US Pattern of 1841 Horse Equipments

The Pattern of 1841 horse equipments were the first real attempt by the Army to bring about a standard design and specification for a European style hussar saddle.  For years, a variety of officers had been to equestrian training schools in Europe, many to the famed Saumur, and had seen first hand this equipment in use by the military forces there.   It was well and firmly planted in their minds that this was true ‘military horse equipment’, and they would have it.  

With the passing of the long-time Commissary General for Purchasing, Callender Irvine, some changes were made that saw the Ordnance Department being assigned responsibility for providing horse equipment for the dragoon regiments, in February, 1841.   A fine opportunity to bring about a change in the horse equipment from the workmanlike civilian-style Spanish saddle to something of a much more martial flair.  

The curious aspect of the Pattern of 1841 is how little information there is about it, but just enough to let historians know there was once a hussar pattern.  The primary evidence of the 1841 pattern was a highly detailed description published that year in a publication titled, “Ordnance manual for the use of the officers of the united states army”. 

In the annual report to Congress, in the Report of the Chief of Ordnance Department for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1841,  there was a statement outlining how this new equipment was being tried with troops, in preparation for extensive manufacture.[1]

[see transcription below]

The last documentary evidence found (so far) was a letter from the Chief of Ordnance, Lt. Col George Talcott, to John Fairbairn & Co. in Philadelphia, requesting changes/improvement to the pattern.[2]

In the next year, a massive reduction in funding to the military came about, which limited Ordnance activity for the next year and half.  The 2nd Dragoons Regiment was dismounted for nearly two years, converted to a rifles regiment, which halved the number of mounted troops requiring horse equipment.  The existing dragoon regiment had nearly 1/3 of their troopers reduced, to the point where a company was approximately 50-60 dragoons. 

Indeed, it was stated in the Ordnance report to Congress in the following year (1842), only 5 ( five ) saddles were purchased.[3]   It appears that this hiatus in equipment need and procurement was a significant reason for the abandonment of the hussar pattern.  That, and the active promoters of the Ringgold pattern managed to gain approval for their ‘mock hussar’ design.  Indeed, there is a letter from George Talcott to Ringgold and Edwin Sumner that dates within the week to the one noted above, informing them that their pattern had not yet been accepted and could not be produced.

There are no known specimens of the 1841 pattern, although some alleged parts occasionally float up, such as iron stirrups.  However, given that no one truly knows what they may have looked like, a significant level of skepticism is in order.  

The following is the text describing the new Pattern of 1841 equipment set, as found in the “Ordnance manual for the use of the officers of the united states army”, published in 1841.[4]


Horse Equipments for Dragoons—Pattern of 1841.

The leather parts are made of strong black leather, unless otherwise specified.

The buckles and rings are made of wrought iron tinned, and all the buckles have rollers.

Note. For an explanation of some technical terms, see Page 84. [see right]

Halter.

The nose band-2 chin straps ; 1 loop for ditto-the throat strap-2 cheek straps, forming also the throat lash; 1 buckle and 2 loops for ditto-1 loop with a button hole, which serves to fasten the halter to the crown piece of the bridle-all these pieces are 1 in. wide; they are connected together by 2 square cheek loops, (iron,) the lower sides of which are covered with leather, and by 2 throat strap rings—the shank, (or hitching strap, 1 in. wide, with 1 buckle and 1 loop-1 billet sewed to the shank, to connect it with the lower throat strap ring.

Snaffle Bridle.

HEAD STALL: The long cheek on the off side, the short cheek on the near side, in, wide-buckle and 1 loop for ditto-the brow band made with two loops through which the cheek straps pass.

SNAFFLE BIT, (wrought iron, burnished,) 2 mouth pieces connected by eyes ; the outer ends pierced with holes for 2 rings.

Rein, in. wide– 1 buckle and 2 loops.

Curb Bridle.

Crown piece 2 in. wide, split at each end into two equal parts, to fit 2 billets on the near side and 1 billet and 1 throat lash on the off side-1 buckle and 2 loops for the throat lash-3 loops for the spare curb chain; the loop on the top of the crown has a button for attaching the button-hole strap on the halter-the brow band, 1 1/4 in. wide, with 2 loops at each end for the billets of the crown piece-2 brass plates, for marking and numbering the bridle-2 cheek straps, each with 1 buckle and 1 loop at the upper end, and 1 buckle and 2 loops at the lower end-2 bit billets, sewed to the under side of the cheek straps–the nose band, 1 in. wide in rear, passing through openings between the cheek straps and bit billets; 1 buckle and 1 loop for ditto.

