McClellan Saddle

McClellan Saddle

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Usage conditions apply
Physical Description
Leather seat, straps, and skirt with wooden stirrups.
General History
Captain George B. McClellan toured Europe with a military commission looking at new military tactics. Reportedly influenced by the saddles of Hussars he observed in Europe, McClellan returned and developed a new modified cavalry saddle. In 1859, the U.S. War Department adopted the McClellan saddle. They remained the standard issue throughout the history of the horse cavalry. The saddle was simple and less expensive than most. It was light enough not to weigh down the horse, yet it was sturdy and gave good support to the rider and his gear. In its original form the seat was covered with rawhide but was changed to leather in later incarnations. It featured a thick leather skirt and a leather covering for wooden stirrups. In addition, there was a girth strap made of woolen yarn. The McClellan saddle was placed on top of a saddlecloth, shabrack, or saddle blanket.
Currently not on view
Object Name
McClellan, George B.
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
wood (stirrups material)
overall: 24 in x 40 in x 30 in; 60.96 cm x 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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This particular artifact is in excellent condition and is fair reprensentaion of the mdl.1859 McClellen except its pommel and cantle brass arch covers. These protect the seams of those exposed areas and were offered as an "Officers Model" embellishment later along with leather covering of the rawhide seats. As the McClellen replaced the 1847 Grimsley in service and it had such arch coverings as well these may be a feature culled from War Time production for reasons of economy and expediency. In my personal opinion the 1859 is closer influenced by original mdl. 1833 Grimsley Dragoon saddle than the "Hussar" styles for 1841- 45- and '47 which were used and failed in between. The '33 was a "Spanish" rawhide tree complete with horn and had skirts and Brass stirrups. I have made a replica and others have as well there are only 2 photos extant to my knowledge.
In the mid 1970's I was fortunate to discover a saddle like or very close to it. The leather that held the saddle buckle rotted to the point where the buckle was free from the saddle itself. So, I took the buckle and buried the saddle where I found it. The question I have is who made the buckles and where can I find this information.

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