McCLELLAN CAVALRY SADDLE – EXCELLENT SPECIMEN OF A RARE
INDIAN WAR PATTERN:
This is an excellent
arsenal produced example of the rare Indian Wars era
Model 1874 McClellan Saddle – the saddle identified most
often with the end of the Custer era - being the last
model issued immediately before the famous battle on the
Little Big Horn River. While this pattern was approved
by Ordnance Board of 1874, production in the first two
years was quite limited due to financial restraints.
Initially, company level saddlers modified existing
stocks of earlier model saddles by simply covering them
in black leather; however these unit modified specimens
lacked any arsenal or inspector stampings.
While this product of Rock Island Arsenal does show
minor evidence of issue and use, the saddle is complete
with all quarter straps, girth straps, stirrup straps,
hooded stirrups, and with all of the brass hardware
intact, and is in remarkable condition.
There are some unit applied
inventory stamps on the seat face of the pommel and
there is the characteristic spur rowel scar on the right
inside face of the cantle where the soldier’s right foot
would drag when he mounted into his seat. Otherwise,
the leather covering of the seat is complete with an
even shiny surface, and all the seams are intact. The
quarter straps do show some surface flexing, but
generally have a bright shiny surface and are full
length. The quarter straps join at a spaded “D” ring on
the off side, and at a round ring on the near side, and
full length girth straps depend from both fittings.
Both rings are backed with the proper “heart” shaped
As evidence that this
specimen was made within
the arsenal system, there is an inspector’s stamp “D.C.L.”
on the rear extension of the right side bar – the
inspector stamp of D.C. Leonard, who is known to have
been employed at Rock Island Arsenal from the late
1870’s into the 1880’s. The original stirrup straps are
full length, and while showing some surface loss to
flaking, the straps are stable, strong and flexible.
The strong wooden stirrup frames have no splits or
damage, have the proper 3” wide treads, and both hoods
have a legible “US” on the front. One stirrup hood is
missing a rivet, but this does not detract from the
appearance and the other rivets are firmly attached.
Of particularly valuable note, this saddle still retains
all six, original full length coat straps, each held in
place with the original leather stop on each strap that
captures the strap to keep them from being removed.
This feature alone sets this saddle apart from most
surviving examples, as these coat straps were subject to
wear and tear, and to being lost, and original
replacements are almost impossible to find on the
Included with the saddle is a Model 1872 Girth in
excellent condition. While of an earlier pattern,
except for the increased width of the Model 1874 Girth
the two - the Models 1872 and 1874 - were identical in
form, materials, and construction. With the financial
restraints of the Indian War army, the Model 1872 Girths
were certainly used until the stocks on hand were
exhausted. This girth measures 21” long, 5 5/8” wide
and the leather safe under the “D” ring is stamped
“US”. The linen body is fully intact without any holes
or wear spots, and the leather is overall intact with
nice surfaces, making this girth an excellent example to
display with this saddle.
The Model 1874 McClellan Saddle is without a doubt the
most iconic piece of US Army cavalry equipment of the
Indian Wars era.
Few collections, public or
private, have been fortunate enough to obtain any
specimen of this saddle, regardless of condition or
completeness. Many, if not most, of the specimens that
survive were the result of a company saddler’s upgrade,
and very few arsenal produced specimens exist today.
This is an excellent example of this rare saddle that is
seldom available on the market and few are found even in
the most advanced Indian War collections.