The Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber was used by US cavalry from the American Civil War until the end of the Indian wars; some were still in use during the Spanish–American War.
It was 41 inches (104 cm) long with a 35 by 1 in blade and weighed 2 lb 4 oz alone or 3 lb 10 oz with iron scabbard.
Before the Civil War there was no light or heavy cavalry in the US army. Instead there were "Dragoons" (founded 1830) and "Mounted Riflemen" (founded c.1840). In 1861 these mounted regiments were renamed cavalry and given yellow piping.
The M1860 saber received its name to distinguish it from the larger and heavier Model 1840 Heavy Cavalry Saber that it replaced. Like its predecessor it had a brass guard, leather-wrapped grip and steel scabbard but unlike the M1840 it was smaller and easier to handle.
By the end of the Civil War over 300,000 1860 sabers had been produced: 200,000 by Ames, 32,000 by Roby and many more by firms such as Tiffany and Co, Glaze, Justice, and Emerson and Silver. M1860s were carried not only by cavalry but also by many infantry and staff officers as the regulation Model 1850 Army Staff & Field Officers' Sword had to be privately purchased. High-ranking officers, like their European counterparts, often had their swords ornately engraved with gilding and foliage. Famous users included George Armstrong Custer and J.E.B. Stuart.
Later in the Civil War large cavalry charges became less common and the cavalry took on the role of skirmishers. Many replaced their sabers with extra revolvers, or left it in the saddle while fighting on foot with their repeating Henry rifles and Spencer carbines.