Model 1896 McClellan saddle
Lt. Odus Horney (Ordnance Dept, US Army) is credited with developing what was
essentially an entirely new saddle, although dimensionally very similar to the McClellan.
Indeed, it retained the McClellan name despite the many changes, as it obviously was so
close in appearance to the earlier models.[click here to see his 1897 report]
Lt. Horney's task was to mechanize the saddle production process. Prior to this time
(mid-1890s), all saddletrees were civil war surplus, which had been hand made with
resulting variances in dimensions. The time to produce a saddletree would also be quite
long, even for an experienced saddletree craftsman. To accomplish the mechanization of the
saddletree making process, Lt. Horney had to make some changes in the tree itself.
First, the wood used was changed with the poplar sidebars and beechwood pommels and
cantles of the civil war saddles being replaced with basswood bars and ash pommels and
cantles. The metal reinforcing plates of the earlier varieties were replaced with a one
piece stamped metal bracket, which was riveted to both the pommels and the cantles to the
sidebars. This strengthened the tree enormously. Iron rivets were used throughout instead
of the screws of the 1859/64 version. The old cantle, previously more oval-shaped,
was changed. The outer cantle edge was now a section of a circle (semicircular), with a
flat face on the front, or seat, side. This was to facilitate the turning of this part.
The sidebars were turned on copying lathes so that each was identical to the others
produced. There were no extensions as noted on the civil war version, the joining parts
connected at flattened areas on the sidebar. The pommels were the least changed,
dimensionally speaking, with a slightly larger, thicker appearance.
The method of rawhiding these trees appears to be different from a majority of the
saddles done before this. Most civil war saddles showed that only stitches were used in
the seat side of the cantle and pommel. A few exceptions show the use of the external lace
that was run under these stitches on the cantle seat side, as in the cantle seat rear and
pommel front edges. In the 1896 variant, all these top side pommel and cantle edges used
an external lace, over which the lace "holddown" stitches were passed. This
served to reinforce the rawhide around the stitch, spreading the strain evenly. If the
rawhide cover under the stitch broke or ripped, the lace would serve to hold the rawhide
in place. Before this time, the rawhide would have been free to lift away from the
saddletree had a stitch pulled through.
The stirrup loops were also changed somewhat, to aid in the ease of mechanical
production, as well as strengthen them. Civil war varieties invariably positioned two of
three screws or rivets, through the squared folded strap holding the loop, in a straight
line parallel to the wood grain. This tended to promote splitting of the wood along the
grain, thus weakening the attachment of the hardware. Since this was also a straight metal
strap, cut and wrapped around the loop, it necessarily had to be inletted by hand because
of the square corners. The new design used a rounded end stirrup loop strap (to facilitate
use of routers to inlet the sidebar for it) and offset rivet holes, so that no two rivets
passed through the same plane in the wood grain.
The wooden parts of the cantle and pommel, instead of a weak dovetail joint, were
formed with an interlocking mortice joint. These pieces were glued together before being
shaped, and then screwed to the sidebars.
The rest of the saddle was completed in much the same way as the 1893, with the
exception of a small refinement in the rigging safes. These safes were more rectangular in
shape (long side vertical) with rounded corners. These were attached by loops around the
rigging rings, which were the same as the 4" cinch rings. Hardware was also refined
somewhat, with the saddle fittings being substantially heavier than previous
ones. During the summer of 1898, 3,000 sets of cavalry equipment were made at
the San Antonio Arsenal - these have the earlier M1893 style ring safes, although they
were riveted to the ring ala M1896 pattern. All San Antonio made saddles used Rock
Island Arsenal made trees and hardware.
Improved stirrup and stirrup details
(GIF format, 21K)
This was also used by the artillery, with the addition of iron dees at the top of the
pommel and cantle, under the quarterstraps. These were attached to the pommel and cantle
arches by metal straps, with brass rivets passing through the leather cover, arch, dee
strap, and quarterstrap (the rivet burr was placed on top of the quarterstrap).
These saddles utilized the old Civil War pattern brass stirrups.