View Full Version : Painted Cloth Saddle Bags
06-29-2007, 09:52 PM
Did a search on this topic and had no luck, so I'm going to ask here. Does anyone know if there are any accounts, research material, originals, etc. of saddle bags being made from painted cloth? I have a request from several guys that I ride with about making some for them since I know how to sew and I was not certain if the Confederacy would have had such items. If there are any or anyone knows anything about them, what sizes would they be (measurements), etc? I don't want these guys going out with something that I made them and it not being correct in the first place.
06-29-2007, 11:26 PM
I am unsure of painted styles, but I am sure they did exist. There is a set of partial canvas and leather CS saddle bags in the "Museum of the West" in Bardstown Kentucky. I have had an eye on these for awhile and would like to try a set. I need to do more research on them, and drive to the museum for a closer inspection!
The Mad MIck!!!
06-30-2007, 11:37 PM
Try checking with Boyd Miles. He makes a set patterned on the regulaton McClellan saddle bags, and I'm pretty sure they are documented.
07-03-2007, 04:40 PM
... about making some for them since I know how to sew and I was not certain if the Confederacy would have had such items. If there are any or anyone knows anything about them, what sizes would they be (measurements), etc? I don't want these guys going out with something that I made them and it not being correct in the first place.
If you do make a set, I would like to know how it goes as I too would be interested in making a set.
07-03-2007, 05:16 PM
I made a set about 5 years ago, based on the mac bags. They are not documented, but I used the old "typical and customary, period materials and construction". I have never had anything but compliments on them at the many national and state parks I have been to, nor from any of the authentic community. I'm not saying this to brag, but to support the use of them. I like mine a lot, have made a lot of field repairs over the years. they still work great.
07-03-2007, 06:35 PM
How bout some pics?
The Mad MIck!!!
07-04-2007, 05:06 PM
I'll keep you informed and let you know.
07-04-2007, 06:47 PM
Mind if I throw in a few comments here? .....In general, saddle bags are way overdone by reenactors. Of course, this would depend upon personal unit impressions and time period of the war but still, from my observation there are too many bags in use. After the initial year or so of the war when troopers learned “less is best” saddle bags tended to fade from use and subsequently from arsenal production. This appears to be made credible by analyzing arsenal production of bags where the growing scarcity of leather, hardware and labor necessitated their allocation elsewhere. The typical southern trooper was also renown for riding light. Saddle bags became a rather useless and heavy item for caring “stuff” he didn’t really need. It appears as the war went on large numbers of troopers even chose not to carry canteens and even haversacks (see related threads on this issue). A good overview of CS saddle bags and valises can be found in the book CONFEDERATE SADDLES & HORSE EQUIPMENT however, if you will allow me I could summarize it in general with a few caveats.
- Early in the war civilian bags were brought into service in varying numbers and widely varying patterns by troopers until arsenal production began issuing these items. For troopers in the east valises were more common (but not pervasive) due to the prevalence of the Jenifer saddle. In the west, it seems both valises and saddles bags were produced depending upon the type saddle produced at an arsenal (valises with Jenifer patterns and bags with Macs) and at the “wide” discretion of the arsenal commanders. From 1861 through 1862 significant numbers of saddle bags were made in the west at places like Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, etc.
- By 1863, growing scarcity of materials necessitated their production to be limited. They were still made but in increasingly small numbers. By 1864 they largely appear to be an officer’s only item. In Feb of 1864 an order was issued describing subsequent saddle bag production, “Fifth: Saddle bags will, if needed, be prepared of strong and suitable cotton cloth, properly enameled. No leather will be used for this purpose hereafter.” In my opinion, some orders like this were behind the times as bags appear to have been infrequently produced by this time in the war anyway. Largely except those as sold to officers.
- As for appearances, Officer’s valises and bags were different in appearance from troopers apparently as to quality of materials and amenities. For troopers, arsenal produced valises tended to follow pre war patterns (commanders were familiar with the patterns and the Mac bags only became popular just prior to the war). Valises were made of just leather, cloth (wool or painted cloth) or combinations of both. Usually with wooden ends to hold their shape. Sizes, quality and add-ons varied. In general, russet leather would be more common that black.
Arsenal produced bags could follow any number of patterns although I can assume from their use of the CS 1863 Ord Manual ( a copy of the 1861 Federal- by the way, not in wide usage even among the Feds until at least mid 1862.) that small, ala’ the Mac pattern were likely common. Large bags wasted too much leather. I have a nice photo of a bag like this using russet leather and horse shoe shaped buckles in my second book. Canvas or enameled cloth bags appear in the arsenal records I have seen beginning about 1863- although they may have been in use sooner.
- I must add here that I am skeptical of the legitimate CS provenance of the canvas bags at the Bardstown Ky Museum. I was always a bit leery of the “look” of these bags. Still, I photographed them for use in my first book but when I asked the curators for provenance on them they could not provide any thing at all or, as I recall, anything I considered credible. No good documentation and, given their high quality “finished” appearance, condition, size and the questionable “CS’ stenciling, I choose not to use them in my book. At the very least they are not “typical” CS issue in appearance.
