William Makepiece Thackeray. For a short time, she was married John C. Heenan, the famous pugilist. During her stay in Paris, she engaged in a “scandalous” affair with the French novelist Alexandre Dumas, famous author of the “Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

She died in the Jewish faith in Paris on August 10, 1868. On her deathbed, she talked of this world and the next with a rabbi she had befriended, and then wrote, “I am lost to art and life. Yet, when all is said and done, have I not at my age tasted more of life than most women who live to be a hundred? It is fair, then, that I should go where old people go.” She was buried in Montparnasse cemetery. On her tomb, at her request, were engraved the words ‘Thou Knowest’.

More about Menken’s amazing life and career can be read about here and here.

Marie Jansen (1857-1914)

Marie Jansen, another fencing student of Colonel Monstery’s, is pictured here scaling a castle wall for her role in “The Merry Monarch.” The New York Herald of February 1, 1891, reported that “Marie Jansen lost ten pounds in three weeks under Colonel Monstery.” In an 1888 issue of the Daily Inter Ocean, Monstery recounted: “Marie Jansen was a pupil of mine. She was quite an expert fencer, but grace of movement is her forte. She moved like a—ah, what shall I say?—a swan. Her pose, her graceful methods of parry and of thrust are enough to enchant an antagonist.”

Jansen was born in Boston in 1857. She would go on to star in a number of successful comic operas, Edwardian musical comedies, and comic plays in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and London during the 1880s and 1890s. Later in her career, she performed in vaudeville and formed her own touring theatre company.

More about Jansen’s life can be read about here.

Ella “Jaguarina” Hattan (b. 1859)

Ella Hattan

Ella Hattan, better known by her nom-de-guerre “Jaguarina,” was Colonel Thomas Monstery’s most accomplished student. Born in 1859 in Ohio, she would go on to become widely regarded as one of the greatest swordswomen of the nineteenth century, and perhaps of all time.

When Monstery presented Hattan to the world in early 1885, he “pronounced her the equal of any swordsman in America barring none, she seemingly having a wrist of steel and muscles of iron under a velvet skin.” This statement would prove prophetic, as Hattan would go on to defeat more than 60 men (half of them fencing masters) on horseback and on foot. Decades later, Hattan recounted that her training under Monstery was harsh—so much so that in three years her teacher “had never given her one word of encouragement,” he being “determined that she should learn confidence by experience and hard knocks.” Yet Hattan was also quick to give Monstery credit for his abilities. Prior to her contest with Sergeant Owen Davis, in an 1887 interview, she stated that “with the exception of Colonel Monstery, Sergeant Davis and Captain Jennings were probably the best [swords]men she had met.” Years later, in 1896, Monstery would return the compliment, reportedly averring that “Jaguarina is undoubtedly the greatest woman fencer that ever lived.”

For more details of Hattan’s extraordinary career, her training, and her lengthy master-student relationship with Monstery, see this article.

Mildred Holland (1869-1944)

Mildred Holland is pictured here in her 1904 role as Catherine the Great. Next to Ella Hattan, Holland was one of Monstery’s best known students and a “champion” of many fencing contests.

In the Dec. 9, 1888 issue of the Inter Ocean,

“Colonel [Monstery]…confesses that [Holland] is often a match for his superior skill. ‘Can ladies fence! Well, did you not see Miss Mildred kill me then? Ladies, when trained, are perfect artists with the foils.’”

Mildred Holland would later become a respected fencing instructor in her own right. In 1895 she presided over exhibitions of rapier and dagger in New York City, and delivered lectures on “the Art of Defense” for women, “Referring Especially to Umbrellas in the Hands of Experts.”

During the 1890s, Holland held bouts of rapier and dagger fencing in New York City, and lectured on women’s self defense. Following is an excerpt from a period article, with images, about Holland’s training under Monstery, published in the New York World on June 22, 1890:

“Miss Holland is not a social star, but a hard-working student. Self-reliance, grit and confidence in her own capabilities are elements which have sustained the little lady in her ambition. She is not rich, and her tuition was secured by her well-saved earnings. Her pluck has been demonstrated by her wonderful dexterity with the foils.

