A Reproduction ANV Officer’s Saddle.....
Gentlemen, I have the distinct pleasure today of posting some photos of Mark Choate’s “new” CS officer’s pattern Jenifer saddle made by Karl Pepper of Glenn Pier Depot. One look will tell you that it is one mighty fine saddle, not only gorgeous but a closer look will reveal a highly authentic reproduction in its construction details. Moreover, the story of how it came about is quite interesting too. So, allow me to start with the basics.
The tree is of the pattern commonly referred to as the”New Jenifer”. Now, whether it is truly the eastern Confederacy’s “New Jenifer” (contemporary nomenclature) or simply a CS variation of Col. Walter Jenifer’s “patent” pattern tree is open to debate but, not here and not now, as that subject has been thoroughly traversed in other threads. As for the tree, although largely unseen, are many details of its fine period tree construction that sets it apart from most other reproduction Jenifer pattern trees.
That story of tree construction began about twenty years ago under the study of Aden Nichols when he had the good fortune to be able to de-construct an original Jenifer to reveal and understand its many fine trade secrets and construction details. Of most interest was Nichols’ craftsmanlike ability to then reproduce a highly accurate copy of the tree’s finer points including size, pattern, bracing, etc. Aden did a stellar job recreating some reproduction trees at the time but serious, mass production was difficult and sadly proved elusive. Then, about two years ago Rory Hay and Jesse Bailey picked up the mantle in the effort to build highly accurate and authentic reproduction Jenifers on a wider scale. Employing help from Nichols and with a lot of hard work and man hours this tree was the prototype result of that fine effort but sadly again, their incredible and noble effort also proved elusive. Many of us will perhaps remember the fine presentation made to us by Jesse Bailey about this effort at the 2011 Franklin Tenn. Cavalry Camp of Instruction. It was this same saddle tree that was on display as part of that presentation.
Some time after, Mark Choate purchased this tree from Jesse with the help of Coley Adair. It was then that Mark decided that such an authentic and fine tree (that so many had put so much blood, sweat and labor into) required an equally correct and authentic “finish”. Mark asked me for some input and so after some consideration we settled upon a “Shafted and Quilted Jenifer, ANV officers saddle (c.1862-1864) typical of that offered by the Clarksville VA Ordnance Harness Shops where many eastern CS officer’s (private purchase) saddles were constructed. However, what was really desired by us was two-fold: a saddle not just unique to today’s cavalry reenacting hobby but perhaps most important, a highly accurate saddle representative of a “high end” ANV officer’s saddles routinely constructed at Clarksville.
During the war Clarksville manufactured three basic officer’s saddles each generally distinguished by their seat treatment: 1. The “Plain Jenifer”. 2. The “Shafted (and quilted) Jenifer” and 3. The “Hooded Jenifer”. (* All three names are contemporary nomenclature) Only a handful of tree makers made the Jenifer tree for the Richmond arsenal with A.A. Pitman Co. of North Carolina providing the vast majority (some 21,882 in total but 3,835 of these as “New Jenifers” the remainder as Patent Jenifers). Another 6,350 New Jenifer trees, were made by three other firms- Hutchings, Broun and Borst in the spring of 1863. The majority of trooper’s pattern Jenifer saddles were “finished” at Clarksville. Although a few outside contractor’s finished trooper’s saddles virtually none of the “official” officer’s saddles were made outside of the Richmond Arsenal/Clarksville Depot system.
All officer’s saddles were finished using only the best, “select” trees. At Clarksville, the most common officer’s Jenifer saddle was the Plain Jenifer. For example, some 74% of those made at Clarksville (btwn 6/62-8/63) were Plain Jenifers. The Hooded Jenifer was the saddle of highest quality usually reserved for only the most distinguished (or wealthy) officers. Not many were made, but of those for example, Jefferson Davis had one made for him in 1862 as did “perhaps” R.E. Lee in late 1864 (but that is another story). The “Shafted/quilted Jenifer” was the “in-between” high quality saddle made in significant numbers and for notable or wealthy officers. For example, it is known that Gen. Fitzugh Lee and G.W. Custis Lee had saddles of this kind made at Clarksville as did many others. It should be noted that variations or embellishments to the above general patterns were common as a result of frequent personal requests by the purchasers, availability of materials and the varied skill of the artisans.
To accomplish our two prioritized goals the saddle finish we chose to emulate was the “Shafted and quilted Jenifer”. For accuracy, we reconstructed its “look” from highly accurate and known details of this pattern as gleaned from Clarksville/Richmond Arsenal records and correspondence. From these sources we note this pattern saddle was made with either a black or russet leather covered tree, yet exposing the shaft in the seat, into which was tacked a “ribbed” or “quilted” seat pad usually made of fine black patent leather (or enamelled leather or hog skin). The saddle also usually had long tapered skirts, brass (sometimes iron) rings, etc. and, CS pommel shield and clipped corner escutcheon plates typical of Richmond Arsenal saddles.
To start, this tree is incredible- the obvious in plain sight but also right down to minute details under the rawhide and leather and thus, never seen. As a basis for some of the finer detailed construction for our saddle, we chose the Thomas Ellet Jenifer saddle (although a “Plain Jenifer”) found at the Museum of the Confederacy (as noted and photographed in the book, CONFEDRATE SADDLES & HORSE EQUIPMENT, pg. 88). We adopted other details for our reproduction from period artifacts or sources including the use of black harness leather for the stirrup straps (common at Clarksville), brass tacks from the Ellet saddle and the high neck, round top wood stirrups and tapered hoods from the Jeff Davis saddle.
Obviously, what was required to correctly complete this saddle was a modern “work of art” that can truly only be accomplished by a small handful of today’s saddle makers. After some consultation Karl Pepper of Glenn Pier Depot eagerly accepted the challenge. The result...., a unique, truly pretty, “Shafted & Quilted”, ANV officer’s saddle..... which speaks for itself!!
The quilted and padded patent leather seat treatment is particularly notable and really sets off the overall beauty of the saddle’s appearance as does the use of russet and black leather and, the brass hardware. Its authentic accuracy is critical but one aspect perhaps overlooked by most of us is that few if any, of this important saddle pattern have ever been correctly reproduced- that is until now. Sure, it has some minor discrepancies such as the too liberal use of brass screws on the stirrup hoods and perhaps some very fractional construction differences in the hardware that occur between originals and modern reproductions, these are small things but, in total it is a very fine and excellent reproduction. With a little use and exposure to the elements this saddle will age beautifully to perfection. Comments?
On a lighter note, for those of you that don’t know him, I cannot help but again note Mark Choate’s compulsion with period saddles. Mark adds yet another fine piece to an already incredible and expanding collection of period saddles. Whether one can technically call this a fetish or just an obsession I don’t know. Regardless, while his condition grows more acute at least we too can enjoy his saddles “almost” as much as he will.
Ken R Knopp