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MODEL 1904 ENLISTED MAN’S SERVICE SADDLE CLOTH – ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL MARKED – BEARING INSIGNIA OF THE 13TH CAVALRY REGIMENT - HISTORICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE 13TH’S PRESENCE AT COLUMBUS, NEW MEXICO DURING VILLA’S RAID IN 1916 – EXCELLENT 1916 MEXICAN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION ERA 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 E of the 13Th US Cavalry  Regiment.   

The prolonged revolution in Mexico which had been festering through the first years of the 20TH Century caused the US Army to station troops along the border from Texas through Arizona (…go figure…).  In 1916, the 13Th US Cavalry Regiment was garrisoned in southern Texas and New Mexico, with Troops A,B,C, and D stationed in Alpine, Marfa and Valentine, Texas, and the balance of the regiment was stationed in and around Columbus, New Mexico.  As with all the other units so deployed, the duties of the 13TH included patrolling the border and establishing a presence in order to protect United States citizens and discourage incursions across the border by the various groups of Mexican revolutionaries.   

On March 9TH, Poncho Villa ordered some 500 revolutionaries to cross the border and  raid Columbus, resulting in part of the town being burned and in the deaths of some eight soldiers and ten civilians.  In response, President Woodrow Wilson ordered General John “Black Jack” Pershing to mount the famous Punitive Mexican Expedition of 1916 – regarded by some as the initiating event which led to our eventual entry into World War One.   

While garrisoned with the rest of the regiment in Columbus, on the day the raid occurred Troop E had been detailed out to the Gibson Ranch, some 15 miles west of Columbus.  So, although Troop E was not present in the town during the raid, the troop, like the rest of the regiment, was immediately involved in the pursuit of the raiders across the border into Mexico.  This saddle cloth certainly would have been in the inventory of Troop E at that time and would have been issued to one of their young cavalry troopers.   

Model 1904 Enlisted Saddle Cloths are anything but common, and this specimen is particularly notable as it features the rare applied enameled leather unit insignia.  The yellow enameled leather numerals and letters “13 E” on both rear corners still retain the majority of the vibrant 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 legible ink stamped “ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL 1907” on the underside of the right side panel, just off of the spine.  

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 light stains from the imprint of the saddleFrom the shape of the saddle imprint, several experienced saddle collectors have opined that this cloth was used under a Model 1912 Enlisted Man’s Service Saddle – and this opinion is further supported by the documented use of the Model 1912 Saddles by the 13TH Cavalry Regiment.  The canvas spine and edging is fully intact with no significant wear and no tearing, and 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 were subjected to heavy use and 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 a significant event in history as the Columbus Raid, and then participated in the Punitive Mexican Expedition, will clearly make this piece a key addition to any saddle collection.  (1110)  $895 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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