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MODEL 1885 2ND PATTERN McCLELLAN CAVALRY SADDLE – 10TH CAVALRY REGIMENT IDENTIFIED – A VERY DESIRABLE HISTORICAL INDIAN WAR SPECIMEN – INCLUDES 10TH CAVALRY MARKED MODEL 1885 CARBINE BOOT:  This is a very nice set consisting of a solid example of the very desirable and comparatively scarce Indian Wars era Model 1885 Second Pattern McClellan Saddle and a Model 1885 Carbine Boot – both well marked with unit inventory stamps identifying the equipment as having belonged to the famous 10TH US Cavalry Regiment.   

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.  This particular saddle was originally collected many years ago in El Paso, Texas, significant in that both sides of the border area around El Paso was a favored settlement area for former troopers who had retired from the Buffalo Soldier regiments – the 9TH and 10TH Cavalry, and the 24TH and 25TH Infantry regiments.   

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 amazingly good condition with all of the major components intact, as well as featuring several special pieces not normally found with these old saddles.    

The seat is very solid, featuring smooth, bright leather overall, with only light crazing and none of the typical surface flaking so often seen on these Indian War era saddles.  The left inside face of the pommel is stamped “G 10 32”, indicating this saddle was inventoried as Saddle No. 32, in G Company of the 10TH Cavalry Regiment.    

Behind the cantle, on the rear extension of the left side bar, there is the legible inspector’s stamp “D.C.L”, indicating the saddle was manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal and inspected by D.C. Leonard, one of the better known inspectors at that arsenal.  This confirmation that the saddle was manufactured within the Ordnance Department arsenal system is a significant added value.   

All of the seams on the seat are intact with the exception of the lower edge of the rear extensions of the side bars.  These edges, only visible from under the seat, show the typical wear caused by the abrasion of the side bars against the saddle blanket and the hip bones of the horse.  As these wear points, seen in the photographs below, do not show on the top surface of the side bars they do not detract from the display quality of the saddle. 

The quarterstraps are all present.  The quarterstraps on the far (right) side are intact and unbroken, and connected to the full form safe which bears the arsenal piece worker’s initials “MM”.  The near (left) side quarterstraps are full length, but have both been repaired where they join the girthing ring and safe.  Both repairs appear to have been done concurrent to the period of use of the saddle, perhaps by a soldier who continued to use the saddle after he left the regiment whether by discharge or desertion.  These near side straps, girthing ring and safe are all original to the saddle and are correct, and the repairs are such that they were probably an expedient effort of the rider working with what he had on hand at the time.    

All of the brass hardware to include the coat strap mortise plates, foot loops, staples and rings are present and intact.   Note that the pommel shield plate is of the style used on the Grimsley Artillery Driver’s Saddle and was either applied as a necessary replacement or possibly an affectation, the more decorative design appealing to that particular soldier.  Again, this plate as been with the saddle for a very long time and is most likely original to the period of use.   

The saddle features two special pieces – an original Model 1874 Coat Strap which was the correct coat strap used with these Model 1885 Saddles, and a Model 1874 Link Strap.  Original Model 1874 Coat Straps are almost nonexistent and they are rarely encountered on surviving saddles from the period.  They were relatively fragile, given to wear out and break, or to have been separated from the saddles when they passed into the surplus market.  Finding one present on this saddle is very notable.  The Link Strap appears to have been on the saddle since the period of use, and while the original purpose of these straps was to connect three riderless horses to a fourth ridden by a trooper who would then lead them off of the skirmish line and to a safe point in the rear, this strap appears to have used as an extra equipment strap by the trooper who rode this saddle, perhaps to hang his lariat or an extra canteen.  Both of these straps add significantly to the “as used” appearance of this saddle.   

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 and legible 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.       

Completing the saddle is a very nice Model 1885 Carbine Boot, complete with all three full length straps, all buckles, a very legible Rock Island Arsenal stamp, and most importantly, it is also stamped “C (or G) 10 53 (and 66), indicating this boot was also in the inventory of the 10TH Cavalry Regiment.  The company letter could be either a “C” or a “G”.  That the soldier number “53” was over stamped by “66” is not unusual, and is an indication it was issued to more than one soldier.  This carbine boot is a very nice complement to the saddle and mated together increase the value of both pieces.   

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 a very good specimen of the Second Pattern Model 1885 McClellan Saddle with some very desirable features. Never easy to find on the market, it is a saddle seldom found in even the most advanced Indian War collections.  (0530) $4750

 

 
 
 
 

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