MODEL 1874 SADDLEBAGS – VERY NICE SET – UNIT
IDENTIFIED: One of the more difficult early
Indian War Cavalry pieces to locate in any condition,
this particularly nice set of Model 1874 Saddle Bags is
complete with all the billets, buckles and pouch ties.
This set shows some use, but no abuse nor any
significant damage. The leather is very live and supple,
and still retains an overall smooth shiny surface. The
outer flaps, bodies, gussets and the inner pockets
attached to front of the main compartments on both sides
show very little evidence of wear or aging. All seams
are tight and intact, all the billets are full length
and supple, and all the buckles and standing loops are
present. The off side bag has the sewn in linen liner.
The near side bag has had all four of the tin buttons
removed which were sewn at the mouth of the bag to mount
the linen liner. This near side bag was intended to
carry the soldier’s rations and I suspect that the
liners typically became soiled to the point of revulsion
and with it discarded, the soldier removed the buttons
rather than having them there to snag on the contents.
The two outer covers are stamped with the “US” in the
oval, somewhat lightly stamped but still legible.
The seat is solid with the saddle bag stud hole and both
standing loop key tabs intact. There were two
additional slots cut in the seat during its period of
use to accommodate the continued use of these bags on a
saddle where the foot loops were located in a different
position than on the Model 1874 McClellan Saddle, such
as the Model 1879 Whitman or the Model 1885 McClellan.
This sort of modification is very characteristic of the
Indian Wars horse equipment, as the equipment continued
to be used due to fiscal restraints. There are four
very well executed repairs on the underside of the seat
to points along the edges where the leather was worn.
These very solid repairs are blended well to the
surrounding leather and are only visible from the
underside of the seat and do not show when the bags are
Of special interest is the arsenal stamping on the seat
or leather connecting the two bags, “U.S. ARSENAL
BENICIA”, as the production of horse equipment at
Benicia was quite small as compared to Watervliet and
Rock Island. The seat is also stamped with a “6” or a
“9”, depending on how the numeral is viewed, as a single
stamp was used for both characters. Applied as unit
identification marks, the numerals indicate that this
set of bags was issued within the 6TH or 9TH
Regiments of U.S. Cavalry. Both regiments were active
in the American Southwest in the New Mexico and Arizona
Territories, and those regions were supplied and
supported by the Benicia Arsenal.
The scarcity of early Indian War horse equipment cannot
be overstated and many specimens that do exist show
considerable wear, aging and damage. This set of Little
Big Horn era saddle bags has survived in remarkable
condition and in addition to being a scarce piece of
equipment which will never need to be upgraded, this set
of Model 1874 Saddle Bags is a treasured addition to any
Indian War collection.