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CIVIL WAR ARTILLERY DRIVER’S LEG GUARD  – WATERVLIET ARSENAL STAMPED – EXCELLENT CONDITION:  This a very scarce Artillery Driver’s Leg Guard manufactured at the famous Watervliet Arsenal.  As with much of the equipment specific to the Light (or “Horse”) Artillery of the Civil War and Indian War eras, the function and importance of the leg guard is not something fully appreciated by the collector.   

The artillery field piece and the attendant ammunition caisson was a heavy, cumbersome piece of equipment and required a substantial team of horses to move it.  The standard span consisted of four or six horses, harnessed as pairs in line, with each pair identified by the position they occupied in the harness.  The wheel team was that pair immediately in front of the caisson; the swing team was next in line, preceded by the lead team.  Each horse was further identified by the position they held in their particular pair – viewed from the caisson and gun carriage looking forward towards the horses’ rumps, the horses on the left side were the “near” horses, and those on the right were the “off side”.  The near horse in each pair was ridden by a driver who was responsible for the direction and management of both horses in his pair. 

While the driver was mounted in his saddle, his right leg hung down between the body mass of his horse and the heavy wooden tongue which ran from the caisson up through each pair of horses.  At any pace faster than a walk, the movement of the horses, the tongue and the trace chains combined to create a genuine threat to the driver’s lower leg. 

Worn over the calf of the driver’s right leg, this guard features a substantial steel plate which protected the driver’s leg from being crushed.   

The heavy black leather guard is in excellent condition and does not appear to have been issued.   The strap that passes under the boot heel and over the arch of the foot is complete and intact, and the four closing straps that surround the leg and close the guard are full length, unbroken and complete with the black japanned buckles.  The leather body has an overall smooth, bright shiny surface with only minor flexing where the guard was folded in storage.  The straps show some crazing due to age and storage, but there are no weak points.  The steel guard plate is present, still firmly attached and still retains the greatest majority of its original black lacquer japanned finish.  The body of the guard is legibly stamped “WATERVLIET ARSENAL” and with the inspector’s name, “A.R. SMITH”.   

These Driver’s Leg Guards do not appear to have survived in significant numbers, and they are fairly scarce on the collector’s market, especially those which were made within the US Army’s arsenal system.  This is an excellent specimen and would be a key piece to display with a Grimsley Artillery Driver’s Saddle or with a later Indian War period McClellan Saddle which replaced the Grimsley.  (1005)  $675



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