Robert E. Lee

Thomas S. Jesup

U.S. Mil: Acady West Point

17 March 1853


Since the reception of your letter of the 7th Inst: objecting to the reasons assigned by a board of Survey on the 18th of October last, for condemning as “unserviceable” certain Saddles at this Post, I have examined them in person.

I find that six saddles are in good condition. The remainder cannot be used without extensive repairs. The parchment seats will have to be renewed. The brass rims of many of the pommels & cantels restored, and leather skirts &c repaired or replaced. I should think that more than one half would have to be stripped to the tree & entirely renewed.

But if thoroughly repaired they would still be unsuited to the use of the Cadets. Not because they are of the “old pattern” or do not correspond with the present saddles; but because they are so large & harsh in the seat, that the Cadets become chafed & excoriated to such a degree, as to be incapacitated for riding. I am informed by an officer, now on duty at the Academy, that when a Cadet, his legs were frequently so excoriated as to bleed after the usual lesson of instruction on the Saddles in question; and that he was safe in saying, his class was excused half the time from riding, by the Surgeon, from the same cause. They may be well adapted to a heavy dragoon, who lives in his Saddle, & has to carry on it his blankets, arms, clothes, provisions &c &c but I have seen even them with the overcoat & valisse shaped inside the pommel & cantle, to contract the seat. But for a youth, to use for an hour or two in the day, in hard and rapid motion, with every other hour of his time closely occupied. I hope you will agree with me in thinking, that due consideration for his proper instruction will require Saddles better adapted to his condition. The top blanket will in that case be dispensed with, which in addition to its cost, is the harshest seat I have ever tried, for violent & rapid motion, & in warm weather, have found the naked wooden tree preferable.

The only instruction in cavalry tactics that can now be given the Cadets is in the field. No time can be taken from this present course to teach it in the Section room. I am therefore the more anxious that the former shall be extended as far as possible, & shall endeavor this Spring to have them instructed in the School of the Squadron. It is for this purpose I desire additional Saddles, to mount the 1st & 2nd Classes. But I do not wish to expend a dollar more than necessary for the purpose, & if you think that no other Saddles can with propriety be furnished the Cadets, they must do without them. But I think it poor economy to be at the expense of Instructors, horses & Cadets & without the means of using to the greatest advantage. So convinced am I that the Saddles in question will be of no use to the Academy, that I recommend they be withdrawn, & applied to the general service of the Army. They have not been used for more than three years & probably never will be again. If repaired they would be of service, where adapted to the duty required; but I should prefer for the Academy, the number of Saddles of a smaller pattern that could be bought for the price of repairing these, double their number if new.

I forward a letter of Major Thomas, Inst. of Arty. & Cavy. Tactics on the subject.

& Remain Very respy. Your obedt ServtSigned) R. E. Lee Br. Col:
Supt. Mil: Acady.

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, pp. 10–11. Addressed “Genl: Tho S. Jesup Qr Master Genl. U.S. Army Washington City D.C.”