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MODEL 1885 2ND PATTERN McCLELLAN CAVALRY SADDLE – EXCELLENT AND VERY DESIRABLE INDIAN WAR SPECIMEN:  This is an excellent example of the very desirable and comparatively scarce Indian Wars era Model 1885 Second Pattern McClellan Saddle.  Well documented in Ordnance Memoranda No. 29, and one of the most familiar of the series of McClellan Saddles issued during the Western Indian Wars period, the Second Pattern Model 1885 McClellan is closely associated with the historic Apache campaigns in the American Southwest.   

Manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal for a relatively short period of time, these Model 1885 McClellans saw extensive service on the frontier and eventually in the Spanish American War, and both conflicts accounted for a high rate of consumption with few decent specimens surviving to enter the surplus and eventual collector’s market.  This specimen, although showing the expected evidence of use, has survived in excellent condition.  

The seat is very solid, featuring smooth, bright shiny leather overall, with none of the typical surface crazing and flaking so often seen on these Indian War era saddles.  There are some numerals stamped into the pommel and one quarterstrap, likely unit applied inventory numbers. 

There is a pattern of marks on the offside area of the cantle seat face that warrants comment to appreciate the story these saddles have to tell.  When the soldier was mounting his fully equipped horse, ready for campaigning in the field, the cantle roll consisting of his bedding blanket, nose bag, saddle bags posed quite a hurdle to clear with his right leg.  As he swung his boot – of course, fitted with a spur – over the roll, it was common that his heel would drag across the seat as he lowered his foot to the stirrup below and the spur rowel would mark, or “chuff” the surface of the seat leather, leaving a series of telltale marks isolated to this particular area of the seat.  These marks are fairly distinct once you know what you’re seeing, and at times the points of the rowel leave distinctive lines of pin marks.  These marks have also been noted on the right side of the butt stock on the carbines carried by the troopers – something to watch for. 

The seams are intact throughout with the exception of a small area of wear on the rear edge of the nearside sidebar and a very small spot of edge wear at the crest of the pommel – neither one noticeable or detracting from the overall appearance of the saddle.    

The quarterstraps are all intact and unbroken, connecting at the full form safes on both sides and complete with the girthing straps.  The off side front quarterstrap has been reinforced at the edge of the side bar where the leather was weakened with use and age – a well executed restoration that is unnoticeable when the saddle is on display.  The quarter straps were shortened during the period of use and secured to the girthing rings and girth safes with rivets.  Keeping in mind that the quarterstraps on these early saddles were fixed and had no provision for adjustment as would be incorporated with later models, shortening the straps in this manner 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.  This unit saddler applied adjustment to the length of the quarterstraps is further evidence of this saddle’s use on the frontier.  Both of the original girthing safes are full form and consistent with the use and wear of the saddle, bear only traces of the arsenal and pieceworker’s stampings.  

All of the brass hardware to include the coat strap mortise plates, foot loops, staples and rings are present and intact.   

The stirrups are both full form, have complete solid leather hoods, and full form unbroken wooden frames.  The stirrups show some wear, as all true Model 1885 Stirrups do, but one still retains a legible “ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL” stamp.  The "US" in the oval is present on face of both of the hoods.  More importantly, the stirrups are a matched pair and have been together forever.  The stirrup straps are full length originals with the correct iron buckles, with no weak points and retaining a very nice finish.   

As the final saddle of the Western Indian Wars, the Model 1885 McClellan Saddles have an air of historical magic all their own, and are still one of the most sought after pieces of cavalry equipment by serious Indian War collectors.  Overall this is an excellent and complete specimen of the Second Pattern Model 1885 McClellan Saddle, one that is difficult to find available on the market, and seldom found in even the most advanced Indian War collections.  (0330) $5500



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