c 1860 Civil War Period Six Point Cavalry Stopping Caltrop
c. 1860 Civil War Period, Six Pointed Caltrop, Anti-horse spiked metal device thrown on the ground to impede cavalry horses, Choice Extremely Fine.
This 6 Pointed Calthrop with each spike measuring about .5” to an overall size is about 1.25”. Caltrops were small anti-personnel and anti-horse weapons with 4-6 sharpened spikes that would be scatted on roads or trails and in streambeds to punture boots or hooves and disable the victim. They were designed so there was always one spike pointing up. (Similar to one pictured on the Tennessee State Library and Archives webpage.) An impressive, high quality example.
A caltrop (also known as caltrap, galtrop, cheval trap, calthrop, jackrock or crow's foot) is an antipersonnel weapon made up of two or more sharp nails or multiple spines arranged in such a manner that one of them always points upward from a stable base (for example, a tetrahedron). Caltrops were part of defences that served to slow the advance of horses, war elephants, and human troops.
The late Roman writer Vegetius, referring in his work De Re Militari to scythed chariots, wrote:
The armed chariots used in war by Antiochus and Mithridates at first terrified the Romans, but they afterwards made a jest of them. As a chariot of this sort does not always meet with plain and level ground, the least obstruction stops it. And if one of the horses be either killed or wounded, it falls into the enemy's hands.
The Roman soldiers rendered them useless chiefly by the following contrivance: at the instant the engagement began, they strewed the field of battle with caltrops, and the horses that drew the chariots, running full speed on them, were infallibly destroyed. A caltrop is a device composed of four spikes or points arranged so that in whatever manner it is thrown on the ground, it rests on three and presents the fourth upright.
Another example of the use of caltrops was found in Jamestown, Virginia, in the United States:
Undoubtedly the most unusual weapon or military device surviving from seventeenth-century Virginia is known as a caltrop, a single example of which has been found at Jamestown. It amounts to a widely spread iron tripod about three inches long with another leg sticking vertically upward, so that however you throw it down, one spike always sticks up.
There is no doubt that the most inscrutable Indian treading on a caltrop would be shocked into noisy comment. ... The fact that only one has been found would seem to suggest that they were used little, if at all. As with all military equipment designed for European wars, the caltrop’s presence in Virginia must be considered in the light of possible attacks by the Spaniards as well as assaults from the Indians.