Early Issue Original Civil War McClellan Enlisted Man’s Saddle


Early Issue Original Civil War McClellan Enlisted Man’s Saddle - In April 1855, six years before the start of the Civil War, Captain George B. McClellan sailed to Europe as part of a military commission to study developments in European tactics, weaponry, and logistics. McClellan’s focus was the organization of engineer troops and cavalry. After the one-year tour, during which time McClellan observed several battles of the Crimean War, McClellan brought back almost 100 books and manuals. In the late 1850s, McClellan, drawing upon his European observations, submitted his own design for a cavalry saddle that he claimed was a modification of a Hungarian saddle used in the Prussian service. The saddle was almost certainly a modification of the Spanish tree saddle in common use in Mexico during this period, and which had become common in some parts of the U.S.

The future general’s design, forever after known as the McClellan saddle, was adopted by the U.S. War Department in 1859 and remained standard issue, in various models, for the remaining history of the horse cavalry. The original M1859 version was the form used during the Civil War. The original McClellan design saw numerous subsequent modifications after the Civil War, yet the saddle always remained recognizable as McClellan’s design, which included cavalry and artillery models. In addition, a model for packers was introduced as the M1913.

This original Model 1859 McClellan saddle is the type issued to Federal mounted troops during the Civil War.  In overall solid, heavily used condition, this wartime issue, cavalry saddle is the early production, M1859, evidencing the non-spaded D-ring attached at the convergence of the quarter straps. In addition, the brass, size shield affixed to the pommel, is blank, with the exception of a small number 3 stamped in it, also indicative of early issue. The saddle retains its open-seat tree covered with the original rawhide which is all there, with the exception of some small wear areas on the front and rear of the cantles; there are some reparable seam openings, as well. The overall condition of the rawhide is good and remains reasonably supple. Most of the original brass escutcheons at the cantle and pommel mortises remain., as do the footed tree staples, with couple missing.  Screwed onto the McClellan saddle, per original construction, is the original set of large, black harness leather sweat skirts. Both pommel and cantle leather quarter straps, joined by the early, non-spaded D-ring, are present, over the skirts; one of the quarter straps is all there, but has been nicely repaired – this repair is not visible from the outside of the saddle. Both original stirrup straps, fitted with iron, roller buckles for adjusting length, are secured to the original, large, bent, white oak or hickory stirrups, each wrapped in a black leather hood or boot.  This saddle was obtained, by Perry Adams, from a group of mid-19th century horse related items that had included period horse tack, as well as several period wagons, discovered in an old barn in central Ohio. Given the dirt, manure, straw and various other debris found on this saddle, it appears that it might have been in the barn for at least 100+ years. In solid, strongly displayable condition, this saddle definitely saw use during the Civil War. We have completely cleaned the saddle, so it is ready for display as an iconic and essential piece of equipment of the mounted soldier of the Civil War.

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