Contract Letters for the US 1833 Dragoon Saddle

Contract Letters for the 1833 US dragoon equipments [1]

Letter from Thornton Grimsley to Major Joshua B. Brant, Quartermaster, United States Army, proposing to furnish saddles for the First Regiment, United States Dragoons, 1833

St. Louis 24th Apl 1833

Dear Sir

In obedience to your request of this morning I herewith enclose you a description of the saddle on which I proposed to mount the U S Dragoons ordered to be raised for the defence of our fronteere.

The tree which may be termed the foundation is constructed of solid timber dressed to suitable thicknesses from the forks of treese selected for this purpose, and in shape is a complete moddle of the much admired spannish saddle, and is covered with raw hide which is put on them wet, and contracts by drying so as to confine every part of the tree compactly together, and renders it so strong that no horse or mule can when exerting his utmost strength brake them in any part. No difference is perceivable to those who are not practical mechanics at the saddling business between the shape of the saddle above mentioned and the real spannish saddle accept that those which I manufacture are longer and better proportioned for the Horses of the U S than those constructed in the spannish country would be for the simple reason that in the latter case they are calculated for small horses and mules and are made very narrow which renders them unsafe and even useless for the horses in this country unless they are so low in flesh as not to be in a usable condition.

The construction of the seete and pad of the sample which I have made is similar to the common american saddle though the seete combines advantages of ease to the rider and affords facilityes for repaires which the common ammerican saddle does not possess. A leather cover exactly on the spannish plan is thrown over the whole saddle which forms the scorts [skirts] and affords a complete protection to the under seete which is made of soft leather and linnen and is stuffed with wool, and it is on this [i.e., the cover] that the Holsters, and other apparatus necessary for the accommodation and convenience of the Dragoon is attached. This cover or schabbrack as it is called is made of thick heavy leather and protects the whole body of the saddle from the wet. The head [horn] and cantle of the tree passes through this cover and of course holds it snug in its place. On each side behind the holsters

the stirrup leather passes through it; so that the rider has from the senter of the seete to the extream lower edge of the scort a perfect smooth surface of leather to ride upon. The saddle treese now proposed to be used was first taken in to the trade to the mountains by Genl Ashley, and has since been continued by his successors: Smith Sublette and Jackson all of whom have tendered and would if I had deemed it necessary have given certificates of there great superiority over any other saddle Tree now in use for constant service.

The greate advantage to be gained by the government in the adoption of the above mentioned saddle is; first there durabillity and safety to the horses backs as they have in many instances been rode and packed to the mountains and back again without any pad but simply using a blanket or a bairskin under them….

I remain as every yours Truly


Majr J. B. Brant

Thornton Grimsley’s contract to furnish saddles for the First Regiment, United States Dragoons, 1833

Articles of agreement made and concluded at Saint Louis, Mo, the twenty seventh day of June Eighteen hundred & thirty three, by & between Major J. B. Brant QrMaster U.S. Army of the first part, and Thornton Grimsley of the said city of Saint Louis of the second part.

—Witnesseth.—— 1st.. . That the said Thornton Grimsly of the second part, for and in consideration of the covenants and agreements hereinafter stipulated, promises and agrees by these presents, to furnish and deliver at Saint Louis, Mo, Seven hundred and fifteen Saddles for the service of the U.S. Dragoons, to be made in a workmanlike manner and in strict confirmity to the one described in the annexed document dated 27 June 1833 and signed “Thornton Grimsley”, said Saddles to be delivered as follows. viz: 200 on the lst of September next ensuing, 200 on the 15th of September next ensuing, 200 on the 15th of October, 200 on the 15th of November and the remaining 115 on the 15th of December 1833;— the several parcels to be inspected by two disinterested persons mutually chosen by the parties to the agreement, who shall certify whether the Saddles are conformable to the one described in the above mentioned document, and whether they are executed in a workmanlike manner.

2nd.. . And the said Major J. B. Brant of the first part, for and in behalf of the United States, promises and agrees to pay to the said Thornton
Grimsley or his assigns, for each Saddle furnished and delivered as above, the Sum of Ten dollars, on his or their producing the Certificate of the Inspectors setting forth the due performance of the first article of the agreement.

In testimony whereof the parties have hereunder affixed their hands & seals the day & years first above written.


John Haraty J.B. Brant [Seal]
W. W. Worthington T Grimsley [Seal]


Saint Louis 27th June 1833

Dear Sir,

You here have a full description of the U.S. Dragoon Saddle as adopted by Lt Col. Kearney and contracted for by yourself. The tree is composed of four pieces of timber put together, and in shape is an exact model of the much admired spanish saddle tree. It is covered with untanned hide, which binds every part of it completely together & forms the high reputation which the spanish saddle tree has for strength and durability. The tree is then skirted and padded, the skirt protects the dragoon’s legs from the horse, and the pad for the more effectual preservation of the horse’s back. Two iron staples with loops in a triangular form is on each side & receive the stirrup leather. Three iron staples are put behind the saddle and clenched through the cantle of the tree for the crupper and coat pad. The coat pad is of the usual form with two straps & buckles by which the Dragoon attaches his coat or any other baggage which the nature of his service may require. A girth strap 1 1/4 inches wide is placed on each side of the tree resting on a small flap or skirt which is calculated to keep the buckle and girth from wearing on the lower edge of the pad. Two leather loops is placed in front of the tree on each side to receive the breast plate [band] & two small straps with buckles nearly in the same place by which the holster pipes are to be confined to the saddle.

The above I believe to be a complete description of the saddles agreed for by yourself, and intended for the U.S. Dragoons, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are equal if not superior for the service for which they are intended to any Saddle now in use in any part of the world. For the information of the heads of the War Department, I will at an early date make a sample agreeably to your request which you can forward to Washington for their inspection.

I remain very respectfully
Your obt Servt
(Signed) Thornton Grimsley

Major J. B. Brant
QrMaster U.S.A.

A true Copy of the original on file in this office QrMasters Office Saint Louis June 27, 1833
J.B. Brant

Know all men by these presents that we Thornton Grimsley, William Carr Lane and Bernard Pratte Sr are held and firmly bound unto the United States of America in the penal sum of Three thousand five hundred dollars, lawful money of the said United States, for which payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors & administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals and dated this Twenty seventh day of June One thousand eight hundred and thirty three.

The condition of the obligation is such, that whereas the above bounden Thornton Grimsley has this day entered into an agreement with Major J. B. Brant Q”master U.S. Army, to furnish and deliver Seven hundred and fifteen Saddles for the use of the U.S. Dragoons, now, if the said Thornton Grimsley shall furnish and deliver the said Saddles according to the true intent and meaning of said said agreement, then and in that case the obligation to be null and void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.

Note the discrepancy in the schedule of deliveries, where a total of 915 saddles is demanded, and yet the ‘true copy’ leaves out 200.  Final payment was only made for 715. [2]

Just recently, the ‘bookend’ evidence of the contract letters above has been found. This was the record of the government disbursement to Thornton Grimsley as reported in military expenditures, in the Congressional Serial Set 256, published in 1834. Date, quantity, contracting officer, location, and contractor information matches, thus showing that the contract was fulfilled and paid.[2].

[1] “Man Made Mobile: Early Saddles of Western North America”, Richard E. Ahlborn, Editor, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology, number 39, 147 pages. Smithsonian Institution Press, City of Washington, 1980, pages 65-66.

[2] United States congressional serial set. 256 (1833/34), pg .39