The images courtesy U.S. Cavalry Museum, Ft. Riley, Kansas.
The M1857 McClellan is very different from
the M1859 that was finally adopted as the "winner" of the cavalry equipment
field trials of 1857-58. It shared the same tree shape, although many other differences
can be seen. Instead of a rawhide cover, the metal reinforced- wooden tree was covered
with an thin black varnished leather cover. The rigging was very similar to the Hope's,
and was essentially the same as the later M1859. The cinch was somewhat different, but was
operated in the same manner as the M1859. The side skirts, screwed to the sidebars, were a
common feature between the M1857 and the M1859 McClellans. Saddle bags were not used with
the M1857, in their place was a rather overly-efficient pair of small pouches, rectangular
in shape, joined at an angle to a short 'seat'. This seat fitted behind the cantle much
like the later style saddlebags, although the pouches were fitted snugly up against the
rear face of the cantle. Straps were provided for securing a cantle roll over these
pouches. Visually, these pouches are very much like the pommel pockets used on the M1912
service and M1917 officer saddles.
The stirrup arrangement was essentially the same as the M1859, with
the exception that the hoodless stirrups themselves were covered with the same thin black
varnished leather. No hoods were used, although the stirrup straps and sweats were
present. All hardware, including buckles, were made of polished brass.
The first year of the trial showed a particularly
bothersome problem for the McClellan saddle, which was to plague the design for the next
fifteen years. The thin varnished leather was prone to cracking and splitting along the
edges of the pommel and cantle; these areas being high stress areas for cover material.
All McClellan trial saddles built in 1858 were fitted with brass moldings, similar to the
Grimsleys, in an effort to reduce the incidence of seam splitting. The later rawhide cover
of the 1859 saddle was to eventually show this same defect, with the same
"solution" being applied. It was not until 1871-2 that a widespread use of
leather over rawhide saddles put an end to this recurrent problem.
All trial model McClellans (310 sets) made in 1857 were
built built by Messr. Lacey & Phillips, a saddlery firm in Philadelphia, Pa. They
constructed the very first prototype saddle for Cpt. McClellan, which was submitted the
War Dept., prompting the acceptance for evaluation. The saddle shown at left was the last
of the trial model type saddles, as all afterwards incorporated recommended changes that
make up the M1859 specifications. This was sent with a large group of military equipment
as part of an exchange with the Danish government. This saddle has been kept in the Royal
Arsenal Museum in Copenhagen ever since - it has never been used.
An unknown number of additional M1857's were made (with
brass moldings) between August and November 1859, by the three companies that were
contracted with for saddles. These companies (350 sets contracted from each) were:
Lacey & Phillips, Knorr & Nece of Philadelphia; and Robert Hartley &
Company of Pittsburgh. In November, this contract was amended by Brevet Major Peter
V. Hagner, commanding officer of Frankford Arsenal, so that all remaining saddles would
conform to the M1859 specs. - most significantly the rawhide cover.
Pardon the rough images - they are scans of photocopies of a photocopy of an
original poorly printed b&w academic Danish publication circa 1970...personally, I'm
surprised you can see anything at all! The Royal Arsenal Museum isn't particularly
easy to work with, and there are apparently no existing photographs or images available.
So, next time anyone's in Copenhagen...