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MODEL 1904 ENLISTED MAN’S SERVICE SADDLE CLOTH – ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL MARKED – BEARING INSIGNIA OF THE 6TH CAVALRY REGIMENT - HISTORICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE SERVICE OF THE 6TH IN SEVERAL HISTORICAL CAMPAIGNS INCLUDING THE 1916 MEXICAN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION – AN EXCELLENT EARLY 20TH CENTURY CAVALRY ARTIFACT:  As described in the Ordnance Department Manual No. 1719, Horse Equipments and Equipments for Officers and Enlisted Men, dated 1905 (Revised in 1908), this Model 1904 Enlisted Man’s Service Saddle Cloth bears the yellow enameled regimental numerals, indicating it was used by an enlisted man serving in Company G of the 6TH US Cavalry Regiment.  

Created during the Civil War, the 6TH Cavalry Regiment saw continued extensive service on the Western Frontier during the Indian Wars.  As the United States extended its influence beyond its borders, the first two decades of the 20TH Century saw the 6TH posted to assignments in the Far East and down into Mexico.   

In 1900, the 6TH Cavalry Regiment reported to the Presidio of Monterey, and from there transshipped to China as part of the China Relief Expedition (as depicted in the well known film, 55 Days At Peking), and elements of the 6TH were among the first units to enter the Forbidden City as part of the relief column.  At the end of 1900, the 6TH was transferred to Manila for service during the Philippine Insurrection.    

The regiment returned to the United States in 1903 and stationed at Fort Meade, South Dakota.  During this assignment, the regiment was deployed to intercept a band of White River Ute Indians who had left the Uintah Reservation in Utah and traveled through Wyoming on their way to South Dakota.  While this intervention ended peacefully, this assignment officially marked the last action of the U.S. Army against the American Indian.   

In August of 1907, the regiment returned to the Philippine Islands in accordance with the system of unit rotation of that era.  After this period of active service in the field which resulted in four Medals of Honor awarded to troopers in the 6TH, the regiment returned to the United States in 1909.   

Beginning in 1910, in response to the unrest in Mexico the regiment began a series of rotations into assignments along the southern international border.  In 1913, the regiment was deployed to Texas City, Texas with individual companies scattered along the border.  While the 6TH does not appear in the Order of Battle for General Pershing’s expedition into Mexico, the official history of the regiment states the regiment took part in the Punitive Expedition and the unit earned the “Mexico 1916-1917” campaign streamer for its flag for this service.       

This particular Model 1904 Enlisted Man’s Service Saddle Cloth would have been in the inventory of the 6TH Regiment during the 1904-1918 years and certainly could have been issued to a trooper in Company G during any one or more of the postings detailed above.   

Model 1904 Enlisted Man’s Service Saddle Cloths are anything but common – as the name implies, they were intended to be used in the field, and in the context of the service experienced by the 6TH during this period, harsh environments and constant use took a heavy toll on the soldiers’ equipment.   This specimen is particularly notable as it features the rare applied enameled leather unit insignia.  The yellow enameled leather numerals and letters “6 G” on both rear corners still retain virtually all of the vibrant yellow color, and survive in full form with no loss of surface nor any wear or damage to the edges of the leather.   In addition to the regimental numerals on the saddle cloth, there is also a faint, but still discernable “ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL” ink stamp on the underside of the right side panel, just off of the spine. The underside of the left rear corner is bears an ink stamp “32”, a unit applied inventory control number. 

The olive drab duck material, still retaining the rigid, sized nature of the fabric when it was new, is not misshapen nor is the fabric weakened or torn as seen on many heavily used examples.  The fabric does show evidence of use with some lightened areas where the saddle soiled the canvas and the material was cleaned.   The canvas spine is strong and fully intact.  The edge binding is fully present with some wear along the edge, commensurate with the extent of the unit’s service, but not to the point that it detracts from the appearance of the cloth when on display.  All the seams are intact and strong.    

As the army’s designation implies, these khaki canvas “service” saddle cloths were intended to be used in the field and due to the heavy use in extreme conditions to which they were exposed, few survive today in decent condition.  This was confirmed when having handled dozens of these saddle cloths held in museum and private collections in the course of the research for The American Military Saddle 1776-1945, it became quite apparent that the majority of these cloths which did survive were subjected to heavy use – almost to destruction - and they exhibited severe wear.  Understandably, the thorough soaking of horse sweat and the accumulated and concentrated deposits of body salts from the horse rendered these cloths especially prone to deterioration and eventual disposal.   

Hence, surviving examples of these cloths in any condition are not common today, making those worthy of displaying relatively scarce and further still, specimens identified to historically significant units even more so.  The added value of this Model 1904 Enlisted Man’s Saddle Cloth being identified to a cavalry regiment and troop who were present at such significant events in history such as the relief of Peking, the Philippine Insurrection, and the Punitive Mexican Expedition, will clearly make this piece a key addition to any saddle collection.  SOLD

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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