Lee to Gorgas: Give me good saddles and carbines

I’m always drawn to the little things that show up in correspondence between a commander and his sources of supply or equipment. It’s the old “for want of a nail..” One example of such is a letter from General Robert E. Lee to Colonel Josiah Gorgas, written on June 8, 1863:

Col. J. Gorgas,
Chief of Ordnance, &c. :
Colonel: I reviewed to-day the five brigades of cavalry in this army, forming the division commanded by General Stuart.

My attention was thus called to a subject which I have previously brought to your notice, viz, the saddles and carbines manufactured in Richmond. I could not examine them myself, but was assured by officers that the former ruined the horses’ backs, and the latter were so defective as to be demoralizing to the men.

I am aware of the difficulties attending the manufacture of arms and equipments, but I suggest that you have the matter inquired into by your ordnance officers, and see if they cannot rectify the evils complained of. It would be better, I think, to make fewer articles, and have them serviceable. The English saddles which you import are said to be good. It is the tree of the Richmond saddle that is complained of.

I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. Lee,
General.

I am reminded here of the narrative in Plenty of Blame to Go Around. On the roads to Gettysburg, Confederate horses and troopers alike suffered on those long rides.

What Lee would like to have are saddles like this:

And carbines like this:

By the way, the Sharps Carbine in the picture is part of the National Firearms Museum, which provides some of the weapon’s history:

The buttstock of this carbine is carved “Rappahannock Station Nov. 7 1863″ and was captured from Confederate cavalry forces by Union General John Buford’s troopers at that battle. Rappahannock Station is known today as Remington, Virginia. SN 45479.

So it was a “recapture.” Ah… the Confederacy’s other great source of supply – the Union army!

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