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Small US Cavalry collection from Italy

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Hello Kurt,

thanks for your post. Always glad to hear and learn from others collectors, my first-hand contacts are much limited here and all I may have done for a bit competence's benefit is from reading a lot of paper books, or articles in the Web (if trying to mention these things here in my world, I instantly become a 50-old guy who takes pleasure in "playing with Hollywood-like items"..).


This belt comes, like also the blouse, the 1874-pattern McKeever box (not yet posted), and a field-blued Infantry subvariant of the 1879-Pattern Prairie Belt (not yet posted) from a competent and (I believe) serious collector. I discussed with him and he came in stating this leather belt could be the closest to one of the various subvariant described in pag. 218 of Douglas. C. McChristian's book "The US Army in the West, 1870-1880".

Mine is a somehow lightweight belt 1 13/16" wide, with loops being almost 1.2" high. He told me this wasn't the only one he saw along the years. Personally I saw many a photo of troops (even regular soldiers) still carrying Springfield rifles in cal. 50-70 even in 1875-76 timeframe, and we could think many civilians or scouts attached to the military would have preference for this weapon even later, when the 45-70 guns were well established?

Perhaps this particular pattern of 23 loops for the larger caliber + a dozen rounds for .45 revolver could have well liked and accepted; it also could be a bit difficult thinking to such a fine work for benefit of re-enactors or movie-producers?


Of course I do not have the 100% answer, I mainly trust in that collector and the fact we perhaps never will know exactly how many patterns came to light, once the basic design went widespread. Still trying to know more, but it's not easy - at least this article. Some more I'll post, are much more documented even when having their field-made modifications.


Thanks again for your post!! Good collecting :)


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You have some very nice items, even in the 1960's thru 90's when I was much more active the condition most of your items seem to be in were difficult to find. If you found these in Italy I wonder how they got over there? Richard

Wanted: WWI ID'ed USMC Green Wool Uniform and ANYTHING documented to my Dad's Iwo Jima outfit: 21st Marines 3rd Div.

Items marked "Marquet, Marquett, or Marquette"







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This, a rather rare (in these condition) somehow later specimen, 2nd variation of "Pattern 1876 Prairie Belt" - a very close one to the Infantry Belt posted above.

It has been formerly painted indigo Blue, of course in unofficial form as these cartridge belts all were made and delivered identical to both Infantry and Cavalry - this at least as for the basic canvas color, for both the leather-covering "shell" and the loops.


Conditions are excellent, with of course the inevitable fading of blue - more on the front, less fading on back





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This blued cartridge belt has been somehow field-modified.

Ammo capacity for the 45-70 Govt. rounds has been reduced by two - from 54 loops, to 52. A different way for keeping the buckle was devised, with two simple copper rivets wich lock the canvas around the buckle.

Buckle itself is different - leather tongue from the other end, not longer slips under the left side loops. Here instead, it only can go over them.





Leather strip with sizing holes as well, is here different. A shorter one has been sewn on, even if the official markings still do remain (Inspector's, and Watervliet Arsenal).


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Too kind Richard!!

Here in Italy I got not more than three-four items, and not even the best ones of collection. Remaining were mainly from overseas, with their adding of expense in shipping and customs' fees, thus making things more costly and the whole a lenghty process for me.


your appreciation a great thing!! Franco.

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Here finally a representative of the famous "Mills Pattern, Integrally woven Cartridge Belt".


A mod. 1885 Cavalry Belt, with 45 loops for the Govt. 45-70 rounds. Basically the classic late-Indian Wars ammo carrier for the US Infantry and Cavalry troops, this model of belt (wich in the end, most possibly didn't see any action before well into springtime 1886) was devised having in mind the more or less "standard", buckle/leather tongue closure system (more comfortable than the full plate and clasp system, for a mounted trooper).

Body of belt is integrally woven together with loops, into a single sound unit (indeed thick, and well made) without any more risk of having loops themselves unstitched, loose, or easily torn by the heavy daily duty on the Frontier.


This one was still well preserved:



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Evident here the main difference, and a big one, between an early "Model 1876/79 Prairie Belt" and the basic concept of all the "Mills Patent, Integrally woven Belt" from 1880 on.

The former belt has a sound leather body tightly surrounded by a canvas "shell" to wich, canvas loops are stitched. A good system when nothing else was available to soldiers other than the ammo Pouches, or boxes.

The latter one is a single whole unit made by a (then) revolutionary loom, wich wove together the main body and loops in an almost indestructible way. Loops themselves were, actually, surrounding very tight the 90% of cartridge's brass case - this, couldn't be with the older system and too much often some ammunitions went lost.


Lack of leather in itself also contributed in Mills belt's endurance.







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At left a McKeever cartridge box, at right a somehow earlier leather box designed with 24 canvas loops for (originally) 50-70 ammunitions - as for I know, both for Cavalry and Infantry use.

This three-row box was later adapted to 45-70 rounds.



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A simple way for the modification from 50-70 to 45-70 ammos,

narrow leather strips were added wich forced the cartridge to be pushed forward, while inside the loop. This latter remained inevitably in an elongated shape but cartridge was tightly kept by this, now, "smaller" loop.


A rather large, massive, and heavy box when full with 24 rounds:




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An original Model 1879 Springfield, Cavalry Carbine in 45-70.

Somehow outdated if together with a Pattern 1890 Blouse, but was the best I could afford at the time. Anyway in decent conditions, and mechanically sound.



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A Mills cartridge belt, later subpattern, made at Watervliet Arsenal in blue-dyed canvas.

Loops are for 45-70 ammunitions. Then commander at Watervliet, Lt. Col. James Witthemore designed this last variation in a long series of bronze plate. The final "H"-shaped plate was cast (not stamped) and rather a massive piece of metal.



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Nothing to do in this Mills Belt, with the previously posted field-blued (now much faded) Pattern 1879 "Prairie Belt".

Already a completely different concept in itself, the Mills Belt was professionally dyed in arsenal - one of last steps in the construction.



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Background here is a reproduction Cavalry Company, swallow-tailed Guidon.

Cavalry cartridge belt of Pattern 1885, and the two pairs Gloves are original - pair at right-side is the official Pattern 1884, other pair could be a Pattern 1886 or, more simply a different subvariation.




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I forgot an interesting detail when writing about my Pattern 1890 Blouse.

After researching at the best within my reach I learned it is actually one of the 2,000 blouses of that official pattern, made on a sort of "trial basis" about late April - May 1890. Thus, somehow an unofficial First Variation as identified by only one pocket - inside, left breast.


The unofficial Second Variation of this Pattern was approved in mid-August 1890 and was, therefore, made starting after that date. Only difference was addition of a second pocket, still inside, on right breast.



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