“In this accomplishment she is a pupil of Col. Monstery, is accounted one of the most expert swordswomen in the United States and is the possessor of two gold medals for efficiency, one of which was won two years ago at a contest and presented to the fair champion by Lieut. Gov. Smith. Holland makes a series of rapid, graceful attitudes. The little white wrist is as firm and flexible as steel, the ankle well turned and solid, and the head gracefully poised, She is quick in her motions, exhibiting litheness, grace and precision. Her recoveries are rapid, her eye true, and she enters into her work with striking coolness and nerve. Col. Monstery says she is a wonder and the Conservatory is proud of its champion, for, in addition to her trophies, she defeated by six points Miss Anna Schaffer, one of the professional Viennese swordswoman. Miss Holland is modest of her achievements.

“‘I began fencing when I entered the Conservatory,’ said she. ‘It is part of the instruction. Its object is to train the muscles of the entire body, to develop flexibility and to give one a facility of poses that cannot otherwise be attained. Then you know it strengthens the lungs, trains the eyes, and, I think, cultivates one’s courage. You know it takes courage to appear properly before an audience, and I am sure my ‘faculty’ of courage has developed since I began fencing.'”

Lola Montez (1821–1861)

“Lola Montez,” in actuality Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld, was an Irish dancer and actress (born in Limerick) who became famous as a “Spanish dancer,” courtesan, and actress. After performing in various European capitals, she settled in Paris, where she was accepted in the rather Bohemian literary society of the time. After the 1845 death of her lover, newspaperman Alexandre Dujarier, in a duel (unrelated to her), she left Paris, and became mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms in Germany. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.

The Trenton Evening Times reported that:

“Lola Montez was skillful with both pistol and rapier…She once challenged a journalist at Grass Valley, California, to meet her with pistols according to prevailing rules governing such meetings, and, upon his refusal to do so thrashed him with a cowhide upon a public street.”


The article pictured here, with Lola’s challenge to duel in California, was published in the Richmond Whig of August 16, 1853.

Montez challenged at least two men to duels with poison pills, and at least one with the pistol (see picture). Another of her challenges (to an insulting French editor of the Lyons Constitutionnel, in 1851) reads:

“If you continue, sir, I will be obliged to send you my card, and my seconds, to put an end to your ridiculous animosity; but it will not be with pistols; I am more generous in a combat. I will offer you two pills in a box, one of them will be poisoned; and you will not be able to refuse a duel with arms that are so familiar to you. I have the honor of saluting you.”

In 1860, it was reported, erroniously, that Lola was killed in a duel at San Juan de Niblo.

Montez seems to have become a student of Monstery’s rather late in her life, which was cut tragically short by a stroke in 1861. In the November 30, 1886 issue of the Daily Inter Ocean, Monstery recounted

“an incident of a combat between the elder [Junius] Booth, who was the champion amateur swordsman of his time and himself, on an occasion of [Monstery’s] benefit in San Francisco a number of years ago. While the fight was on Lola Montez, who was one of the Colonel’s pupils, occupied a conspicuous box. During the bout she became so interested that she arose in her place, utterly forgetting where she was, and went through the movements as though actually one of the combatants on the stage. Of course her carrying on the imaginary combat attracted the notice of the house, which with divided attention cheered alternately the excited Lola and the two on stage.”

In America, Montez eventually gave up acting and gave lectures on “Gallantry, Heroines of History and other subjects.” She was highly critical of the “Modern Women’s Right Movement.” Montez felt that rather than lobbying men to give them more rights, women should endeavor to become strong and powerful themselves. Following are but a sampling of her statements:

“One or two hundred women getting together in a convention and resolving that they are an abused community, and that all the men are great tyrants and rascals, proves plainly enough that they the women are somehow discontented, and that they have, perhaps, a certain amount of courage, but I can not see that it proves them to have any remarkable strength of mind. Really strong-minded women are not women of words but of deeds, not of resolutions but of actions.”

“History is full of such examples, which indicate the courage and intellect of woman, and her right to claim equality with the harder sex whenever Heaven has imparted to her the gift of genius. I can hardly see how it is possible that any woman of true genius should ever feel the necessity of calling together conventions for the purpose of resolving that she is abused. One woman going forth in the independence and power of self-reliant strength to assert her own individuality, and to defend, with whatever means God has given her, her right to a just portion of the earth’s privileges, will do more than a million of convention-women to make herself known and felt in the world.”

