Reference Items
Virginia Belt - Captain John Bryant

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This two piece officer’s sword belt was worn by Captain John Bryant of the 29th Virginia Volunteer Regiment.  It is identified by a period ink inscription on the inside of the belt that reads:  "J T Bryant” in flowing script.  Bryant’s official record shows no middle initial, but review of the Confederate Virginia roster for possible matches, reveals there are no other possible matches. 

Captain John Bryant was a forty year old Carroll County, Virginia resident when he raised a company of local men for Confederate service in July of 1861.  His company, known simply as Captain John Bryant’s Company, became Company C, 29th Virginia Infantry.  The company mustered into Confederate service at Delp’s muster ground, in Carroll County, Virginia on July 25, 1861.

Captain Bryant led his company until the following May when he was discharged at Tazewell, Virginia due to his age.  He returned home to Carroll where he died in 1884.  He is buried in Captain John Marshall Cemetery in Carroll County.

Captain Bryant’s sword belt is in excellent condition.  It is one of the few Confederate belts seen that retains its original sword hangers, both of which are strong and flexible.  The leather is supple and retains nearly all of its original finish.  All of the stitching remains complete and tight.  The two piece buckle has a die stamped central disc bearing the Virginia state seal, Virtue standing over a defeated Tyranny. 

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-262

Infantry Officer's Belt

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A privately purchased Civil War officer's belt on black bridle leather with a unique cast brass two-piece buckle.  The buckle is a nicely accomplished tongue-in-wreath style winged eagle, finely detailed in a gilt-brass casting.  The eagle faces left and holds arrows in his left talon, an olive branch in his right.  On his breast is a swept shield with horizontal and vertical stripes, no stars.  Both of the buckle components are unmarked.  This plate and keeper are very similar to the set illustrated as plate 373 in the reference work American Military Belt Plates by Michael O’Donnell & J. Duncan Campbell.

The leather is soft with minor flaking.  The interior of the belt has a leather liner that is hem-stitched on the outer edges of the belt, the buckle has a leather rest or billet, also lined.  Both saber hangers are the rounded style, high grade sewn leather around a horsehair interior.  The clasps, rivets and parade hook are uncleaned and show a warm patina. 

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-261

Model 1859 McClellan Saddle

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Shown is an early Civil War Model 1859 McClellan saddle.

Regulations for the 1859 pattern called for sweat leathers, stirrup hoods, unspaded "D” rings (which suspend the girth straps) and did not require contractor’s markings.  The tree design also featured a more vertical pommel than later saddles.

The brass shield on the pommel of this saddle is marked "3" denoting the large 12” size cantle.  Also soldier inscribed in the brass shield in block letters is "76 K."  The pommel is pierced with a mortise which is protected by a brass plate on the front.  The uniform coloration, usage, and condition of all its leather mountings indicate that they are original to each other.  The sweat leathers show some use, both have all the stirrup strap loops present, but the sweat leathers are likely added to the rig. The stirrups are solid, with strong wooden frames that have no splits or damage and each is equipped with its hood as per regulations for the Model 1859.

The rawhide which covers the saddle tree is complete with no splits on the visible surfaces, and has a pleasant aged, caramel color. The skirts are in full form and supple, and the saddle bag retaining straps are intact on both of the skirts. The quarter straps and girth straps are full length.This saddle is pictured with saddle bags in place.  It also carries the correct carbine thimble attached to the offside D ring.  The cantle has three coat strap mortises which are protected by brass oval guard plates fastened to the seat with brass nails.  The front quarter-straps are attached to the pommel arc with two rivets and a hooked stud at the top center.

These saddles draw their name from their original designer, George McClellan who obtained approval from the US Army for his design in 1859.  With a few modifications along the way, the McClellan saddle remained in use by the US military until its last cavalry units were dismounted in World War II.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-258

Model 1859 McClellan Saddle Bags

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These Model 1859 McClellan saddlebags were made by C.S. Storms of New York City and are strongly marked thus on the flap of the left bag. In 1862 Storms moved from St. Louis to New York City. He had a number of government contracts for a variety of leather accoutrements.

It is unusual to see a pair of bags in this minty condition as they continued to be used by the cavalry and state militias following the Civil War into the 1870s. Subsequently the M1872 brush and shoe pouches were made from disassembled M1859 saddlebags, further reducing their surviving numbers.

Experts believe that today, fewer bags exist in any condition than do specimens of the saddles for which they were intended. This set is complete including both closing straps, tie down straps, and buckles. The interior bags with leather closing thongs are supple and present.

Saddlebags had a wide variety of uses by cavalry troopers during the Civil War. Among them, it is speculated that their original purpose was to carry extra, pre-fitted horseshoes so that a cavalry expedition need not be delayed while awaiting the services of the regimental farrier.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-249

Model 1864 McClellan Enlistedman's Saddle

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C. (Condit) Prudden was a saddle tree maker during the Civil War located next door to R. (Rueben) Nece (master saddle maker). He was located at 1120 Noble Street in Philadelphia. He had a four-story building with the equipment powered by steam, and with thirty employees he had the capacity to turn out approximately 1,200 finished saddle trees per week. Prudden probably partnered with Nece in the turning out of finished saddles.

Presented here is one of his saddles, a Model 1864 McClellan enlistedman’s saddle. Prudden’s brass tag is affixed to the left front of the tree. This saddle has nearly all of its original rawhide covering and both full skirts. The quarterstraps are original and complete. The original stirrup straps are fitted with the original sweat leather and hooded stirrups. The brass seat plaque indicates a "12 inch seat”.

There are a number of subtle differences between the Pattern 1859 and Pattern 1864 McClellan saddles: (1) the angle of the face of the pommel on the 1864 is not as vertical as on the 1859; (2) the 1864 tree is assembled with rivets and screws as opposed to cut nails and washers; (3) the cantle plate was moved from the rear of the cantle in the 1859 to the front of the cantle in the 1864 (this change can be detected by a magnet); (4) the 1864 has a "spaded D-Ring” or "stopped D-Ring” on the lower girth straps; (5) the 1864 added the manufacturer’s name and address to a brass plate affixed to the top of the left front or rear sidebar. For further information of Civil War Saddles we recommend "American Military Saddle, 1776-1945” by R. Stephen Dorsey & Kenneth L. McPheeters.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-244

Massachusetts Officer's Belt Rig

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This minty officer's belt rig is accompanied by its original 1851 pattern Massachusetts belt plate. The black saddle leather belt is 1¾" wide and in fine condition with minor edge rubs resulting from use. The shoulder harness is in place; the leather tab inside the carry hook, often missing, is also present and is original to the belt. All hooks and keepers are brass displaying a mellow patina.

The cast brass belt plate is adorned by the Massachusetts state seal, which maintains its sharp edges and well defined relief. Both the plate and its clasp are original to the belt. The plate matches figure #92 in Plates & Buckles of the American Military by Kerksis.

State versions of these belt setups were worn by pre-war militia officers, and saw continued use through the civil war, having been privately purchased by officers who were loyal to their home states. The retention of the shoulder strap, as evidenced by period photographs, seems to indicate cavalry service by the officer who owned this saber belt.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-223

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