Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas at Valley Forge 1777

During the American Revolution, defeats were plentiful. By September of 1777, British forces captured the United States capital which was Philadelphia. After he failed to retake the city, General George Washington led his 12,000-man Army into winter quarters at Valley Forge which is located about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Of course the Continental Congress had fled Philadelphia and were about one step ahead of British troops who swore an oath to hang everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence.

With a third of his 12,000 men without shoes, their feet wrapped in rags, George Washington lead his Army into Valley Forge just before Christmas in 1777. It was in Valley Forge on December 19th that the Continental Army and George Washington would change the course of history and reverse the course of the war which was not going well for America.

Upon arriving in Valley Forge, Washington ordered his men to build wood huts as shelters for the long winter months ahead. To do this, his men cleared 16 by 14 foot square dugout to build their shelters on. They dug two feet into the ground to remove the permafrost. Using logs for the walls, they also gathered stones for makeshift fire-pits that really didn't resemble fireplaces. The dirt floors of the huts were used to sleep 12 men each. With openings but no actual doors to block the freezing cold, the men attempted to keep the frigid air out with the use of blankets and canvas placed over the doors. It is believed that 1,300 to 1,600 huts were constructed.

In 1777, the Continental Congress was seen as making all sorts of empty promises when it came to supporting the Continental Army. Support for General Washington had dwindled in Congress after a series of brutal losses that year. So much so that Congress reorganized the Board of War and stripped the Commander in Chief of some of his authority.

And while this was going on, Washington's Army lacked equipment. But worse, thanks to an indecisive Congress, the American Army was starving. It was a miserably desperate situation for General Washington. While battling the British, he was also fighting Congress, His men went hungry as promised food provisions were withheld. Knowing that Congress may let them starve before acting, Washington's men competed with the British while foraging for wild game. Of course, because of they were competing for what game was available, soon game too became scarce.

Washington used Valley Forge as a defensive position to re-group, train, and reorganize his units. It was also a place from which he was able to keep an eye on British troops. That was the number one reason that Valley Forge was selected by Washington as a place to winter his Army.

It's said that Congress either didn't care about the situation taking place at Valley Forge, or simply thought that Washington was exaggerating the horrible conditions. Fact is, what took place there was horrible indeed. Washington's men were starving, malnourished, battle weary, discouraged, and feeling betrayed by Congress.

As General Washington saw things unfold and get worse, some say that during the Christmas of 1777 that he became despondent over their fate. I really believe that those who say such things really don't understand who Washington was a man. They don't understand what sustained him through the hardest of times. He was deeply spiritual, and his faith gave him strength.

Whether merely a myth or not, there's the story about General Washington in prayer. That story has to do with the Potts family who actually owned the land at Valley Forge. It was their land which Washington choose to regroup and winter on. During his time there, Washington requisitioned the Potts family home, some say it was the Potts family business, to use as his headquarters at Valley Forge.

The story goes that while Isaac Potts was initially a British loyalist because he had felt that the British were simply too strong a power to go up against, his opinion changed after observing Washington and the other officers train the troops there. And among other things, Potts saw that Washington was a religious man, a good Christian.

Potts supposedly later recalled, "It was a most distressing time of the war. All were giving up the ship but that great and good man. In that woods, I heard a plaintive sound, as of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was a crisis, and the cause of the country, of humanity and of the world. Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home and told my wife I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before. We never though a man could be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington."

We are all reminded that militia were only so-so effective during the Revolutionary War. But the fact is, General Washington was not in charge of professional soldiers as was the case with the British who we were fighting. Washington's men were the militia who stepped forward to defend rights they saw as being from God and not some King atop a throne in England.

Those were American farmers, cobblers, tinkers, craftsmen, tradesmen, who left to take up arms in a cause that was new to the world. The cause of men declaring their freedom from lords and nobles. And while there were certainly those who deserted and returned home to tend to the needs of their families, others stayed the course and soldiered during the worse of circumstances that winter.

There is a story of something that took place at Valley Forge. It has to do when General Washington took pen in hand to make a plea for assistance from Congress. In his letter, he told Congress of the dire situation. Some say that letter was supposed to be his resignation. Some want to say it was when he declared the cause hopeless.