Having said all of this.....if your impression is important to you then using the right pattern and materials on saddlebags are important and should be carefully planned. Bags have their place but avoid using the large civilian type bags-its overdone anyway. If you want to do it right, when you are doing a mid (mid-63) to late war “western” impression I suggest you leave the saddle bags at home. If you are doing an eastern ANV impression the use of bags at any time should be carefully considered. If you want to be different, maybe use a valise instead -even with a mac.
Bags are OK and legitimate but, for both east and west I might suggest more reenactors use a simple blanket roll or a valise. They are way “under represented”. Maybe you should consider having someone make you an enameled cloth valise! That, would be “cool”, different and far more correct. Just my 2 cents....Thanks for indulging me.
Ken R Knopp
07-05-2007, 09:41 AM
Thanks for that detailed information. I'll let the guys read this so that they will know also. The boys I ride with are officers most of the time when the situation calls for them to be (one plays Forrest at Forrest events, one plays William Forrest, I play Forrest's son Willie, and another portrays Jeffery; this is done only at events where Forrest was at (Forrest boyhood home, etc.) and the rest they are privates. Anyway, thanks for your knowledgable explinations.
07-05-2007, 09:52 AM
Jeremy, I'll get some pics of those bags and post them. but in light of Ken's remarks,I find myself rethinking their use. I'm all about the "less is more" philosophy of riding, but I find bags very useful. I don't carry a lot of crap, but I'm not sure where I would store the few things I don't want to wrap in my bedroll. I'll think on this some.
07-05-2007, 10:20 AM
I would appreciate the pictures highly. We also don't carry a lot of stuff with us when we ride, but there are just some certain items that I find we all need while riding that need to be easily accessable without getting off of the horse, especially in a battle situation and thought this would be a good thing to have. Neither one of use used saddle bag or valises before and this past years Forrest Homecoming event I had a pair of used ones on my saddle. They were handy when we needed to keep stuff in them, especially being part of a General's escort. They beat having a haversack on (something neither of us carry either).
07-05-2007, 12:04 PM
If those goofy bastards out in my yard don't take up every minute of my evening I will take some pics and dimensions and load them tonight. We have had our first decent rain in about 3 months this week, we're shifting horses and water troughs and such around tring to give our pastures a fighting chance to come back up.
07-05-2007, 02:21 PM
Their a pain sometimes I know especially when they know its time to go off to an event and they don't want to be put into the trailer.
07-05-2007, 02:28 PM
Oh, mine get in the trailer ok, it's when they get out at the event they start acting stupid!! :)
07-05-2007, 05:34 PM
Okay, based on all the comments I have read so far, here are my thoughts.
I have tried for years to do a campaign empression cav trooper. I do agree with the statement that "less is more". My goal was to be able to pull up to the parking lot, park, unload my horse, change into my gear, saddle up and ride to where ever my unit was for the weekend. Mind you, I was an officer at the time, but I still strived for subsisting on as little as possible. I remember several occasions I would get questioned or laughed at because I preferred sleeping on the ground, but I was more comfortable as well as liking the fact I did not tote around a lot of "tentage".
This being said, and with a mind on not using saddle bags, what would you pack/carry for a typical trooper in order to do a mid to late war cav impression and carry the minimum items to make it thru a 3 day event?
(Mr. Moderator - if this should be posted as a seperate post/question, please let me know and I will move/post. Thanks).
07-05-2007, 08:03 PM
CSA bugler they would be greatly appreciated!!! I am always looking to make something out of the ordinary!!! If you decide to put them by the wayside, I would be willing to purchase them from you at a reasonable price!!!
Thank you for the info-I was hoping you would chime in!!!
The Mad MIck!!!
1st Maine Trooper
07-05-2007, 10:57 PM
I'm curious, what sorts of things are you carrying in these saddlebags? Doing Federal, riding a `59 Mac with saddle bags, the only things I can fit in mine is a set of spare shoes and nails, brush and curry comb. These could very easily be rolled into the bedroll or placed in a nose bag looped over the pommel or a feedbag tied to the pommel.
07-10-2007, 01:01 PM
Haven't forgotten the pics, been swamped at work...
07-10-2007, 05:28 PM
I understand! I wish the 20th century didn't get in the way of my 19th century life!
The Mad Mick!
07-10-2007, 05:47 PM
I'm a bugler. there's about 102 combined calls, I don't memorize all of them, so I have a period style book about 5'" x 8". That goes in the bags. usually feed will fill one side if we are not in a static camp that allows stashing. House wife, small fry pan, curry comb. Required modern medication. Maybe a small hand towel. Those items are things i might want without rolling out my bedroll. That pretty much fills them up.
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