Bit, wrought iron, burnished : 2 cheeks, the upper part straight, with an eye for the bit billet and another for the curb chain; the lower part an S, with an eye for the bridle ring–the mouth piece dovetailed and riveted to the cheeks; the port mouth-the bar, riveted to the lower ends of the cheeks—the curb chain, (tinned iron,) fastened by a hook to the off cheek and by an S to the near cheek-2 scutcheons (brass, riveted to the cheeks.

The bits are made of three sizes and of three varieties in the form of the portmouth and the degree of severity. In a large number, one-sixth are mild, one. sixth severe, the rest medium. One fifth of each kind are 4.625 in. wide between the cheeks, three-fifths are 4.875 in. wide, and one-fifth are 5.125 in. wide.

Reins, 1 in. wide, made of one piece of leather split in two-2 bit billets with 2 buckets and 2 loops ; 1 sliding loop and 1 button-the whip, of braided leather.

Saddle.

WOODEN PARTS, (beech or maple.) The pommel-the cantle–2 side bars :
The pommel and cantle are dovetailed into the side bars, fastened by wooden pins and glued. The trees are of two sizes, 12 in. and 13 in. wide between the lower ends of the pommel.

IRON PARTS. The pommel plate, fastened to the front of the pommel by 6 screws and 2 rivets—2 pommel squares, each fastened to the side bar by 3 rivetsthe cantle plate, fastened to the rear of the cantle by 6 screws and 2 rivets-2 cantle squares, each fastened to the side bar and to the rear of the cantle by 6 rivets—2 stirrup-bar plates, each fastened to the side bar and to the pommel by 4 screws-2 valise staples, riveted over 2 burrs on the front of the cantle–cantle moulding (sheet brass,) fastened to the cantle with small nails.

LEATHER PARTS. The thongs used for connecting the parts together are made of strong raw hide or alum dressed skin.

The seat, (or straining,) raw hide, alum dressed, nailed to the pommel and cantle and laced to the side bars with thongs.

The pad, covered with russet sheep skin, lined with strong canvass, stuffed with curled hair, and quilted; it is attached to the tree by 4 strings and 4 loops passing over the pommel, the cantle, the girth and the girth billet.

The girth 2 3/4 in. wide, attached with a thong to the off side bar of the tree 1 buckle and 2 loops for do. the girth billet, made double by means of a layer 2 in. wide, and attached, in the same manner as the girth, to the near side bar.

2 Chapes, with 2 buckles and 2 loops for the crupper straps, fastened to the points of the side bars with thongs.

STIRRUPS, of wrought iron, japanned black ; the bar, double and roughed on the upper side; the sides; the eye for the stirrup leather—2 stirrup leathers 1 1/4 in. wide, stitched double for a length of 10 in. from the buckle, the stirrup resting on the double part — 2 buckles and 4 loops for do. The stirrup leather passes over the stirrup bar through a mortice in the side bar.

CRUPPER. The dock stuffed with wool or paper–the body 2 inches wide, split into 2 straps 1 inch wide, to which the dock is sewed, and into 2 billets 1 inch wide, by which the crupper is attached to the saddle.

BREAST PLATE, 1 inch wide, with a buckle at the lower end to form a loop for the girth ; at the upper end a heart covered with a brass plate-2 stays 7/8 in. wide, sewed to the upper end of the breast plate; 2 buckles and 4 loops for do.—1 breast plate strap 7/8 in. wide; it passes through 2 mortices in the connecting strap and under the band on the pipe of the holster and the loop on the holster bag, and is buckled to the stays.

HOLSTER: black leather jacked and varnished; the mouth is stiffened with iron wire covered with leather–a band round the pipe, passing through a loop in a strap attached to the connecting strap.

HOLSTER BAG, for combs, brushes, &c.; mouth strap passing through 2 loops sewed on the bag – 1 buckle and 1 loop for do.—1 loop for the bag strap.

CONNECTING STRAP, to which the holster and bag are fastened by thongs ; it is doubled and stitched, with an opening in the centre through which the head of the pommel passes. The strap is fastened to the pommel with 2 thongs; the holster being on the near side and the bag on the off side.