Washington supposedly wrote the following letter, "I am now convinced beyond a doubt, that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place, this Army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things. Starve – dissolve – or disperse, in order to obtain sustenance in the best manner they can. Rest assured, Sir, this is not an exaggerated picture, and that I have abundant reasons to support what I say."

It's said that he heard a commotion outside his tent while writing that letter. Without a hat or wearing his coat, he left his tent and went out to see what was taking place. It was there that he found his men huddled together around fires, all making merry as best they could for Christmas. They found game to feed on. Many saw their bounty as gifts from God. Many were right.

Washington himself wrote later that he was astonished at the level of good cheer among the men. He wrote how he joined in the fellowship and wished every man there a very Merry Christmas. And then and there, yes there in the worse conditions, on that Christmas, his men cheered, "Long live the United States! Hail to our Chief! May Liberty prevail!"

General George Washington is said to have been moved to tears. There, his men starved and wrapped in blankets with rags wrapped around their frostbitten feet, cheered him that snowy day. As he watched his men brave the elements, he asked if they had not suffered enough?

To his question, a lieutenant quickly replied, "Having come this far, we can but go the rest of the distance."

Washington was taken by the lieutenant's heartfelt response. But even more so, upon his return to his tent. When he returned to his tent, Washington was amazed to see, that in his absence from his tent when joining the others in fellowship, that some of his men gathered garlands of holly and cedar and decorated the outside of his tent.

How anyone knows what was in that letter that General Washington was supposedly writing to Congress is a bit of a mystery because it's said that he took the letter and burned it. Instead, he's said to have turned and said to his men, "May God relieve your sufferings, if the Congress will not. And a good Christmas to you!"

A historian noted that the "clouds did not part and the burdens were not lifted on that Christmas Day of 1777. But from the depths of that Christmas came a resurgence in the hope and confidence of George Washington."

At Valley Forge, Americans struggled to manage a disastrous supply crisis while retraining and reorganizing. They remained in Valley Forge from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778. During that time about 1,700 to 2,000 American troops died due to disease and starvation.

While it was a terrible ordeal, history shows that what took place at Valley Forge was the turning point of the American Revolution. The Christmas of 1777 was the start of an incredible story of survival, self-sacrifice, and redemption. It's said that it was during that winter, during that horrible test of endurance, that General Washington retrained but also re-inspired his men to the cause. I believe it probably worked both ways. He was probably re-inspired as well.

As Americans, besides remembering that Christ our savior is the reason for the season, we should remember the sacrifices made by our forefathers this Christmas. We should remember that our liberty is preserved because we fight for it. Ensuring our liberty and fighting for our freedoms is a cause which we should all rededicate ourselves to keeping alive.

So with that, Long live the United States! Hail to our Chief! May Liberty prevail!

Merry Christmas!

Tom Correa

Monday, December 17, 2018

Army Brings Back WWII-Era Greens Uniform

What is it?

The U.S. Army is adopting the Army Greens as its new service uniform, based on the iconic "pink and green" uniform worn during the World War II. This will be the everyday service uniform starting in 2020, and it will reflect the professionalism of the Soldier.

The Army Greens Uniform will include khaki pants and brown leather oxfords for both men and women, with women having the option to wear a pencil skirt and pumps instead.

There will be a leather bomber jacket as an outerwear option.

The Army Blues Uniform will return to its role as a formal dress uniform, and the Army Combat Uniform also known as the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP will remain the duty/field uniform.

What are the current and past efforts of the Army?

In March 2017, Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier), under direction from the Chief of Staff of the Army, prepared a "Greens" Uniform demonstration and options to support the decision-making process. Extensive polling data showed overwhelming support for this uniform.

On Veterans Day, 2018, the Army announced the new uniform, which will be made in the U.S., and have no additional cost to the American taxpayer. This uniform will be constructed of high-quality fabrics and tailored for each Soldier. This will be cost-neutral and covered under enlisted Soldiers' annual clothing allowance. The new uniform and associated materials will comply with all Berry Amendment statutory requirements for Clothing and Textiles.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned?

The Army will conduct a Limited User Evaluation (LUE), using Soldiers that interact with the public. These Soldiers will wear the new uniform for a few months and then provide feedback for possible last-minute changes to the final design. The mandatory wear date for all Soldiers will be 2028.

