Use of Spanish Moss as a Saddle Pad

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wkambic
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Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:35 am

The current edition of the U.S. Cavalry Association Journal has a fascinating article on the use of Spanish Moss in the manufacture of items of tack. The specific item under consideration is a saddle pad. When the stadium for the TN Titans in Nashville was under construction a large “dump” of Civil War era artifacts was uncovered. Among the more common items (such as shoes, metal pieces, etc.) were mats of something that no one recognized. A local man took some of these home, cleaned them, and identified them as saddle pads being made of Spanish Moss. The Confederacy, short on wool, used the material extensively for horse equipments. He then set out to recreate the item. The story is fascinating.

“Spanish Moss” is neither from Spain nor is it a “moss.” It’s not a parasite. It is an epiphyte, a plant that grows upon another but draws moisture and nutrition from the air. It is common in the Deep South and is the often the artistic backdrop for the romance and mystery of the region.

There was a time when it was also an important raw material in the manufacture of saddle pads, lead ropes, halters, and bridles. It is a strong, resilient material and can be used as a substitute for wool or horsehair in many products.

It’s use began more than 300 years ago and the industry was once quite robust. It was actually in use for many decades as a saddle pad and stuffing material before the ACW. It began to die out in the 1950s when foam rubber replaced it as a stuffing for car seats. There has been a small resurgence for some specialized agricultural uses.

The entire story is told in the most recent edition of the Cavalry Journal. Join the U.S. Cavalry Association and read all about it!!!

http://www.uscavalry.org/
Bill Kambic

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browerpatch
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Fri Mar 23, 2018 3:34 pm

There was a discussion of this some years back on the Civil War Reenactor's forum. I don't know if it was archived or not, but if you dig enough you might turn it up. Anyway, as best I remember, someone actually made a few of these. Ken Knopp, in "Confederate Saddles and Horse Equipment" has a photo of a moss collar from the Macon Arsenal, and a photo of the blanket excavated in Nashville in 1995.
Frank
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Todd
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Sat Mar 24, 2018 9:30 pm

Ken Knopp has all the poop on those Nashville artifacts. I believe he may have been involved in a very short run of reproduced saddle pads.

Recent research into the trial saddles of the 1850s I've been doing reminds me that US Army tried these in 1855 with the Campbell pattern equipment. The moss blankets were viewed with a 'meh' (to use the modern vernacular) in most of the review letters sent by officers. Apparently they didn't hold up very well.
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Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:46 am

Were these blankets in some sort of envelope, or were they just compressed moss? There was a moss industry in my home town when I was little and I saw a lot of it, but I can’t see it being used loose.
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Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:27 am

Couvi wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:46 am
Were these blankets in some sort of envelope, or were they just compressed moss? There was a moss industry in my home town when I was little and I saw a lot of it, but I can’t see it being used loose.
The core of the spanish moss strands is a very strong black fiber. They would 'ret' the moss and remove the black core fiber which could be spun, twisted and woven that like any other fiber. It was strong, elastic and tended to have excellent wicking properties. The sections of old mat I've seen in pics looks like they were woven with moss fiber made into light 'rope'.

Here's some links of interest:

https://www.ravenecho.com/articles/3/188/

viewtopic.php?t=7941

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/spanish-moss.14877/

http://confederatesaddles.com/2008/10/24/416/

While this was seen as an expedient by confederate forces, the idea had already been tried by the US military in 1855-56 with the experimental Campbell equipment sets used by the fifth squadron of 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments. From the reviews received, the durability of the 'moss rugs' wasn't good.

And this looks familiar... https://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/foru ... addle-pads
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Todd
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Wed May 09, 2018 9:14 am

A NOTE OF CLARIFICATION:

For those that may not realize it, the current "US Cavalry Association" is NOT the same organization as existed before 1950. The original Cavalry Association morphed into the US Armor Association about that time, and appears to have (relatively recently) re-branded to be the U.S. Cavalry & Armor Association.

The current US Cavalry Association was first organized as the "US Horse Cavalry Association" circa 1976, and operated under that name until about 2000-2002(?), when it appears that they obtained permission by the Armor Association to use the original name. Which, frankly speaking, just confuses the situation - especially with the re-branding of the US Cavalry & Armor Association.
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