There’s only one example of a wooden weapon being used in a more or less organized combative context in the early 19th century:
The Ziegenhainer walking stick.
And even this leaves something to be desired…
Baltimore, MD—From the remnants of wooden swords excavated at the Teutoburg battle site at Kalkriese to the extensive Renaissance literature on the staff, halbert, and dussack of the fencing guilds, wooden weapons feature prominently in the early combative traditions of Germany.
Yet less than a handful of texts bother with the use of Stock or Stange in the 18th and 19th century. And even then, as in the case of Josef Feldmann, the systems described are typically imports from France and Italy. As singlestick, cudgeling and Irish stick fighting thrived among the Brits and Irish, the French engaged in la canne and baston, and the Italians played at bastone, the Germans never got around to turning the ever-present walking stick or cane into a formalized weapon of defense.
There’s only a single category of wooden weapon that appears in a combative context for a short period in the 19th century: The Ziegenhainer walking stick.
Resembling an Irish blackthorn in all but the knobby protrusions, this rustic stick derives its name from the little village of Ziegenhain near Jena in Thuringia, which today is integrated into Jena proper.
The Second’s Weapon
The University of Jena not only is remarkable in German fencing history for the long-lasting role played by the Kreußler fencing master dynasty—later continued by the equally prolific but far more scientific-minded Roux clan. It also represents a special case in view of the fencing traditions of its student body, which adhered to the use of the thrusting sword for Mensuren longer than anywhere else in Germany.
Jena thrust duels would be fought with Stoßdegen (thrusting swords adapted from the late 18th-century French smallsword or dueling épée and called Pariser or Stößer.) The seconds, however, would be armed with their walking sticks—the famous Ziegenhainers.
This doesn’t mean these sticks played a subordinate role. In fact, the Jena Professor of Philosophy (and prominent advocate for the abolishment of thrust fencing with the elongated “wälsche Banditendolch“—”Frog” bandit dagger) Karl Hermann Scheidler considers the Ziegenhainer-wielding second the crucial part in a Stoßmensur: The active protector and advocate of his fencer, the enforcer of rules—and the man most likely to be grievously wounded by the opponent or his own Paukanten.
(In 1843, Scheidler also relates an incident during which Jena and Leipzig students ended up in a major brawl, during which their walking sticks found ample if unscientific use.)
The original Ziegenhainer is made from a sapling of the Kornelkirsche or European Cornel (cornus mas), a species of dogwood also known as Cornelian Cherry. This hardwood is more common in southern and southeastern Europe and had found combative usage as material for lance and spear shafts as far back as the Roman Empire.
Ziegenhainer came in both straight and “corkscrew” variations, the latter being produced by the targeted symbiosis of the cherry sapling and a vine that was artfully laid across the growing tree to produce the curvature. (Later versions, often made from chestnut wood, simply cut the “screw” into the wood.) The knob used as the handle is part of the plant’s root stock.
The benefit of this walking stick was two-fold: In thrust Mensuren, a hardwood stick was all that was needed to knock an opponent’s illegal thrust off-target before it hit one’s own Paukanten. And, as part of a fashionable gentleman’s everyday outfit, it could be brought to indoor or outdoor dueling events without putting yet another set of expensive swords at risk of being confiscated by university or police authorities.