In January 1859, a board of cavalry officers convened to develop recommendations for new cavalry equipment. The board eventually decided the Grimsley Cavalry Saddle no longer met the needs of the US military & recommended the McClellan Saddle become the official US Cavalry saddle.
The new saddle, now called the Pattern 1859 McClellan, included improvements on the 1857 pattern including exposed rawhide seat, leather bridle skirts now screwed on with 14 brass screws per side, 2 iron foot staples screwed into the front of the pommel for coat straps, 2 on the rear of the cantle & 2 on the sidebars for attaching saddlebags. The new saddle also had a carbine thimble, also called a socket, that buckled onto the right side D-ring.
Interestingly, most saddle experts no longer believe the McClellan Saddle is a distillation of Prussian, Hungarian & British designs. Instead, the saddle owes more to the saddles used in Texas & the Southwest, which George McClellan would have been able to closely observe during his participation in the war with Mexico & subsequent occupation of parts of Northern Mexico in 1846-48.
With removal of the horn, which is unnecessary for a military saddle, the western-style saddle looks almost exactly like the McClellan saddle tree.
The McClellan Saddle, which continued to be upgraded & improved – the final modifications were made in 1928 – was used throughout the Civil War & remains arguably the best known & most widely used saddle in US history.
If you have a military item you would like to know more about, take a picture of it & email it to us or call our toll free Kansas City office. You never know what treasure might be hiding in that dusty footlocker.