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IDENTIFIED CONFEDERATE SURGEON’S SADDLE – OBTAINED DIRECTLY FROM THE FAMILY – REGIMENTAL SURGEON OF THE 28TH TENNESSEE VOLUNTEER INFANTRY:   Acquired recently from a direct descendant, this beautiful example of a Confederate Officer’s Saddle belonged to a Surgeon in the Confederate Army, who served with the 28th Tennessee Infantry Regiment.  Supporting the identification and history provided by the family, this saddle incorporates many of the characteristics common to saddles known to have been owned and/or used by officers who served in the Army of the Confederacy.   Well cared for through the years to surface today in remarkable condition, this saddle obviously belonged to a man of means whose memory was held in such high regard that his descendants protected this saddle from the ravages of time and exposure that so often severely damaged or destroyed the few precious Confederate saddles that exist today.    

This saddle belonged to Dr. Paul Carrington Clay, a resident of Smith County, Tennessee.  Dr. Clay was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and shares the same paternal great-grandfather as the well known Senator Henry Clay, famous in the American political arena in the first half of the 19th Century.  In spite of his advanced age at the outbreak of war, Dr. Clay joined the 28th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry in August of 1861, serving as the Regimental Surgeon.  Dr. Clay survived the war and resumed his practice in Smith County.  His daughter Sally married Leroy Cornwell, also a veteran of the War, having served with the 15th Virginia Cavalry.  Upon the death of Dr. Clay in 1874, this saddle passed down to Sally and her husband, and then on through the successive generations to the present day.   

The saddle presents as a melding of the basic profile of the familiar McClellan Saddle and includes characteristics of the Southern Plantation Saddle common to the South in the antebellum period.  Overall, the saddle is in excellent condition, and presents a beautiful, gently aged treasure.  Retaining a smooth shiny surface on the leather, all of the components are present and complete to include the original girth, and what wear is present is primarily confined to areas on the underside of the saddle, hidden from normal view.       

The seat, to include the pommel, cantle, and side bar front and rear extensions, is fully covered in smooth russet leather.  The seat proper is made from a single piece of leather that is formed to rise over the crests of the pommel and cantle and is secured on the front and rear faces of these arcs respectively by separate pieces of leather nailed to the exterior faces of the pommel and cantle.  The seat leather depends over the stirrup strap loops in short jockeys and each side of the seat is attached with a single row of broad headed iron nails.  The seat features a carved linear floral pattern of decoration across the seat face of both the pommel and cantle and along the bottom edge of the side jockeys. The front and rear extensions of the side bars and tops of the pommel and cantle arcs are covered with leather panels, attached with both small iron nails and larger flat domed nails.  These panels feature the same pattern of carving as is present on the seat. Iron equipment rings were attached with simple iron poultry staples to the forward and rear extensions of the side bars; however the ring on the left rear extension is the only one still present.  The residual pairs of holes where the other three were attached are still plainly visible.  

The saddle features two sets of skirts – the large exterior leather skirts and a smaller interior set of cloth and leather skirts.  The stirrup straps and girth billets are attached to the side bars between these skirts so that neither billet chafes against the horse.  The large, full length leather skirts have the same carved edge decoration as the seat as well as a large, simple floral pattern carved in the center of the skirt, reminiscent of a chrysanthemum, a flower with classic southern association.   

The interior skirts are constructed of a single ply of light weight russet leather backed by a horse hair stuffed, cloth covered pad that also covers, and is contiguous to, the underside of the side bars.   The cloth used for this under-padding is a light canvas or light burlap type material.  The use of this cloth covering on the underside of the saddle is a characteristic consistent in saddles associated with the Confederacy due to the shortage of leather during the war. 

The stirrups are the light weight wood frame construction covered with leather hoods, which are attached with iron nails common to the Civil War era.  The leather appears to be pig skin, again a feature common to the Confederacy who used pigskin as a sturdy substitution for cow hide that was in demand for more critical needs.   

The original girth is present and was attached at the time the saddle was collected.  The girth body is a narrow strap of natural colored woven cloth, likely cotton, fitted with iron roller buckles on each end attached with a leather chape.  The wear to the girth is consistent with the condition of the saddle and with examples of girths known to have been used during the Civil War, causing me to believe the girth is original to the saddle’s period of use.   

Included in the sale of this saddle is an extensive body of research that has been assembled in a large binder, to include:

* statements and the original information obtained from the family; 

* photographs of Dr. Clay, his daughter and son-in law, and the family cemetery in Smith County, Tennessee;

* extensive Genealogy records of families involved, including genealogical information illustrating the link between Dr. Clay and Senator Henry Clay;   

* Dr. Clay’s military service records;  

* census records, including slave census records listing Dr. Clay, and 

* several different published family histories.  

This Confederate Officer’s Saddle, identified to a Regimental Surgeon and direct from the family in the heart of the old Confederacy, and accompanied by well documented provenance is indeed a very rare offering and will be a substantial addition to even the most advanced Confederate Arms collection.  (0705) $4250

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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