The Atlanta Arsenal Pattern Saddle & Horse Equipment

A study of commercial contracts and correspondence between Atlanta’s commander Col. M. H. Wright and various contractors, reveals the most significant amount of detailed information about horse equipment manufacturing of any Western Arsenal .

A “set” of troopers cavalry equipment remained essentially the same from the Atlanta Arsenal’s earliest days until its evacuation in the summer of 1864. These consisted of either a McClellan or Texas saddle, with crupper, breast strap, stirrup leathers with fenders, covered wood stirrups, webb girth, valise or saddle bags, a halter-bridle and a saddle blanket- most often made of woven Spanish moss. Additional equipments often included a nose bag.

Saddle: Both the McClellan and Texas pattern saddles for troopers were skeleton rigged. For example, its Texas saddle was a rawhide covered tree “to be ironed according to the manner of cavalry trees….fork to be made of black gum and the bars and cantle of ash all the wood well seasoned and free from imperfections.”   with “slings”(quarter straps), stirrup leathers, fenders and covered wood stirrups. Some double ironed, cloth covered saddle trees, probably made at the Columbus Arsenal, were issued as early as February 1863 and later.

The arsenal appears to have manufactured a large number of McClellan saddles until February 1863 when, due to the demand, Texas saddles were also manufactured. In August, the new but as yet unofficial C.S. McClellan pattern (Transition Saddle) was sent from Richmond for a prototype. Wright apparently re-adopted the McClellan until January 1864 when the Texas saddle was officially adopted for the Army of Tennessee.  In May, Gorgas requested a sample of the Texas Tree to be sent to Richmond for inspection, “I am anxious that these saddles should prove strong and serviceable.”

Cotton webb possibly cut as per Ordnance Manual but with iron rings.

Stirrups: “of good hickory, 3 inches wide and made in a workman-like manner.” Also, some iron stirrups were issued but comparatively few.

Likely as per Ordnance Manual

Breast strap:
Issued with all “sets” of equipments but of unknown configuration

Saddle Bags:
Leather but of unknown configuration. (Many were made of enameled cloth after February 1864). Some Valises were made and issued also.

Halter-bridle: Leather, probably of the common configuration with stitching at “least six stitches sewn to the inch, and all laps to be twice as long as the strap is wide” complete with enameled cotton reins.

Likely hand forged iron of unknown configuration with reins of “Enameled, stitched cotton webb containing at least 500 threads.”

Nose Bags:
Ordnance manual pattern “Of good duck material, leather bottom well sewn with saddle makers or cord thread.”

Saddle Blankets: From early 1863 to Atlanta’s evacuation, the moss blanket appears to be the most common, if not routinely the only, issue blanket. In fact, little mention is made of any other type. More than a few records indicate large numbers of moss saddle blankets in the form of “bales” were shipped from the Columbus Arsenal which likely served as a large manufacturing center for that article. One letter dated Oct. 1, 1863 shows 5,461 moss blankets were received from the Columbus Arsenal. By early 1864 even moss blankets appear to be scarce.

Curry combs and Brushes: Atlanta’s contractors appear capable of supplying at least a reasonable number of curry combs to meet the demands of the arsenal. Between March to Dec. 1st 1863 3,174 combs were received from contractors for from the Augusta Arsenal while only 1,312 were issued. Brushes appear to be far more scarce as little record is shown for their contract purchase or issue.

Hardware: Buckles for halter-bridles, saddle bags, coat straps, etc. were generally made under contract. These were largely of iron but brass buckles appear almost as common.

Officers-grade equipment at Atlanta appear to be supplied by other arsenals, commercial contractors or manufactured on-site. These include higher quality saddles, halter-bridles, bridles, halters, girths, bits, cruppers, breast straps and spurs, etc. Black grain leather and brass hardware appear to be used in their manufacture. Some imported English cavalry saddle equipment were also issued from Atlanta. Officer’s bits were sometimes made of brass or brass covered. A few rosettes were issued with bridles.