“There is a class of heroines who have been more powerful in the world than the mighty women of the sword or of the pen. I mean those who have united great personal beauty with rare intellectual powers! In such women there is a power stronger than strength. The annals of Greece and Rome, from the memorable days of Troy, down to the Roman age, furnish nothing more remarkable than the omnipotent sway of female genius and beauty in the affairs of the world.”

Lola Montez and Alights on a Cloud, ca. 1851

“The Amazons were regular woman’s rights women; for they made laws by which the women were enjoined to go to the wars, and the men were kept at home in a servile state, spinning wool and doing all manner of household work. No woman was allowed to marry till she had slain at least one enemy on the battle-field. The right breasts of all the female children were seared with a hot iron, in order to give the freest use of the right arm in wielding the sword or in shooting arrows; and they even debilitated the arms and thighs of the male children, that they might be rendered unfit for war. That, I should say, was carrying the woman’s rights question to an extent that ought to satisfy even our modern agitators. But in justice to these terrible Amazon women, it must be confessed that the world has never known better and braver warriors than they.”

With declining health, she finally moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she lived until her death. She spent her last days in rescue work among women.

More about Montez’s extraordinary life can be read about here.

Adele Belgarde (1867-1938)

Born in Mississippi, Adele Belgarde (actual name Adelaide Levy) starred in a number of theatre productions in New York City during the late 1870s. She initially came to Monstery to learn fencing in order to prepare for her starring role in “Hamlet.” She would also star in “Romeo and Juliet” and would play Queen Elizabeth. In 1895-1896, Belgarde toured with Thomas W. Keene, the famous Shakespearean tragedian, playing Lady Anne to his Richard III. She also played Marie to his Louis XI. She would go on to star in at least one silent film titled “Happiness” in 1910.

She died in 1938 and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, Los Angeles County, California.

Maude Forrester

Maude Forrester was a lesser-known English actress who also, along with Ada Isaac Menkan, starred in “Mazeppa.” Under Monstery she became “quite proficient” in fencing. She was also billed as a “celebrated equestrian actress” who was known for her “matchless impersonation of Mazeppa! accompanied by [the] celebrated and highly trained steed, ‘Lightning’,” and was “universally recognised as Queen of the Amazons at the Alhambra before the advent of the colossal Marian of ‘the Praerafaellite maxillary angle’.” She also played the title role in Lady Godiva.

Pauline Kelly

Not much is known about Pauline Kelly. A number of references indicate that she was a pupil of Monstery’s while studying at Kayzer’s Conservatory in Chicago. She was “regarded in Chicago as a very promising and gifted young actress.” Monstery described her as an “expert fencer.”

Mabel Marsh

Miss Mabel Marsh learned fencing under Monstery at his Chicago salle d’armes on Randolph Street, where she often crossed blades with fellow actress and prodigy Mildred Holland. A detailed, firsthand account of Marsh’s training under Monstery can be found on pages 24-26 of the Introduction to “Self-Defense for Gentleman and Ladies” by Col. Thomas H. Monstery. These pages can be read in the free online preview of the book on its Amazon page.

FURTHER READING:9781583948682

Colonel Thomas H. Monstery‘s martial wisdom survives in his treatise on Boxing, Kicking, Grappling, and Fencing with the Cane and Quarterstaff, which was recently published by North Atlantic Books in book form for the first time. This volume contains a new, detailed biography of Monstery, and includes additional writings by the Colonel.

This article © 2015 by Ben Miller.

Additional articles about Colonel Monstery:

A Grand Assault-of-Arms in Old New York, directed by Col. Thomas Monstery

Colonel Thomas H. Monstery and the Use of the Quarterstaff

The Victorian Gentleman’s Self-Defense Toolkit

A Bare-Knuckle Fight at Colonel Monstery’s


Vintage film footage of Kung Fu in Chinatown, New York City, 1930

This historically important film shows children demonstrating martial arts techniques on Mott Street in Chinatown, New York City, on or around January 29, 1930. This footage was recently discovered by Rodney Bennett of Anglesea, Australia.

