Grimsley’s Dragoon, or Military Saddle-Tree

As found in Volume 1 of The Western journal, of agriculture, manufactures, mechanic arts, internal improvement, commerce, and general literature, 1848.  This brief outline contained much of the pertinent information about Thornton Grimsley’s dragoon saddle, it’s adoption by the US Army, and the patent acquired by Grimsley for certain features. 

The nature of this invention consists of an improvement upon the pommel, and cantle made use of in the construction of the French Hussar, or old Dragoon Regulation Saddle-tree, and in the combination, without metallic fastening, of the French Hussar or Dragoon Regulation style of pommel, and cantle with winding side bars, of such a form, and arranged in such a manner, that they will bear equally and uniformly on the back of a horse or mule, thereby superseding the necessity of a pad.

The timber of which this saddle-tree is constructed, is ash, beech or maple, and it is fastened together by means of a raw hide covering. The front of the pommel is shaved to a level surface, with a slight curvature at the upper end, giving the head an inclination to the front, while on the inside it is worked off each way from the centre, giving it a convex form. The cantle is worked out each way from the centre, on the inside, bringing it to a concave form, and affording the rider an upright posture, and an easy seat in the saddle. From two and a half to three inches from the upper end of the cantle it is curved to the rear, while the rear surface of the same is brought to a convex form. The side bars, the most important part of the tree, are nineteen to twenty inches long, and are made from timber in the rough state, from three to four inches thick. The two ends where the pommel and cantle are joined to the same, are shaved to a smooth surface.

The space between is so formed as to fit the seat of the rider, and afford ease to, and a close application of, the inside muscles of the thighs to the saddle, and the sides of the horse. The under side of the side bars are worked off, and so formed as to fit the back of a horse below the great leaders, and a sufficiently winding and oval surface is given to them, to insure a uniform, even pressure on the back, from front to rear. They are from five to seven inches wide, and from one-fourth to one inch in thickness, An aperture is made through the upper end of the pommel, through which a strap passes, 10 fasten the coat or other luggage of the Dragoon. There is also an aperture in the upper end of the cantle, to which the valise is suspended, which holds it above the back of the horse, and prevents it from chafing or bruising his loins.

From all we can learn of the construction and form of this saddle-tree, it combines the strength and durability of the Spanish, the grace and elegance of the French, and the handsome proportions and finish given to it by the inventor in this city. We learn that the saddles made on these saddle-trees were first constructed by Mr. Grimsley some two years and a half since, and have, since that time, been introduced into every arm of the mounted service of the country. Its great celebrity, and complete adaptation to the purposes for which it was intended, caused the Quarter Master General of the United States army to order samples to be forwarded to Washington, where a board of officers, of high rank and great practical experience, was ordered to convene to decide upon the merits of the equipments of Mr. G., and other samples which were submitted for their inspection. The result of their deliberations was the adoption of every part of the saddle offered by Mr. Grimsley, and of the whole of his equipments except the bridle bit, which was submitted by Lieut. Col. May, of the 2d Dragoons.

The improvements in this article are of essential service to the country, and the one under consideration has been tested thoroughly by some of the oldest and ablest officers known to the Dragoon service. Amongst the samples which were in the office and under consideration, was the Spanish, French, the Ringgold, and Sam Walker saddles, with several other specimens, but none were considered equal to the sample from St. Louis. It was, therefore, adopted, and is now the regular army saddle’ for the mounted service of the United States. The business capacity and enterprise of Col. Grimsley might well place him at the head of his profession in this, or any other country. His establishment on Main street, in this city, in regard to both extent and arrangement, is unequalled by any thing of the kind that we have ever visited.

Here he gives constant employment to from sixty to seventy hands, and so complete is his supervision, that we have never heard of a bad job that was turned out from his establishment. And more than this, his enterprise is not limited to the building up of his own establishment merely, but acting upon the true principles of political economy, he delights to encourage his neighbors, and employs St. Louis mechanics to manufacture the stirrup irons, bridle bits, and other hardware used in his business. Such individuals well deserve the highest degree of prosperity that talent and industry can impart.


Risk, T. F, and M. (Micajah) Tarver. ‘The Western Journal, of Agriculture, Manufactures, Mechanic Arts, Internal Improvement, Commerce, And General Literature’. St. Louis, Mo.: M. Tarver and T.F. Risk, Vol. 1, 1848, p. 97.

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