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MODEL 1904 OFFICER’S SERVICE SADDLE CLOTH – 18TH INFANTRY REGIMENT - CREDITED TO AN INFANTRY OFFICER WHO SERVED ON THE BORDER DURING THE 1916 MEXICAN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION:  As described in the Ordnance Department Manual No. 1719, Horse Equipments and Equipments for Officers and Enlisted Men, dated 1905, this Model 1904 Officer’s Service Saddle Cloth bears light blue enameled numerals, indicating it was owned by an officer serving in the 18Th US Infantry Regiment.   

This saddle cloth was originally acquired many years ago with a Model 1904 McClellan Saddle, 1st Pattern, and matching Model 1904 Saddle Bags – the complete set – from an old Connecticut estate, purchased from the grandson of the officer who owned the equipment.  According to the grandson, the officer rode this set while serving with the 18TH Infantry on the Mexican Border during the Punitive Expedition Period in 1916.  At the time of the acquisition, the officer’s name was not recorded.   

To add insult to injury – that this sort of thing happens is to cry for – due to mishandling during a subsequent auction, the saddle and saddle bags were separated from the saddle cloth and irretrievably delivered to the wrong bidder.   

In addition to the regimental numerals on the saddle cloth, there is also a very distinctive stamping on the underside of the russet leather spine and on each of the two leather knee pads on the forward edges of the saddle cloth  - a stamped “US” framed by a stamped crescent on each side of the letters.  This same unique group of stamps was applied to the aforementioned McClellan Saddle on both sides of the upper quarter strap that passes behind the cantle of the saddle, and on both of the girth safes, leaving no doubt that the saddle and saddle cloth were used together when these stamps were applied.  The significance of the crescents has not yet been determined, but there is certainly enough heraldry and history associated with this stamping for the next owner to continue the research. 

If only one of the three pieces was obtainable, certainly this saddle cloth is the premier piece of the set, for not only is a decent Officer’s Service Saddle Cloth difficult to obtain, but this specimen is particularly notable with the rare applied enameled leather unit insignias and the “US” stamping previously described.  

It is a historical fact that the 18Th Infantry was stationed in South Texas from 1913 through 1916 and participated in the Punitive Expedition.  It is worth noting that the officer who owned this saddle cloth, and most certainly used it as he rode the Mexican Border, was certainly in good company, for at least two of his fellow officers would rise to prominence in the years to come.  Then 1ST Lieutenants George C. Marshall and Alexander M. Patch both served in the 18Th during the Expedition - the former rising to Chief of Staff of the Army and the latter to command the 7TH US Army in Europe during World War Two. 

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 as seen on many heavily used saddle cloths.  The fabric does show evidence of use with some light stains from the imprint of the saddle and the where the stirrup and girthing straps hung down across the lower front corners There is a wear point immediately adjacent to the leather spine, but when displayed under a saddle this section of the cloth will not be readily apparent.  The russet leather spine is fully intact and all the seams are intact and strong.  The russet leather trim around the edge of the cloth shows some isolated areas of expected wear, but no substantial loss and the great majority of the trim is present and in good condition.   The wear to the trim is limited to the points where straps and/or equipment attached to the saddle chafed against the edge of the cloth – typical wear for a cloth that has seen field service.   

The light blue enameled leather numerals “18” on both rear corners still retain much of the vibrant color, and survive in full form with no loss of surface nor any wear or damage to the edges of the numerals.    

As the army’s designation implies, these khaki canvas 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. Understandably, the thorough soaking due to horse sweat and the continued and concentrated deposits of body salts from the horse, these cloths were especially prone to deterioration and eventual disposal.  Hence, surviving examples of these cloths in any condition are not common today, making examples in this condition relatively scarce.  With the added value of being identified as having been used by an officer in a particular unit, and to events and personages during the well known Punitive Expedition, clearly this Officers Saddle Cloth will be a key addition to any saddle collection, and would display beautifully under a McClellan or an Officer's Whitman Saddle.  (0041C)  $1050

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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