“An Hour with Mr. Egerton Castle,” 1898

“It doesn’t at all follow that because you hit your adversary you are right: you may be utterly wrong. The small sword is so excessively light and so excessively deadly that to be always rushing in and trying to precipitate yourself on your opponent is madness. In the twinkling of an eye you may have six inches of cold steel in you.” – Egerton Castle



Egerton Castle  (1858-1920) was a British swordsman and antiquarian, probably best-known for his reconstruction of historical fencing methods during the late nineteenth century. His 1885 book, Schools and Masters of Fence,  from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century, is still regarded as a standard reference on fencing history that has yet to be surpassed.

The following interview was given by Castle in 1898, and appeared in the March 9 issue of Chums Magazine.”

Click below to enlarge the image, and read the article in full:


What is Classical Fencing? No, I mean really?

A newly penned article about what classical fencing is and is not (as well as info regarding different styles of nineteenth century fencing), by Russell Hogg, instructor at the Cote du Golfe School of Fencing.

Cote du Golfe School of Fencing

OK, there’s a bit of fire to follow, so let me especially emphasize that the opinions expressed below are my own and not necessarily reflective of The Martinez Academy of Arms, Maestro Ramon Martinez, or Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez.  I’m sorry for the length, too…

What is Classical Fencing?  What makes it different from Modern Fencing?  A lot of internet ink has been spilled over these two questions.  I’ll be frank, I’m exhausted with it.  I am tired of seeing reactionaries define classical fencing as representing whatever is the opposite of their particular distaste for modern fencing.  I am tired of seeing pedantic academics nitpick definitions to death, losing the forest for the trees (and I say this as a professional pedantic academic myself, an anthropologist) and blinding people with B.S.  I am tired of modern sport fencers trying to co-opt and define classical fencing for themselves, and allowing them to…

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Manly Exercises. The Broadsword and Single-Stick. Part IV.

Continued from PART III.





THIS portion of our studies must be gone through in strict accordance with the rules we have laid down in our first paper. “Keep your temper,” and “Play fairly,” are two phrases which must never be forgotten throughout this exercise.

Commence by drawing swords, according to the directions given at p. 101. Having done so, proceed to acknowledge each others’ presence by the act of courtesy called



which is to be performed as follows :—Raise your single-stick until the hilt is just below the chin, the stick perpendicular, edge to the left, your thumb extended on the side of the handle, your elbow close to your body; your left pendent upon the left side. See Fig. 1, and the directions for “Recover Swords,” at p. 101.

Next raise your left arm as high as your shoulder, and bring your hand round by a circular motion over your eyes, your knuckles uppermost, and your fingers extended; at the same time you lower your weapon and your right arm to its full extent, to the right, the edge of the sword falling towards the left, your right elbow close to your side. (See Fig. 2.) After neatly and gracefully making the salute, step towards your opponent, and proceed to “Prove Distance.” (See p. 102.) If you have taken up a proper distance, the point of each stick should touch the guard of the other.

Join sticks, which should cross each other about eight inches from the point, with the “Single Attack” and the “Inside Guard.”

Change to the “Outside Guard.”


Make “Cut One” at the left cheek, which your opponent meets with “First Guard.”

4-2Your opponent gives “Cut Two” at your right cheek, which you guard with “Guard Two.”

Make “Cut Three” at your opponent’s wrist, to which he will reply with “Third Guard.”

Opponent gives “Cut Four” at your leg; your defence being “Fourth Guard.”

You make “Cut Five” at opponent’s left side, which he meets with “Fifth Guard.”

Opponent replies with “Cut Six” at your right side, which you defend with “Sixth Guard.”

Make “Cut Seven” at opponent’s head, his defence being “Seventh Guard.”

Throughout this engagement there must be no flinching or jumping about; protection against each cut must be obtained by the stick, and not by the inglorious use of the legs—in jumping backwards or upon one side. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that every cut is to be given so lightly, that if it be not warded off by the proper guard, and is thus enabled to fall upon the body, it cannot hurt. This combat is to be renewed until both adversaries are perfect in every cut and guard.


Join sticks upon the outside guard.

Yourself.—“Cut Four” at opponent’s leg. Opponent.—“Fourth Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Six” at your neck. Yourself.—“Sixth Guard.”

Yourself—“Cut Six” at opponent’s leg. Opponent.—“Sixth Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Five” at your neck. Yourself. —“Fifth Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Five” at opponent’s leg. Opponent.—“Fifth Guard.”

