War to the knife

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mortal combat; a conflict carried to the last extremity.

See also: Knife

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by G. & C. Merriam Co.
References in classic literature ?
So the strife settled down into a personal affair between Flashman and our youngsters--a war to the knife, to be fought out in the little cockpit at the end of the bottom passage.
The texts under consideration, Jules Verne's Among the Cannibals (1868), Joshua Kirby's Henry Ancrum (1871), Emilia Marryat's Amongst the Maoris (1874), Sygurd Wisniowski's Tikera (1877), and Rolf Boldrewood's War to the Knife (1899), are linked not only by setting but by their engagement with two key tensions at work at both the structural and the ideological level.
War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori was published in 1899.
War to the Knife opens with a sense that an Oxford education and ownership of a country estate do not offer sufficient scope for a true man.
But Muhammad's credo of war to the knife needed a reliable army.