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MODEL 1879 WHITMAN SADDLE BAGS – A VERY NICE SELECTION OF A KEY PIECE OF INDIAN WAR CAVALRY EQUIPMENT:  A necessary piece of horse equipment to complete your saddle display, these sets of Model 1879 Whitman Saddlebags have survived in remarkably nice condition.  Introduced with the other Horse Equipments recommended by the Cavalry Board of 1879, while the saddles apparently were not made or issued in any great numbers, these unique saddle bags gained a substantial acceptance in the field. 

They were used not only with the Whitman saddles, but with the McClellan Saddles - Models 1874 and 1885 - available in the field at the same time, as evidenced by known period photographs such as this image of a cavalry soldier in the 6TH US Cavalry serving in the Arizona Territory in the 1880’s.  He is mounted on what appears to be a Model 1885 McClellan Saddle, and he is equipped with a pair of Model 1879 Experimental (Canvas Version) Saddle Bags – solid period evidence that these Model 1879 Saddle Bags were issued concurrently with equipment from other model-years.

       

Any of the Indian War era saddlebags have become difficult to find, particularly in the condition of the sets of bags offered here.  Considering the rarity and expense of the Model 1874 and Model 1885 Saddlebags, these sets of Model 1879 Saddlebags are priced very reasonably and will be very appropriate for displaying on your Indian War McClellan. 

I currently have the following sets of saddle bags in stock and each set is described and priced individually below with accompanying photographs.  

 

SET NO. 1 MODEL 1879 WHITMAN SADDLE BAGS COMPLETE WITH LINERS AND BELLY STRAP:  Both of the bags are notably in very good condition with full pliable outer flaps complete with all of the full length closing billets and buckles, the exterior pouches on the faces of the bodies are complete and intact, and the gussets, commonly found split or torn, are fully intact, smooth and very pliable.  All of the brass hardware, to include the belly strap rings at the bottom of each bag, is present and intact.  The flaps are both embossed with a legible "US" in the oval. 

The interior liners, of a pattern, and made from a material, unique to these Model 1879 bags, are present and intact with the proper full length leather lacing around the opening which holds them in place.  Made of same brown duck material from which the Indian War haversacks were made, these liners are specially cut and lock into the bags not only with the lacing around the opening, but via whip stitched "button holes" through which the main flap closing straps are fed before passing through the top slots of the flap.  The near side liner is nicely ink stamped along the top of the back side with the arsenal inspector’s initials “WMH”.  

An added value to this set, not only are the original liners present, but the original belly strap is as well.  The strap is full length in the body, is complete with both brass buckles and leather keepers, and the billets are present and intact with no tearing or wear.  The tips of the billets have been shortened - a very common practice by the Indian War soldiers in order to eliminate any unnecessary lengths of leather which would snag or become entangled with other equipment or brush and other debris while on campaign in the field.  These belly straps are most often missing, having been separated from the bags years ago, are very difficult to find on the loose, and certainly add to the value of this set of saddlebags.   

The seat, or yoke connecting the two bags that passes across the back of the saddle, is strong and complete with both leather keys used to secure the saddlebags to the foot loops on the rear sidebar extensions of the saddle, both brass footloop reinforcement plates, and the round brass reinforcement plate in the center of the span.  There is also a neatly executed hole cut in a cloverleaf pattern above each of the footloop slots and the leather around each of these holes has been reinforced with stitching.  As the footloop slots on the M1879 Saddlebags were situated for the foot loops on the Whitman Saddles, when these bags were used on the McClellan Saddles the footloop slots did not necessarily match up with the footloops on the cantle of the McClellans.  In order to secure these bags on a McClellan, either a second set of footloop slots had to be cut, or as in this case, an expedient method was used that is known to have been used as early as the Model 1868 McClellan saddles – simply punching a set of holes that would correspond to the spacing of the equipment rings on the rear side bar extensions of the saddle.  The saddlebags were then placed on the cantle, the saddle bag stud was engaged and the equipment rings were pulled through the holes in the saddlebag yoke and the friction of the yoke leather against the staple holding the ring in the saddle was sufficient to keep the bags in place.  When the leather was new and still had some give to it, a relatively small hole was sufficient for the ring to pass through and still be small enough to be held in place by the ring. 

There is some minor wear in the upper corners of the bodies of the bags, again very typical of these bags and certainly those that saw actual use in the field, but not to the extent that the integrity of the bags is compromised and not to the point of being unsightly.   There is of a neatly applied patch to the lower portion of the gusset on the off side bag, a small wear hole reinforced with stitching on the back side of the near side bag, and the right hand buckle billet strap on the near side bag has been replaced.  These are old field repairs, both are very well executed, and they were definitely done during the period these bags were used in the field - likely the work of the company saddler, and certain evidence that these bags were used in the field.  These repairs do not show any indication of work that was recently done and I believe they are not only contemporary to the bag’s use, but also consistent with the kind of work done by company saddlers. 

Overall, this is a very nice, attractive set of saddlebags that has survived service in the field in remarkable condition and will definitely enhance the appearance and value of your saddle. SOLD - SEE NEXT PAIR BELOW

 

SET NO. 2 MODEL 1879 WHITMAN SADDLE BAGS:  Both of the bags are notably in very good condition with full pliable outer flaps complete with all of the full length closing billets and buckles, the exterior pouches on the faces of the bodies are complete and intact, and the gussets, commonly found split or torn, are fully intact, smooth and very pliable.  All of the brass hardware, to include the belly strap rings at the bottom of each bag, is present and intact.  The flaps are both embossed with faint, but legible "US” in the ovals.  The original lacing around the top of the left side bag which secured the interior liner is full length and present.   

The seat, or yoke connecting the two bags that passes across the back of the saddle, is complete with both leather keys used to secure the saddlebags to the foot loops on the rear sidebar extensions of the saddle, both brass footloop reinforcement plates, and the round brass reinforcement plate in the center of the span.  There is also a slot cut above each of the footloop slots – a commonly seen soldier executed field modification seen on these bags.  As the footloop slots on the Model 1879 Saddlebags were situated for the foot loops on the Whitman Saddles, when these bags were used on the McClellan Saddles the footloop slots did not necessarily match up with the footloops on the cantle of the McClellan saddles.  In order to secure these bags on a McClellan, a second set of footloop slots had to be cut that would match those on the saddle.  The yoke shows evidence of wear and age, with the surface crazed with some flaking, but the leather is supple and intact.  There is a legible early style ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL stamp in the “rising sun” cartouche outline on the yoke, just above the left bag. 

There is a point of minor wear in the upper right hand corner of the left side bag body that has been repaired with a reinforcing piece of leather applied to the inside of the bag.  The repair is well done and not unsightly.  There is some light worm tracks on the outer surface of the bags and flaps, but it is very minor, and overall the bags retain the original pebble grain finish with a nice bright sheen. 

Although showing some signs of use and age, this set is still very attractive and in very good condition, and will definitely enhance your cavalry display. (1049)  $850

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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