Both.—Resume the position of “Guard,” and afterwards that of “Slope Swords.” Repeat the combat till perfect.


Both come to the position of “Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself—“Cut Four” at opponent’s leg. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Four” at your leg. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself. —“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Return to “Guard.” Resume the position “Slope Swords.”

This combat to be repeated several times.


Join sticks, and form guards as explained in first combat.

Yourself.—“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Two” at opponent’s arm. Opponent.—“Guard Two.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Two” at your arm. Yourself.—“Second Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Six” at opponent’s right side. Opponent.—“Guard Six.”

Opponent.—“Cut Seven” at your head. Yourself.—“Seventh Guard.”

Yourself.—“Cut Seven” at opponent’s head. Opponent.—“Seventh Guard.”

Opponent.—“Cut Six” at your right side. Yourself.—“Sixth Guard.”

Both return to position of “Guard.” Both resume position of “Slope Swords.”


We have now gone through the whole of the Broadsword and Single-Stick Exercises; but before taking leave of our subject we wish to make a few observations either general, or as further illustrating some of the more difficult portions of the study we have been going through with our pupils. The proper execution of the Cuts and Guards lies at the foundation of all good Single-Stick or Broadsword play. If the cuts are not given in the proper direction, if the guards are not formed precisely after the manner shown upon the target delineated at p.100, none of our pupils need expect to become formidable against an adversary, or secure against scientific attack.

It being our object to smooth away every difficulty, to anticipate every obstacle, that may arise in our series of “Manly Exercises,” we have gone carefully through the three parts of the Broadsword Exercises already published, with the view of endeavouring to find out anything that might appear obscure or insufficiently explained. The motions, positions, construction of the target, and the rules for the selection of weapons, we find require no further comment; but as the execution of the cuts and guards needs such careful study, we think it advisable to add a few remarks, additional and explanatory, to those already furnished at p. 101.

We will suppose ourselves to be placed in front of the target, at the proper distance, and in the First Position. We are now ready for what we shall term the


At the order “Cut One,” you make a stroke diagonally through the target; the cut commencing at that point marked 1 in our illustration [of the target] given at p. 100, and coming out at 4. When the point of the stick has cleared the target, you, by a turn of the wrist, bring the weapon up to the left shoulder, with that part of it tuned the edge towards the left.

At the order “Cut Two,” proceed as in the foregoing manner, but commence at 2 and terminate at 3. At the finish of the cut, the wrist should he a few inches outside and below the right hip.

At the order “Cut Three,” cut upwards, diagonally, beginning at point 3 and terminating at point 2.

At the order “Cut Four,” cut upwards, diagonally, commencing at point 4 and terminating at point 1.

At the order “Cut Five,” cut horizontally through the target, from right to left, beginning at point 5 and concluding at point 6.

At the order “Cut Six,” cut horizontally through the target, from left to right, commencing at point 6 and terminating at point 5. After the cut, continue the sweep of the single-stick until you bring the hilt above your head; the edge of the stick upwards, the point hanging over the back.

At the order “Cut Seven,” execute, from the preceding position, a downward stroke, vertically, from point 7 to the centre of the target.

The positions of the guards require no explanation further than those already given: in making an enlarged copy of the target we have supplied, it must, however, be remembered that no deviation in the directions of the guard can be allowed.

As in the words of command given for the Rifle Exercises in our last volume, it is necessary to remember that the first portion of the word is cautionary only; and that no movement is to be made until the last syllable is given.


is the name of the exercise we are about to append; but, according to our safe system of performing it, it becomes the exercise of Single-Stick versus Broomstick. One boy takes the single-stick, another an ordinary broomstick, which latter must be supposed to represent a rifle with its bayonet fixed. The adversaries take up a position about three paces distant from each other. The swordsman assumes the position of “Outside Guard.” (See directions and Fig. 6, p. 104. [Editor’s note: for convenience, this image has been added below.])


chargeswordsp364The bayoneteer also comes to the position of “Guard,” which is performed thus: In the first instance, fall into the attitude termed “Charge Swords” in the Rifle Exercises. (See the directions and illustration given at p. 364, vol. vi., of the BOY’S OWN MAGAZINE [Editor’s note: this image has been added to the right].) In the next place, lower the right wrist upon the upper part of the right hip, and at the same time bring the left elbow close to, and in front of, the body. In that position the broomstick will be grasped with the right hand within about six inches of its end, while with the left hand it will be seized about the middle of its entire length. The broomstick should be held in a horizontal position, with its point directed towards the height of the swordsman’s breast.