This is the information on the uniform components:

Male Coat:
Dark drab green, four-button design with a belt and likely with a bi-swing back. Officers have ½-inch brown braid

Female Coat:
Similar to the above, but without the top pockets (PEO Soldier acknowledges the difficulty of aligning accouterments without top pockets, but struggles with how to maintain a bust line that lays well when it incorporates top pockets or flaps). The prototype coat is about 2 inches shorter than the current ASU Coat

Male Trousers:
Taupe color and similar to current design, but without trouser braid for enlisted and NCOs. Officers’ braid is still not decided

Female Slacks:
Incorporates side-seam pockets, but no back pockets. Likely will have some hidden waistband pockets to provide added utility for Class B wear. Will likely incorporate a comfort waistband

Female Skirt:
Pencil design with comfort waistband, likely cut with a “V.” Skirt will incorporate a “V” or kick pleat at back hem

Male Shirt:
Currently proposed as a poly-wool plain-weave tan cloth. Tapered design will have the similar pockets as the ASU shirt, but no creases. Enlisted will not have shoulder loops, but will wear sleeve chevrons. Officers might have shoulder loops, but may also wear collar rank (TBD)

Female Shirt:
Similar to the untuck version of the ASU shirt in general design

For both males and females, likely the same color as the coat

Unisex Service Caps with “walnut” brown leather visors and chin straps, incorporating the iconic “crushed” look of WWII. The uniform will also have garrison caps

Brown leather with brown socks

Overall CSA Guidance:
Make the uniform as functionally comfortable as possible without giving up a sharp, military appearance. Make the female uniforms as close as possible to the male uniforms without compromising female anatomical fit. Reduce the “bling” on the uniform by limiting pin-on items, perhaps incorporating subdued buttons, etc.

Why is this important to the Army?

The reintroduction of this uniform is an effort to create a deeper understanding of, and connection to, the Army in communities where awareness of the Total Army needs to increase.

The Army believes this high-quality uniform will instill pride, bolster recruiting and enhance readiness.

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage are core Army Values, and the new uniform is at the center of demonstrating Soldiers' values, professionalism and accountability to each other and the American people.

The Army Greens will be worn by America's next Greatest Generation as they develop into the smart, thoughtful and innovative leaders of character outlined in the Army Vision.

-- end of article.

As a personal note, I think this is a great move. I really believe this is the best idea that the U.S. Army has had in more than 50 years. It will create a link to the Army's rich history and traditions of the past while building more of a sense of Esprit de Corps in today's Army. Great move!

Tom Correa

Sunday, December 16, 2018

An Unknown Place -- America’s First National Cemetery

Dear Friends,

I've talked about how during my travels while working around the country, my love of history had me stopping at Indian burial grounds, both Civil War and Indian-War battlefields of all sorts, places where stage coaches were held up, places where gunfights took place, places where vigilantes took folks out for a necktie party. I've been fortunate to have visited many small out of the way museums from Northfield, Minnesota, to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Skagway, Alaska, to Virginia City, Nevada.

In Northfield, I saw first hand what took place at the Northfield Raid where the James and Youngers met their Waterloo. In the Manitowac maritime museum, I saw Earnest Hemingway's fly fishing gear and was absolutely shocked to learn that we Americans built submarines there in World War II. Yes, in Wisconsin. As for the small museum in Skagway, it was there that I found the small pistol that Soapy Smith was carrying the night that he was killed. A pistol that contradicted the claims of his gang who said that he was unarmed. And while there is still a great museum in Virginia City, sadly a smaller museum there closed.

As morbid as it may sound, I've also visited a number of graveyards over the years. I've visited the grave site we all know as the Little Big Horn, Arlington National Cemetery, Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona, and many others. I cannot count how many out of the way tiny pioneer graveyards that I walked through. The first was a pioneer graveyard out the back gate of Camp Pendleton which lead to the town of Fallbrook. It was the first time that I realized that settlers lived a long time after coming West. For some reason, I thought they all died young which wasn't the case at all. And as for those solitary graves out in some pasture or standing vigil in some patch of ground that used to be a cemetery of sorts, I cannot tell you how many lone weathered headstones that I've tried to read.

In 1992, while visiting Washington D.C. after a job ended, I had some time to explore the area. I remember finding what turned out to be America's First National Cemetery. Yes, it was established long before Arlington National Cemetery. It is a place where rests hundreds of congressmen, a few Indian chiefs, American composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, Elbridge Gerry who is a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as J. Edgar Hoover who was the first director of the FBI. And yes, Veterans from every American war can be found there.

