In stock

Original U.S. Civil War Unmodified M-1863 Artillery Horse Bit by Alexander Barclay, Newark NJ - U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade

Regular price $525.00

Sale price

Compare at $650.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. During the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) it is estimated that between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000 equines died, including horses, mules, donkeys and even confiscated children’s ponies. It is also estimated that the horse casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg alone, July 1 and July 3, 1863, exceeded 3,000. Diaries and letters of soldiers often mentioned the stench of dead steeds rising up from the fields of battle, and although thousands of horses were killed on the battlefield, disease and exhaustion were the major causes of death.

The Horse Artillery Brigade of the Army of the Potomac was a brigade of various batteries of horse artillery during the American Civil War.

Made up almost entirely of individual, company-strength batteries from the Regular Army's five artillery regiments, the Horse Artillery operated under the command umbrella of the Cavalry Corps. The Horse Artillery differed from other light artillery (also known as "mounted" artillery) in that each member of the unit traveled on his own horse, rather than the traditional light artillery practice of "drivers" riding horses pulling the guns, while the cannoneers rode on the limbers and caissons. Ordinarily, though, the cannoneers traveled on foot behind their respective guns. But, with each man on his own horse, the unit could travel faster and more efficiently. It was the brainchild of former artillery captain and Brig. Gen. William Farquhar Barry, Chief of Artillery for the Army of the Potomac, in 1861. With such a large percentage of the U.S. Horse Artillery being artillery batteries from the regular U.S. Army, it developed a superb reputation for military efficiency, accuracy of fire, and command presence in the field and in battle. These mobile artillery units were typically equipped with 3-inch Ordnance rifles, known for their reliability and accuracy.

Originally under the direct command of Lt. Col. (and future Brigadier General) William Hays, and later under the two-brigade command of captains James Madison Robertson and John C. Tidball, the Horse Artillery served with distinction during most of the major engagements in the Eastern Theater. Tidball's brigade later was commanded by Capt Dunbar R. Ransom.

It is notable that each of these men - Barry, Hays, Robertson, and Tidball - came from the officers corps of the 2nd Regiment of Artillery. One of their chief champions, Henry Jackson Hunt, commanded the Reserve Artillery in the Army of the Potomac, and was also an officer of the 2nd U.S. Artillery.

The Model 1863 Artillery Curb Bit was originally produced as a brass faced bit with the dome shaped, brass shell lead filled decorative bosses bearing the intertwined USA.  The brass facing, a holdover from the earlier Dragoon Period, did not survive well in service and as the underlying iron began to corrode, the thin brass sheeting would break away.  After the war, the army, having long recognized corrosion as a significant problem, had the time and resources to seek out a solution and they began experimenting with plating – both tin and nickel –  on firearms, bits, and a number of fittings associated with horse equipment.   

As a result of the 1868 Ordnance Board, the following order regarding bits was issued as part of Ordnance Memoranda No. 9:   

“TINNING ARTILLERY AND CAVALRY BITS – The Board recommend (sic) that all new artillery and cavalry bits should be tinned, and that all old bits requiring repairs or cleaning should likewise be tinned, instead of bluing or replating.”

In the process of refurbishing the Model 1863 Artillery Bits then in service, the decorative “USA” bosses had to be removed. The thin brass shell likely did not survive being removed in a condition that would be acceptable to be reattached. The more substantial cast brass “US” bosses in use on cavalry bits were far more durable, were much easier to attach, and were available in quantity, so as the artillery bits were refurbished, or new bits were produced, the cast “US” bosses replaced the “USA” domed shells.

This example is in its original early war configuration with the intertwine domed “USA” rosettes on the sides. There is no damage or cracks that we can find and there is a partial makers mark on the left side above the USA for “A. Barclay / Newark”.

Condition it excellent with much of the original finish present. There is minor surface rust but nothing damaging. This is an incredible example that would be hard to upgrade from!

Comes more than ready for display!

  • This product is available for international shipping.
  • Eligible for all payments - Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AMEX, Paypal & Sezzle


Cash For Collectibles