The next movement is “Prove Distance,” which is performed by each opponent thrusting forth his weapon until it lightly touches the breast. This done, both resume the position of “Guard.”

Bayoneteer—Make a thrust at the upper part of swordsman’s breast. Swordsman.—Defend by the “First Guard.”

Bayoneteer.—Return to the position of “Guard” as above explained. Swordsman. —Assume the position of “Slope Swords.”

Bayoneteer.—Come to “Shoulder Arms.” (See directions and illustration given at p. 362, vol. vi., BOY’S OWN MAGAZINE [Editor’s note: this image has been added below to the left]).

shoulderarmsp362Bayoneteer.—Come to the position of “Guard.” Swordsman.—Come to the position of “Outside Guard.”

Bayoneteer.—Make a thrust at swordsman’s breast. Swordsman.—Defend by the “Fifth Guard,” and raise the left hand ready to seize the rifle and bayonet—in the other words, the broomstick. Next grasp the weapon with the left hand and force it down, at the same time bringing forward the left leg. Finally, assume the position to deliver “Cut Six.”

Swordsman. — Relax hold upon the broomstick, and assume the position of “Guard.” Bayoneteer.—Assume the position of “Guard.”

In the preceding mimic encounter the swordsman has achieved the victory; for he has obtained possession of his opponent’s weapon, and has brought his own into play, ready to give “Cut Six” at his adversary; which, cut, being a horizontal one, and directed at the throat, might, were the swordsman armed with a sharp weapon, and had he strength, determination, and skill enough, cut off bayoneteer’s head at one blow. Bayoneteer must, however, be done justice to, and accordingly we will explain how he may defend himself against the above unpleasant termination. The whole of the above exercise is to be gone through precisely as already explained; but when swordsman brings forward his left hand to grasp the broomstick, bayoneteer foils him by assuming the position termed “Shorten Arms,” which is performed in this way: The right arm is thrown back to its full extent, the left arm also being carried back—both hands still retaining the hold upon the weapon, which, in consequence of the movement thus made, is brought backward in a horizontal position across the upper part of the chest, until not more than a fourth of its length projects beyond the bayoneteer’s left shoulder, and is, in consequence, quite out of reach of the swordsman.


The exercise then terminates by swordsman assuming the position or “Slope Swords,” and bayoneteer that of “Shoulder Arms.”

In conclusion, we must again impress upon our pupils the necessity for always making use of the mask in these exercises. One of the best draughtsmen of the present day, who is also a very fine swordsman, lost the sight of one of his eyes through neglect of this necessary precaution. We are only acquainted with two modern treatises upon the broadsword. These lessons constitute the third work upon the subject; and we feel a certain amount of satisfaction, and are egotistical enough withal, to state that our work is the only one that could be placed in the hands of boys. We will explain how this is. The first work is solely for use in her Majesty’s Army. In it, swords, bayonets, and an elaborate and complicated system of drill are employed; consequently it would be as useless as dangerous to our pupils. Work number two is founded upon the military manual, and is dangerous, useless, and moreover absurd, for it employs the sword instead of the single-stick; and, among other mistakes, contrives upon one occasion to get the swordsmen in position one exactly behind the other; after which it proceeds to give a long series of cuts and guards, which are all very nice for the person in the rear, because he has an opponent turned with his face, hands, and weapon completely away from him; but as for the unfortunate individual in front—he can only “cut and guard” at the air in return for the castigation he is receiving from his adversary behind his back. Work number three is our own. It is founded upon the system in use in the British Army; but, by being cleared of complications, unnecessary drilling, and by recommending the use of harmless weapons, it constitutes the art of Broadsword at once safe, certain, and valuable as a “Manly Exercise” for those who wish to become skilful, graceful, and strong men, without paying the penalty of losing an eye, or having the muscles of their arms divided, for these same advantages.

[Transcribed and edited by Ben Miller, 2017]

Here ends this series. More vintage articles on self-defense can be accessed on our Resources page.