STRAPS, 7/8 in. wide. 1 Holster strap and 1 bag strap, passing round the lower ends of the holster and the bag, through the loops made for that purpose ; used to strap up the cloak, &c. ; each strap has 1 buckle and 2 loops-1 middle cloak strap, passing through a loop made with a thong in the head of the pommel-1 buckle and 2 loops for do.—2 double cloak straps, each with 2 buckles and 2 loops : these straps pass round the holster and bag, under the thongs which attach the connecting strap to the saddle tree; each strap has but one billet which is buckled first over the cloak and then over the schabraque, one of the buckle straps being passed through a slit made in the schabraque for that purpose.

1 Middle valise strap; 1 buckle and 2 loops for do.—2 double valise straps, each with 2 buckles and 3 loops: these straps pass through the valise staples and through slits in the schabraque; they are buckled first over the valise and then over any light package that may be carried on the valise.

TWO SHOE POCKETS, attached to the rear of the side bars of the tree with the same thongs that hold the chapes for the crupper buckles.

CARBINE BUCKET, sole leather, jacked like the holster; it is made of two pieces, with a band sewed round the mouth and a mortice in the lower part-the bucket strap 1 inch wide, with 1 buckle and 2 loops : it passes through the mortice and
through 2 loops in the band of the bucket, and is attached to the saddle by passing under a thong tied to the connecting strap and to the lacing of the seat.

CARBINE STRAP, 7/8 in. wide ; 1 buckle and 2 loops for do : it passes through a loop in the thong that holds the connecting strap of the holster and bag, on the off side.

Blanket, wool, dyed brown, 54 inches square, weighing not less than 3 1/4 lbs.

SCHABRAQUE, dark blue cloth, trimmed with the color of the facings of the corps, lined with strong canvass; the seat, white sheepskin dressed with the wool on; the skirts are faced with leather in the middle and lined with leather at the flanks—The schabraque is pierced with several slits for the passage of the straps of the saddle; it is secured to the saddle in front by the two double cloak straps, in rear by the two double valise straps, and in the centre by the surcingle.

SURCINGLE, leather 2 3/4 in. wide; it has at one end a chape, with a buckle and 3 loops; at the other end, a billet 1 3/8 in. wide.

Valise, dark blue cloth, trimmed like the schabraque ; diameter inside 6 in., length 21 in.; the ends stiffened with plates of leather–it is lined with strong canvass and closed, under the flap, with lacings of strong twine-3 straps, with buckles and loops, and 3 billets are sewed to the outside of the valise.

Spurs, wrought iron, japanned black: the plate attached to the heel of the boot by a point behind and 2 screws at the sides—the shank—the rowel, (steel.)

Sources:

[1] Army and Navy chronicle. v. 12-13 (Jan. 1841-May 21, 1842).

[2]  National Archives, RG92, Entry 3 Volume 33 Page 349.

[3]  United States congressional serial set. 413 (1842/43), pg 224. 

[4] Ordnance manual for the use of the officers of the united states army, pp. 136-140


Text transcription of Talcott’s letter to Fairbairn & Co., 8 March 1842:

Ordnance OfficeWashington, March 8 1842
[undetermined] John Fairbairne & Co.Philadelphia

Gentlemen,

I will thank you to furnish me, as soon as you can conveniently, with a statement of the probable additional cost (if any) of horse equipments with alterations & modifications from those made by you as follows.  The raw hide to be nailed permanently on the saddle and two pieces of webbing, running from the pommel to the cantle as a support to the raw hide.  Two girths of dark blue webbing 3/4 inch wide. [note – I assume 3″ to 4″, not 3/4″]  Surcingle same & same width. Holsters & pouches fastened by straps instead of raw hide ties.  Stirrup irons same pattern, but of steel.  The bars of the saddle to be covered, and to have the usual skirts the saddle pad to be quilted finer. Bridle, English pattern with halter to be of black leather. Valise English pattern to be made of black leather inside of the flap lined with India rubber cloth.  An oval brass plate with number of Regt. on the ends. Shabraques of blue water-proof cloth, finished as of present — the sheepskin seat to be separate from the shabraque to cover the holsters in part and project 8 inches behind the cantle — to be secured by a strap 3/4 inch wide.

Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt
G. Talcott
As Ce. of Ordnance