It is the small District of Columbia’s Congressional Cemetery. And I'm not kidding when I say it is America's First National Cemetery.

Congressional Cemetery is a 35 acre historic burial ground located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Initially known as the Washington Parish Burial Ground, Congressional Cemetery became the first truly national burial ground as Congress bought sites, buried noted civil servants, and funded the infrastructure. While still active, there are scores of noteworthy citizens who left their mark on that city and the nation.

While it is said that to be buried there reflected no "special status," because of its location, Congressional had served for more than half a century as America’s national cemetery. Its 35 acres cover a bluff on the west bank of the Anacostia River, and it lies less than two miles from Capitol Hill. It was seen "as a place most desirable for the interment of members of Congress, any heads of departments of General Government and members of their families."

On the cemetery grounds is what looks like a round bomb shelter, but in fact is an iron-doored vault. It actually functioned as a morgue for many years. For example, it held the bodies of a few presidents before permanent arrangements were made. Believe it or not, the "storage fee" for holding a body there was $5 per month.

President William Henry Harrison take the oath of office in 1841. He died of pneumonia 31 days into his term. Yes, his was the shortest tenure in presidential history. Because he was the first president to die in office, his death sparked a Constitutional crisis regarding presidential line of succession. Harrison was the first of three Presidents to be temporarily entombed there, and his body remained for two months before being transported to North Bend, Ohio.

Ex-President John Quincy Adams died in the Speaker’s chambers and was taken to the vault prior to his return to Quincy, Massachusetts. Zachary Taylor became a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican–American War. He died in 1850 during his second year in office. Yes, just 16 months into his term.

It's said that when he was placed in the vault, that he wasn't alone. Taylor was there with none other than Dolley Madison. Here full name was Dorothea "Dolley" Dandridge Payne Todd Madison. She was the wife of President James Madison. She was noted for holding Washington social functions in which she invited members of both political parties to gather and socialize in a somewhat cordial manner. It's said that she sort of spearheaded the whole concept of "bipartisan cooperation" before the term was ever in use.

As for meeting socially to discuss political policy, Thomas Jefferson would only meet with members of one party at a time. It's said his gatherings would often turn into brawls and even result into duels.

Dolly Madison helped to create the idea that members of each party could amicably socialize, network, and negotiate with each other without things becoming violent. It's said that she did a great deal to define the role of the President's spouse. And no, the term "First Lady" came about later. As for helping Thomas Jefferson with social events, she did that after he became a widow.

Dolly Madison was in that vault for a year before Taylor arrived. She would remain there for 18 months before being moved to a family vault for six years, before finally joining her long-departed husband James Madison at Montpelier, Virginia.

In the early 1800s, congressional funerals had post-ceremony gatherings which included paying their respects while drinking free brandy and biscuits -- all paid for at government expense. Then they would join the procession to make the trek to the graveyard on foot. They were called "walking funerals" and they were known to stretch from Capitol Hill to the cemetery.

Later, coaches and carriages were included in the ceremonies. It was then that more mourners rode than walked. And here's something that must have been a sight for those watching. It's said that if the mourners who hired the coaches and carriages didn't show up for some reason, the hired carriages and coaches would simply join the funeral procession even though they were empty.

And here's something else, while we all associate black with funerals, it was customary at the time for the coach drivers to wind white bands around their stovepipe hats, and attending officials flung white linen scarfs over their shoulders as badges of mourning. And believe it or not, another strange custom was that the black bunting that was draped on buildings along the route were left in place for the wind to shred.

In 1812, newspaper reports of the funeral of Vice President George Clinton described his funeral as "a concourse of people greater than has ever been gathered in this city on any similar occasion."

When Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts succeeded to Clinton’s office, he was only there for two years before he died in his carriage on the way to the Senate. President James Madison had first lost Vice President Clinton and then Gerry back to back.

Vice President Gerry's precession was the same as Clinton's on the route to the Congressional Cemetery. But unlike Clinton who was removed from the vault to rest in his home state of New York, Gerry was interned in Congressional Cemetery. His memorial is a marble pyramid capped with urn and flame, with the inscription, "It is the duty of every citizen, though he may have but one day to live, to devote that day to the good of his country." By the way, he is what "gerrymandering" is name after.

