Macon Arsenal Pattern Saddle & Horse Equipment

A large collection of Macon Arsenal and Armory records have survived. Unfortunately, most of what is left is unrelated to horse equipment. What remains is very limited and widely scattered leaving one to piece together the available information. Nonetheless, the following information about Macon’s “purchased and fabricated” horse equipments can be discerned:

From its inception in 1862 to the summer of 1864, Macon was second only to Richmond as the leading recipient of imported leather and other manufacturing materials from abroad. Large amounts of imported and domestic leather, hardware, linseed oil, white lead paint and other raw materials were sent to Macon for use in the manufacture of harness, horse equipment and accoutrements. Though significant numbers of horse equipment were manufactured here, Macon’s output apparently ranked behind that of the arsenals at Richmond, Atlanta and Augusta.

Most of the surviving record is from the year 1863 which gives us an idea as to what was being manufactured how, where and when. For an eleven month period, from mid-March 1863 through February 1864 the Macon Arsenal “finished or received” 1,695 saddles, 758 bridles, 754 halters, 1,001 halter-bridles, 997 saddles bags, 323 felt saddle blankets and 7,230 “moss” saddle blankets. During the same period the arsenal “issued or expended” 1,850 saddles, 940 bridles, 936 halter, 894 halter-bridles, 926 saddlebags and 8,478 “moss” saddle blankets.

Records for 1864 are sketchy. From June 22nd thru July 4th 1864, the only period available, the record shows the arsenal had on hand, 113 halter bridles, 387 (mostly McClellan) cavalry saddles, 106 cavalry saddle bags and purchased 1,491 moss saddle blankets.  However, records indicate additional equipments were being purchased from manufacturers. That same month the arsenal issued 110 halter bridles, 210 cavalry saddles, 110 saddle bags and 1,617 saddle blankets. This shows that the Macon arsenal at this late-war stage (summer 1864), had the capacity to supply roughly a little over 100 complete sets of horse equipment a month.

Saddles: The Jenifer pattern saddle (of unknown configuration) was manufactured and/or commercially purchased by the arsenal until late summer 1863 when it was replaced by the quasi-McClellan pattern sent from Richmond. By fall, a complete set of cavalry horse equipment purchased from private contractors consisted of the McClellan saddle, a webb girth, “bridle/halter” with bit, crupper, and sometimes a pair of saddle bags. Following Atlanta’s lead, in May 1864 Colonel Gorgas authorized Macon and Columbus to make Texas saddle trees. Two sample patterns of differing sizes were sent from Atlanta. There is some indication this style tree was eventually adopted though probably somewhat later in the year. Both cavalry and artillery saddle trees were painted with white lead paint before covering with rawhide. Other cavalry equipment available at the arsenal were a moss saddle blanket, nose bags and quite possibly other unlisted components.

Saddle Blankets: Large numbers of “Moss” saddle blankets were contracted and noted as available for issue as early as November 1862 to the end of the war. Other types of saddle blankets were apparently quite scarce. Neither wool nor “Felt” (English numnahs) saddle blankets were noted from spring 1863 until January of 1864, then only briefly.

Saddlebags do not appear in the record until July 1863 or about the same time the McClellen saddle was unofficially adopted by the Confederate Ordnance Bureau. Unknown configuration.

Bridles: Through June of 1863 bridles and halters (of unknown configurations) were noted as separate items in the arsenal’s records. However, early that summer the “common” private’s bridle and halter was now “attached”, and called the “bridle-halter”.  No doubt meaning they were manufactured as combination halter-bridles to conserve leather. Unfortunately, it is unknown exactly how these bridle-halters appeared or what hardware was used.

It is believed a Mr. M. Russell of Dalton and Americus Georgia supplied large numbers of buckles (roller and horseshoe-5/8, 3/4, 7/8, one inch and 1 1/4 inch), rings (1 1/4, 1 _, 1 3/4, 2 _ inch), saddle staples and possibly some bits. Russell was certainly Macon’s largest supplier of hardware. Even in late 1864 he was still supplying large numbers of these items to the arsenal.

Officer’s Equipment:
Officer’s equipment; saddles, bridles, halters, bags, etc., and obviously differing in quality and style from the private’s model, were stored and accounted for separately on the monthly records  A limited number of English cavalry equipment were also imported and subsequently sold to officers.  Interestingly, these items appear to often remain on the books for some months.