Original U.S. WWI Cavalry McClellan Style Saddle

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Offered in very good condition and complete with blanket.

When the war began, practically all Army purchases of harness were made thorough the Jeffersonville, Indiana Quartermaster Depot.1 Early in 1918, purchasing was moved to Chicago because most of the suppliers were near that city. Given the vast extent of the stockyard and cattle slaughter industry in Chicago, it is not surprising that leather-related industries also grew up there.

Just as in the wagon industry, the beginning of the war saw shortages of manufacturing facilities for harness. The Quartermaster Corps made a careful survey of all possible suppliers, and “every manufacturer having proper facilities has been consulted regarding needs, and in a majority of cases induced to take on his proper share of the work.”

The cavalry - though bear in mind that by the time the U.S. entered the war, cavalry battles were not being fought - would have used a version of the McClellan saddle. Resembling a stripped-down U.S. stock or western saddle, the McClellan was first introduced not long after the Civil War and had changed little over the years. It had a wooden framework, or tree, which was leather covered but had no padding on the side presented to the rider (on some saddles, there was sheepskin on the side for the horse.)

The stirrups were made of wood and had leather covers over their fronts, both to protect the front of the rider’s foot and to provide warmth in cold weather.

There were no saddle flaps, that is, the leather panels that hang down the sides of the horse and cover the girth. Rather, there were on each side, two angled straps which formed a triangle, fastened to the front (pommel), rear (cantle), and at their base to the billet straps, which in turn fastened to the girth, or cincha.

The cincha was made of 24 strands of 6-ply spun and twisted horsehair rope, knotted on the ends to a ring to which the billet straps were tied.

To keep the trooper’s leg from being rubbed by the straps and the horse’s side, the rider wore short boots topped with canvas leggings, which had buckles that fastened around multiple levels between knee and ankle.   

The saddle had several rings, holders, and straps on which to fasten things like bedrolls, ammunition pouches, and of course the rider’s sabre. Fully loaded, the saddle and the rider’s equipment weighed about 45 pounds.

McClellan saddles were also used with horses who pulled guns and limbers. These vehicles did not have a place for a driver to sit, and consequently, one horse in each pair of pulling horses or mules was also carrying a rider, who guided and controlled that pair. In fact, most of the McClellan saddles in France were worn by draft horses, not by saddle horses.

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