This is a short primer, with just the basic information for those looking to quickly identify what kind of McClellan they have.
To keep this simple, we’ll first look at what you most likely have – a Model 1904 cavalry or artillery saddle. These descriptions will be for what this model saddle looked like in their original configuration. This is good information when trying to figure out what is later ‘shade-tree alterations’ and what was in-service updates/modifications.
First and foremost – everyone has to use the same vocabulary and terms, so everyone can understand what parts we’re talking about. Here is a photo with basic parts labeled – it could get WAY more complex, but this one will give us the starting point.
The image at left shows a Model 1904 Cavalry Saddle, circa 1918. This is what a complete 1904 cavalry saddle looked like, but most people are missing some pieces, or sometimes all the pieces with the exception of the seat.
Step 1: Look at the stirrup loop, from which the stirrup straps would be passed through to hang the stirrups. Is this brass or steel? Brass can get pretty oxidized and loaded with junk, so a magnet may come in handy to check.
If this stirrup loop is made of brass, then you’re looking at a WW1 vintage (1917, 1918) Model 1904.*
Artillery or Cavalry saddle ?
It is even MORE likely that you may see some iron dee rings, enclosed in sheet brass straps, riveted under the pommel and cantle quarterstraps, at the top of the arches. If so, then you have the Artillery McClellan, which was made for artillery crews to ride while pulling the guns and caissons. Many more of these were made than the cavalry version, so they’re very common to find.
The saddle to the left is a M1904 Artillery saddle. The main differences in a COMPLETE M1904 Artillery saddle vs. a Cavalry saddle – steel stirrups, large fenders attached to the stirrup straps, the dee rings at the top of the arches, and no coatstraps on outside holes in cantle (these were issued as separate items).
Other than the differences in attached parts, the seat portion ( leather covered wooden tree) were the same for both Cavalry and Artillery versions.
1928 Modified Cavalry saddle
The M1904 Cavalry Saddle was modified in the late 1920s, with much of the old M1904 rigging being replaced with new style of girthing, stirrups. Large leather flaps were also added. These were called Model of 1928 or M1928’s. You can learn more about these here, but all the M1928s were made with surplus WW1 production saddles, so they have the brass stirrup hanger hardware on the seat.
These are the BIG THREE that most people find, and are trying to identify – there are quite a number of others, of course, but hopefully this will be a useful starting place!
* There is one possible exception to this rule, but I won’t bring it up since I’ve never actually seen one in 40+ years…
One response to “McClellan Saddle Identification”
I have 1 of the 1928 models but it has the quarter strap style rigging. I have put lots of miles in that saddle and on the standard 1918 model. All of ours had the wood stirrups some covered and some open.
I rode a lot of miles on them in iron stirrips but they were modern English ones!