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CIVIL WAR OFFICERS BRASS BOUND McCLELLAN SADDLE –  A VERY NICE QUALITY SADDLE:  This well preserved example of a Civil War Officer’s Brass Bound McClellan Saddle is indeed a scarce offering.  Seldom appearing on the open market, they normally move quietly from one collection to another without seeing the light of day.  In excellent condition, this classic example of a Civil War officer’s private purchase saddle built on the familiar McClellan pattern, incorporates enough unique features to overwhelmingly argue that this saddle was produced under a special order for a senior, and very likely affluent, officer.   

This saddle bears some resemblance to the saddle pictured and described on page 48 of The American Military Saddle, 1776-1945, as well as sharing some similarities with the Civil War officers saddles pictured on pages 50 and 53 of the same volume, particularly the use of double skirts and the positioning of the quarterstraps between the two layers of skirts.   

The pommel and cantle arcs are protected with decorative brass molding which also served to protect the critical seams at these points.   The outer faces of the pommel and cantle, and the upper portions of the seat on the pommel and cantle are all covered in fine grained black leather.  The seat is fitted with a brass pommel shield and the three brass oval escutcheon plates on the coat strap slots in the cantle.  The saddle differs from a standard McClellan form by having wider shelves in front of, and behind, the pommel and cantle arcs respectively.  These wider shelves would have provided more support for a set of pommel holsters on the pommel shelf and a valise on the cantle shelf than the narrower arcs on a regulation pattern saddle.   

The saddle is fitted with double skirts.  The lobe-shaped outer skirts are considerably larger than seen on many Civil War officers’ saddles and may suggest this saddle was produced earlier in the War.  The smaller profile inner skirts are integral to the leather covering the underside of the tree. All four skirts are full form and retain an overall bright shiny finish, showing minimal wear and no damage.  The inner skirt on the off side has a small reinforcement high up under the outer skirt – not visible unless you went looking for it with some effort.  It is very well executed to improve the integrity of the saddle and certainly nothing that detracts from the appearance of the saddle, but mentioned here in the interest of a full description.     

When originally rescued, this saddle had sat in poor storage for many years and unfortunately, the original quilted seat had suffered damage at the hands of time, exposure, and I suspect more than one raccoon or barn rat.  Although the quilted seat was still attached, the leather surface was gone, the stitching had long since given out, and the padding was held together only by the presence of the original hand forged copper nails used by the original maker, holding what was left of the padded seat in place.  As there was no possibility of restoring the seat, a pattern was made from the original and the replacement seat that is now present was fashioned.  It is a faithful reproduction which adheres to the size and profile of the original, aged to match the appearance of the saddle in tone and texture, was attached with the original copper nails in the original holes, and quite honestly, without being told most people viewing the saddle would never realize the quilted seat had been replaced.   That the original quilted seat was so severely damaged through the years is not unusual, as the decorative stitching perforations which formed the quilting weakened the leather, and in time they served to accelerate the deterioration and subsequent loss of these items.   

There are four iron rings anchored with iron poultry staples on the front extension of the sidebars – two on each side - and likewise, two rings attached in the same manner on each side of the cantle shelf behind the seat.  There was no provision for a saddle bag stud, and it is likely this officer employed a valise rather than saddle bags.   

The quarterstraps depending from their anchor points on the tree are situated between the two skirts and join at an unspaded “D” ring on both sides.   

The saddle is complete with matching brass stirrups, similar in style to the Model 1833 Stirrups, but of a lighter weight and finer profile.  Like the M1883 Stirrup, the treads on these stirrups have been roughened, raising “teeth” by gouging the surface with a tool to improve the purchase of the rider’s foot in the stirrup.  The stirrups hang from full length original stirrup straps. 

Included with this saddle are two coat straps which were made many years ago with old brass faced horseshoe shaped buckles and new leather.  The straps have a nice aged appearance, blending well with the saddle, and are a nice complement to attach a valise should you decide to do so.  The benefit of the new leather is that it support more weight and handling than old leather, and you will not run the risk of breaking an original strap.  

The style and embellishments exhibited in this saddle leave little doubt that it was manufactured under a special order placed by an officer of some financial means, and the evidence of wear suggests it was a saddle used in the field, most likely during the War.  While the minor wear and aging present are consistent with, and to be expected in, saddles from the Civil War period, this Officer’s Saddle is in overall excellent condition, and will make for a very dramatic centerpiece for your collection.  SOLD



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