In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan-advantaged districts. The resulting district apportionment is known as a "gerrymander" but the word can also refer to the process.

Near Gerry’s grave is the grave of Tobias Lear who was George Washington's personal secretary. During the Barbary Wars, Lear served as consul who negotiated the release of American prisoners. It was his decision to pay the pirates for their release. It was a decision that would destroy his life. Because of that decision, his career was over and he had to take minor government positons, once as an accountant, to feed his family. It's said that he was so disliked for bowing to the Muslim pirates, that people crossed the street to avoid him. He was shunned and later committed suicide.

Among those buried there is Sergeant-Major John W. Hunter, who was a drummer boy in the Revolution. Annie Royal is buried there. She was sentenced to a ducking in the Potomac for ranting in court. David Herold is buried there. He was hanged for helping John Wilkes Booth escape after Booth shot President Lincoln. For a long time the parish had regulations which prohibited the burial of "persons of color," but that rule was broken when a former slave became a member of the church.

According to sources, there is at least one request inscribed in stone in the cemetery. That inscription is on the monument of Choctaw Chief Pushmatahaw. It reads, "When I am gone, let the big guns be fired over me."

Chief Pushmatahaw died while in Washington negotiating payment for tribal lands. I read where his Choctaw delegation charged the government about $7,500 for "living expenses" while in Washington. It's said that a great deal of that money was spent on liquor and cigars. False reports later said that the Chief had died because he drink himself to death but that was just a vicious rumor. Fact is, Chief Pushmatahaw's death was medically diagnosed as being the result of Croup.

Croup, also known as laryngotracheo-bronchitis, is a type of respiratory infection that is usually caused by a virus. The infection leads to swelling inside the trachea, which interferes with normal breathing and produces the classic symptoms of "barking" cough and a hoarse voice. Fever and runny nose may also be present. These symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. Often it starts or is worse at night. It normally lasts a few days.

The croup is still a relatively common condition that affects about 15% of children at some point. Back in the day before antibiotics and vaccination, croup was frequently caused by diphtheria and was often fatal.

As for Chief Pushmatahaw, it's said that over two thousand mourners attended his funeral. It was led by Andrew Jackson himself. As per his dying request, it was granted. His funeral was held on the day after Christmas in 1824. And on that day, Andrew Jackson ordered cannon fire which roared from Capitol Hill and three musket volleys echoed at Chief Pushmatahaw's graveside.

Why such honor you ask? It was Chief Pushmatahaw and his braves that had fought beside Jackson and the American forces during the Battle of New Orleans. It was Chief Pushmatahaw and his braves who helped stop the British Invasion during the War of 1812. Some believe his help was the factor that turned the tide of that battle.

Of course not all of the Indians seeking redress of abuses were treated as well. The story of Chief Scarlet Crow, a Santee Sioux chief from Minnesota, is one of those stories. Chief Scarlet Crow was actually accosted on a Washington D.C. street and kidnaped. Sadly, even though the federal government paid his kidnappers the ransom that they demanded for the Chief’s release, his kidnappers killed Scarlet Crow anyway. His body was interned at Congressional Cemetery. Chief Scarlet Crow's funeral was well attended and given military honors befitting the respect given to fellow warriors.

That wasn't the case for Taza who was son of Cochise. Taza succeeded his father Cochise as Chief of the Chiricahuas when his father died in 1874. That was two years after the Chiricahua Reservation was established by General Howard. In 1876, the tribe was removed from the Chiricahua reservation and relocated to San Carlos. In September of the same year, Chief Taza was one of a delegation of Apaches taken to Washington D.C. for a visit. During that visit, he fell ill and died there of pneumonia on September 26, 1876. He had only been Chief for about two years.

After his burial in Congressional Cemetery, an Indian agent being too interested in leaving Washington D.C. to get married made the mistake of forgetting to order Chief Taza's headstone. Since that Indian agent didn't order one before leaving the city, because of that horrible mistake, Taza’s grave remained unmarked until the 1970s when a granite headstone bearing his likeness was donated. Yes, almost 100 years later, Taza's grave finally received a proper marker.

Of course, there were those who didn't want to be buried in Congressional Cemetery. Some were very vehement about not being buried there. For example, one congressman once stated, "I would not die in Washington, be eulogized by men I despise and buried in the Congressional Burying Ground. The idea of lying by the side of so-and-so! Ah, that adds a new horror to death!"

