In the mid-1850s Jefferson Davis, a dynamic and capable Secretary of War, began planning a number of trial evaluations with the purpose of determining the most efficient and practical equipment for its mounted troops through the use of large scale field testing. As the pace of westward expansion accelerated, the need for increased military presence strained an already small and widely dispersed mounted force. Two additional mounted regiments were approved, the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments.
The fifth squadron (two companies) of each regiment were to be the test beds for many of these equipments and weapons. Equipment was acquired in sufficient numbers to allow the 250 to 300 troopers in each squadron to subject a pattern to the most rigorous conditions that early frontier service had to offer. That's how it was envisioned, although in reality it was much less organized.
Enter Capt. George B. McClellan, a very highly regarded young engineering officer who could rightly be considered a favored protege of Secretary Jefferson Davis. He had previously been assigned to special missions and tasks by the Secretary, and his trip to Europe with the Delafield Commission was a plum assignment for this capable and connected young captain. As he had very recently been assigned to the cavalry branch, with a position in the new 1st Cavalry Regiment, Capt. McClellan's particular focus during this trip was primarily to study all things cavalry. After their return in April, 1856, the members of the commission ensconced themselves various locations (McClellan in Philadelphia) to prepare their report.
The horse equipments thus tried (in the late spring/early summer of 1855) had proven inadequate, so Secretary Davis took upon himself to inquire of both Delafield and McClellan for recommendations for horse equipment, given their recent observations. Both Delafield and McClellan forwarded recommendations,with McClellan presenting an extensive proposal for improvements for horse equipments, requesting an opportunity to prepare a sample set for consideration.
A quick review of McClellan's proposal will show what has been a dilemma for many a student of this saddle style. McClellan describes a saddle that has nothing to do with the design that he delivered in late December, 1856. That will be covered in an upcoming addition on the 'trial horse equipment' to this section - although it is reasonable to conclude that McClellan was not the 'inventor' of this design, but more like a 'project manager'.
Throughout this series of articles we will look at the many variations of the McClellan military saddle, it’s continuing evolution in response to hard military service. Used throughout the world, the McClellan is one of the most popular and enduring military saddle designs ever created.