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MODEL 1868 McCLELLAN CAVALRY SADDLE – EXCELLENT SPECIMEN OF A SCARCE EARLY INDIAN WAR PATTERN:  This is an excellent example of the scarce early Indian Wars Model 1868 McClellan Saddle.  The first Indian War period modification of the McClellan Saddle following the Civil War, this saddle features the correct brass molding that was added to the top edges of both the pommel and cantle as described in the Ordnance Department regulations.  Complete with original quarter straps, girth straps, stirrup straps, sweat leathers, hooded stirrups, and with all of the iron and brass hardware intact, the condition of this saddle is remarkable.   

While showing some signs of issue and use, the rawhide covering the seat is complete and has remained bright with very little discoloration due to age.  The only seam separation is under the cantle arc, notable as most of these early saddles show considerably more open seams due to the nature of the rawhide and from use and age as the rawhide was subjected to moisture and repeated dryings - one of the common characteristics of these early saddles.  This one section of the seam is open, however the rawhide lays solid against the tree without being loose or curling.  There are three stress cracks in the rawhide on the interior face of the pommel, again the result of repeated exposure to moisture and drying and the aging of the rawhide.  These are all stable with no curling and they do not detract from the appearance of the saddle.  Overall, the seat is very attractive and presents far better than is normally encountered on these early Indian War frontier saddles.      

The black leather components are all in excellent condition with no breaks or tears, are still supple with no weak points, and generally retain a bright shiny surface.   

The skirts are in full form and supple, and the saddle bag retaining straps are present on both of the skirts.  The leather surface is overall smooth with very little sign of wear or aging.   

The quarter straps are full length and are properly joined at the original unspaded “D” rings, from which depend both full length girth straps.  It is not unusual to find the quarter straps shortened on these saddles, an adjustment applied by the unit saddler in order to properly fit the saddle to a particular horse.  Keeping in mind that the quarterstraps on these early saddles were fixed and had no provision for adjustable quarterstraps that would be incorporated with later models, this was the only means of properly fitting the saddle to a horse whose confirmation was dictated more by its use and exertion on the frontier, and less by a standard of confirmation established at an arsenal in the east.  That these quarter straps survive in their original length is therefore notable and worthy of mention.    

Often missing from these saddles, and almost impossible to find on the loose, the two original sweat leathers are present and they are both in excellent condition with both stirrup strap loops present on each one.  The original full length stirrup straps are in very good condition with no weak points.    

The stirrups are particularly nice, with strong wooden frames that have no splits or damage and full form leather hoods which retain a bright smooth shiny surface.   The standard Civil War McClellan Saddle Hooded Stirrups featured a narrow tread and a closely fitted leather hood, both of which served to provide the soldier with a very short space to fit his shoe or boot, making it difficult to “keep” his stirrups.  In response to the soldier’s complaints, as are featured on this pair of stirrups, the depth of the front bell of the hoods was increased to provide a better purchase on the stirrup.   

This saddle includes a notable feature which adds to the collector value.  The Civil War era McClellans, both the early pattern Model 1859 and the later war pattern Model 1864 Saddles, were chosen from those in the available post-war inventory to execute the upgrade of adding the brass molding to the pommel and cantle.  The army had plenty to choose from as the stocks of Civil War horse equipment, including saddles, would be counted in the tens of thousands as late as 1880.  I am quite certain that the saddles chosen for the upgrade were selected on the basis of condition rather than Model 1864’s over Model 1859’s, and this saddle presents as an example of that selection.  This saddle was manufactured as a Model 1859, identifiable by several characteristics – the pommel shield bears the numeral “2”, a size indicator rather than the later format designation such as “11 ˝ INCH SEAT” which was used on the post-1863 saddles; the “unspaded D rings” at the bottom of the quarter straps; the sewn saddlebag retention straps on the skirts which were attached with rivets on the Model 1864 Saddle; and the absence of the brass maker’s tag which was not required until after 1863.  These early characteristics all serve to present this particular Model 1868 Saddle as an interesting study specimen.   

Overall this is an excellent and complete example of the early Indian War Model 1868 McClellan Saddle, difficult to find available on the market and seldom found in even the most advanced Indian War collections. SOLD

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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