In modern times, it's said homeless would break into the vault to sleep or get out of the weather. From about 1930 to 1976, the cemetery went into decline. It's disrepair during that period has been described as follows: "... like the neighborhood in which the cemetery lies, and except for the government owned areas and the few privately maintained sites, the old burial ground deteriorated sadly. Waist-high weeds and climbing vines obscured modest stones such as those marking the graves of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady and his family. Stray dogs roamed the grounds and snakes slithered through the tall grass. Broken stained glass littered the turn-of-the-century stucco chapel that stands in the center of the cemetery. Toppled stones and sunken graves bore witness to the years of neglect, and vandals recently damaged more than a hundred of the tombstones."

As shocking as it may sound, the expense of maintaining the private part of Congressional Cemetery actually had their administrators considering a plan to remove the remains of thousands of graves. The land would then be sold to developers. But fortunately, in 1977 a group of concerned citizens joined together to save the neglected landmark.

They formed the non-profit Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery and assumed the growing financial burden for the old burial ground. The group raises funds from various civic and patriotic groups and from individuals. Events are also scheduled to help as fund raisers.

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery is strives "to maintain the historic, cultural, and aesthetic qualities of this natural landscape along the Anacostia River." To do that, each year the Association has over 1,000 volunteers to help maintain and promote the cemetery. The association has over 500 members and is also well staffed with preservation experts.

The future preservation of that important place appears in good hands.

Tom Correa

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Doug Cox Custom Saddles -- An Old World Artist


Dear Friends,

Every once in a while, while researching something on the Internet, I stumble on something that I really want to share with others. In this case, I was looking up leather working when I found saddles made by Doug Cox.

Doug Cox is a saddle maker. But more so, he's a true artist. While he makes handcrafted custom designs for clients and collectors throughout the world, he also has saddles on display in museums.

In fact, the saddle pictured above, Silver Mounted Saddle #1, has been on display at the Carriage House Museum in Santa Ynez, California, The Museum in Paso Robles, California. It was one of the only two contemporary artist works on display at the Art of The Western Saddle exhibit held at the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in Amarillo, Texas for 16 Months in 2009.

Silver Mounted Saddle #1 above is built on a Will James Stockman style tree, with a semi quarter horse gullet on Doug Cox bars. It has a 13 1/2 inch wide swell, a number 4 dally horn 3 ½ inch high with a 4 ¼ inch cap, a shovel cantle 4 inches high. It has 7/8 flatplate double rigging, medium square skirts, regular fenders with half double stirrup leathers, and quick change buckles. It has slideloop billets with regular 4 1/2 inch wide back cincha with tunnel loops, 2 1/2 inch Visalia monel stirrup in side 20 inch one piece taps.

He also used a Number 4 Mixed flower hand carving with dyed background and borders, and all parts are doubled and stitched, and lined with Number one carving leather. All of the silver mounting are heavy gauge solid sterling silver. The overlaid trim is 12 karat rose gold. 

The saddle comes with matching Bridle and Martingale as seen above. It can also be had with a glass museum case for the collectors out there.

Of course his work also includes saddles with beautiful carvings in the old world style of craftsmanship and artistry, but with less silver. Take for example this saddle in his collector series, The Old California, below.

The Old California was made for the Saddle Show at the 25th Anniversary of the Elko Poetry Gathering in Elko Nevada. It was one of twenty-one on display there for months. It's a saddle made on one of the two most famous styles of buckaroo trees, the 3B. This saddle was patterned after the most popular styles of saddles during the peak of the buckaroo heyday. 

It's tree is a 3B, 9 inch fork, shovel cantle 4 inches high, a wood post horn 3 1/2 inches high with a 4 inch cap. It has 5/8 single ring rigging, with hand forged stainless steel rings over laid with sterling silver and hand engraved rigging leathers are closed with Spanish lace in true California fashion.

It's California round skirts, California half double stirrup leathers and fenders that lace at top of fenders, all add to it's beauty. It has the old Visalia Grandee style of stirrups with sterling silver bolt heads and large concho at the bottoms on bell bottom style 4 inch wide stirrups. All leathers are doubled and stitched. It has sterling silver sting conchos flower carving is the Number 5 Mixed Flower, and all were free-hand drawn and carved. This is a classic copy of a 1930-40 vintage Visalia buckaroo saddle.

