Friday, November 30, 2012

On the road again

I haven't always been a homebody.  There was a time, in fact, when my whole life revolved around getting in the truck...
and heading down the road to set up shop (literally) in some far away southern state.
Those days have long since passed, but lately I feel as if I've reclaimed my travelling ways.  Last week it was St. Louis, and today I'm getting on a plane to Chicago where I'll be visiting my bestie...
and attending the Great Lakes Congress No Frills December show.
I have no doubt this is going to be the most fun weekend ever, and  I can hardly wait to tell you all about it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More tack at the US Cavalry Museum

Although no saddle is as closely associated with the United States Cavalry as the McClellan, that was not the only saddle used by American army troops.  Today's post showcases some of the non McClellan saddles in the U.S. Cavalry Museum's impressive saddlery collection.
This first display was entitled: Personal Saddles.
The information accompanying it read: Many officers prior to the Civil War chose to select their own saddles.  The figure shown here is an officer around 1858 with what was called an "eagle saddle."  This saddle is typical of a private purchase, and was used from the 1830's through the 1870's.
James told me this was his favorite saddle at the museum and possibly his favorite saddle of all time.   
 I think mostly he liked the bird!
Another display highlighted some experimental saddles. The first is the Whitman.  Per the signs:  The Whitman was experimental from 1879 to 1905.  Two models were produced: one with a saddle horn and one without.  The Whitman influenced the 1885 McClellan saddle, which incorporated many of the improvements intended for the Whitman.
The Whitman saddle was preferred by many officers for garrison and dress ceremony, but they found that campaigns required the proven quality of the McClellan.  The Whitman saddle introduced changes in the tree construction and changed the fabric of the cincha strap from cloth to hair.
The next experimental saddle is the Model 1812.  This saddle was deigned to replace the McClellan and was produced from 1912 to 1918.
An outstanding feature of the M-1912 was the self-adjusting sidebars, which allowed conformation to the horse's back which changed in size and shape over an arduous, long march. 
The Model 1912 had removable pads so that thickness could be added to or cut away to adjust for cuts or sores on the horse while on the march.  Nickel steel stirrups needed only wiping with an oilcloth for maintenance.  Complete sets of equipment were adopted including halter, bridle, rifle and sabre carriers, and a combination picket pin and entrenching tool (shovel, axe, pick).
Following extensive tests, the new saddle was found to lack durability required for cavalry use.  The design was soon dropped, in favor of the old M-1904 McClellan.
The Chemical Protection tack was another favorite of James.
In fact, he made a point of telling me that I should make this is model scale.
Here's a look at the sign accompanying this display.
Another pack saddle...
and another sign! 
This concludes my tour of the inside of the U.S. Cavalry Museum.  I hope you've enjoyed this celebration of American military tack!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

McClellan saddles at the US Cavalry Museum

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the U.S. Cavalry Museum was the Saddlery room.  
Not surprisingly, most of the display space in the saddlery room is dedicated to the McClellan saddle and its evolution from 1859 to 1928.  All the words are quoted directly from the museum's signage.

George B. McClellan recommended some equipment changes for the army in his report to the U.S. Senate in 1857, after his trip to Europe and the Crimea.  This was the birth of the McClellan saddle.  For nearly one hundred years, the McClellan saddle has been the standard U.S. Cavalry saddle despite repeated changes and criticism.

In 1859, it replaced the Grimsley saddle that had been in use since 1847.  
The McClellan was thought to be more economical, easier to maintain, and hopefully more helpful in eliminating saddle sores on the horse.