As for his saddles, his patterns are still drawn free-hand and carved deep and lifelike. They are hand set on properly cased leather. Because of that, he never creates two saddles alike. As for his headstalls, they are handmade with No. 1 Bridle leather, the very best quality sewn with waxed linen thread, edged and rubbed smooth by hand to ensure a top quality finish, then oiled and either lacquered or a soap-oil finish put on, his work is always with high quality standards in mind. That includes his hard service headstalls, which are oil and soap finished to maintain a supple nature and turn sweat for extended periods of time.

While his saddles are owned by collectors worldwide, his custom saddles are also for the working cowboy, the rancher, trail rider, and the arena competitor. 

So who is saddlemaker Doug Cox?

He grew up on an Idaho ranch. As with many who grow up on ranches, that experience gave him first-hand knowledge of riding, training horses, and working cattle. As he got older, he gained a great reputation of being a good hand and soon hired out for day work at other ranches there in Idaho, as well as in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. One's reputation is always helped along with hard work and a great work ethic. Yes, both elements of which Doug Cox still has. 

That's pretty evident considering during those days he is known to have started his own colts, and he entered reining cow horse and cutting competitions. Of course, as with many young cowboys, he did his share of rodeo bronc riding. 

In the early 1970s, he took an interest in saddlemaking and trained under saddlemakers Bob Kelly and Ray Holes. He feels his skills were mostly influenced by his early instruction by Bob Kelly and Ray Holes from 1976 to 1981. The late Ray Holes was well known around the world. In the 1930's, Idaho saddle maker Ray Holes crafted Visalia style saddles which are very well known.

If saddlemaker Ray Holes sounds familiar, it should since he developed a product used by many. The story goes that he needed a conditioner and waterproofing to put on new saddles to help repel rain and the elements. The "dubbin" that he developed also restored life to older leathers. The first Ray Holes Leather Care Product was developed which he called SADDLE BUTTER.

In 1981, Doug Cox put down roots in Montana where he opened his very successful saddlemaking shop. In 2000, he was looking for easier winters when he decided to relocate to Nevada. Today, Cox Custom Saddles is still located in Gardnerville, Nevada. It's where he maintains his workshop and studio with the help of his wife Deb.

I was so taken by his work that I called him to tell him so. We talked for a little bit and I found that he is a very nice man. Very pleasant and willing to talk about the history behind his work. Frankly, when talking to such people who thoroughly impress me, I'm sometimes amazed at how down to earth they are. That's the case with Doug Cox. There is nothing pretentious about him. He's a cowboy at heart.

Though an extremely talented saddlemaker and absolutely gifted leather carver, as I said before "a true artist," he is very humble about the fact that owes what he knows to others who have influenced his work. He makes no bones about having a debt of gratitude to many early masters. He feels blessed to have had the opportunity to work with those masters. They gave him the opportunity to develop his expertise and he has not forgotten that fact. Besides Bob Kelly and Ray Holes, he also thanks Bill Knight and Stanley Diaz, as well as all of the old Visalia and Hamley catalogs for inspiration in his development. 

Of course having ridden horses for years, he understands the feel of a well made saddle. Knowing that, he also credits his inspiration and construction skills to several very competent horsemen such as A.D. Grandchamp, John Baeta, Sam Meads, and Jim Roser.

Doug Cox shipping calves in Yellowstone Valley, Montana circa 1998
Doug Cox's cowboy background, his knowledge both in the saddle and at the workbench, his artistic talent, can all be seen in the gorgeous works he creates. And while he certainly builds saddles and gear for collectors, he also builds saddles, headstalls, breast collars, beautiful standing martingales, spur straps, and chaps for the working cowboy, stockman, and ranchers. From the competitor, to the trail rider, to the working cowboy, to the fine art collector, his beautiful flower carvings are deep distinctive and available to all.

His work is "Old School." And frankly, I really see him as part of a small group of saddlemakers whose artistry and attention to detail while putting out a great saddle will be missed when he retires. Thankfully, that's not yet.

While I don't usually plug someone's product on here, if you're someone looking for a one of a kind saddle made with the finest quality leather, an investment, a piece of work that's has no duplicate, then give him a call at (775) 783-8991 at Cox Custom Saddles in Gardnerville, Nevada. 

Like me, I'm sure you will absolutely appreciate his work. 

Tom Correa