The Model 1859 was the first McClellan saddle used by the American cavalry.  The skirt protects the horse from the rigging and the rider's legs from horse sweat.  The skirt was an economy measure placed under the quarter straps, eliminating the necessity for an underskirt.
The Model 1859 featured a "tree" made of poplar and beechwood, covered with exposed rawhide, giving its yellowish color.  The rawhide seems were carefully placed on the edges of the sidebars, so they would not chafe the horse's back. 
Major changes for the Model 1874 McClellan saddle included the removal of the saddle skirts, and covering the tree with leather, replacing the earlier rawhide.  The seams on the pommel and cantle were reinforced with welts of leather... The letters US inside an oval were stamped on the hooded stirrups for the first time.  New heart shaped safes were attached to the quarter straps and to the girth billets on the off side only.
The McClellan saddle was again modified in 1885 with changes in the saddle tree, the rear portion of the seat was slightly hollowed out, conforming more to the seat of the rider and permitting him to sit farther to the rear, which provided more comfort for the horse.
The Model 1885 saddle was adopted for the Cavalry, and for the first time was used for field artillery.  New stirrup rings allowed the stirrups to hang naturally.  Cincha straps replaced the former girth billets, and a 24 strand hair cincha replaced the older wide linen web girth. 
A major modification of the 1904 Model is in the shape of the tree.  The bottom edges of the side bars are almost perfectly straight.  The color change was the result of a 1902 uniform regulation which changed all army leather equipment from black to russet.  The bottom of the side bars was trimmed with a layer of sheepskin having 1/2" fleece. 
 The Model 1904 had fully adjustable girth/quarter straps, not only forward and backward, but vertically also.  This conformed to the horse as it gained or lost weight.  New straps were sewn on in a manner such that the opening of the stirrup hood was thrown out a quarter turn from the horse's body for easier mounting.
About 1913 the Quartermaster Department modified a number of Model 1904 trees by adding two cinchas and a metal horn to the pommel.  This model was designated the Mule Riding Saddle.  The Mule Saddle was issued to packers who rode saddle mules with Army pack trains.
On the Model 1913, the quarter straps were arranged with two rigging rings and a connecting strap to accommodate two girths as the saddle was used for packers on mules.  The mule's breeching and breast harness was attached to the saddle by the standard rings and stables on both the pommel and cantle.
 By 1928, a major objection to the McClellan saddle was that troopers could not get their legs around the horse easily because of the double girth billets and an olive drab cotton web girth.  These straps were then covered by a leather skirt.  Note how this new skirt addition made the saddle resemble the very first model back in 1959.
The Model 1928 was the last modification of the McClellan saddle.  In 1924, the sheepskin lining of the side bars of the Model 1904 was replaced by felt pads, and this modification was incorporated into this 1928 model. 
But that's not all--outside the Saddlery room, I spotted another McClellan saddle.
The sign accompanying this one read:  Civil War Federal Officer's McClellan with quilted seat: This saddle was very popular with Union soldiers for its comfort and style.  While the saddle is considered a McClellan, it bears a striking resemblance to the Grimsley saddle.  Its Grimsley like features include elongated and forward tilted skirts, ribbed seat, and brass bound cantle.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the history of the McClellan saddle.  My next post will feature more military tack.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barney the saddle pig

One of the highlights of my recent trip to St. Louis was meeting my blog friend, Tracie.  I'd brought a couple saddles with me for a little show and tell, and it didn't take long before those saddles ended up on Tracie's guinea pig, Barney.
Right from the start it was obvious that Barney is a natural born saddle critter who is equally comforatble under English...
and Western tack.
Squee!  He's so cute.  I wish I'd have brought an Arabian costume, too!
I'll always love my rattie girls, but Barney has me rethinking my choice of rodent.  Thanks so much for sharing him with me, Tracie!

Monday, November 26, 2012

U.S. Cavalry Museum

The United States Cavalry Museum is located on Fort Riley, which is a US Army installation located in on the banks of Kansas River, between Junction City and Manhattan.
Fort Riley was established in 1853 as a military post to protect trade along the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails.
When the Civil War broke out, the vast majority of Fort Riley's troops were sent eastward. However, some soldiers remained to guard those traveling west, and the base was utilized as a prisoner of war camp for captured Confederates.  In the years following the Civil War, troops from Fort Riley were engaged in many skirmishes with the Native Americans.
As the Indian tribes were pushed further and further into Indian Territory many of the frontier forts were closed and abandoned. Fort Riley, however, became a training facility.  In 1893, Fort Riley became the site of the Cavalry and Light Artillery School.
In the years that followed, the school changed names several times. It was called the Mounted Service School from 1907 until World War I, when instruction ended for the duration of the war. 
In 1919, it was reincarnated as the Cavalry School.  It continued operation under this name until October 1946. With the final disposition of tactical cavalry horses in March 1947, the Army ended all training and educational programs related to mounted troops.
The museum building was built in 1854 and was used for nearly thirty years as the Post Hospital.  In 1889, it was remodeled and repurposed, serving as Post Headquarters until 1948. In 1957 it became the home of the Fort Riley Museum.
It was renamed the U.S. Cavalry Museum in 1962.
Today, the museum's nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibit space tell the story of the American mounted horse soldier from the Revolutionary War till Operation Desert Storm. 
Included in the Museum's collection are uniforms, 
weapons,
saddlery,
art,
and other memorabilia.
This is a fascinating museum for horse lovers and military buffs alike.  Even my non-horsey, non-military family enjoyed our visit.
(Ok, maybe Ryan was a little less impressed than the rest of us!)
If you should find yourself in the vicinity of North central Kansas, I can't recommend the U.S. Cavalry Museum enough!