Complete with Original Reins 1844 - 1891
This specimen remains in its “as issued” configuration with the complete chain and toggle fittings that attached the bit to the halter, as well as the full length, original reins sewn to the bit rings. While showing evidence of issue and use, the metal surfaces are all clear and smooth with no corrosion or pitting. The leather reins are smooth and supple with no flaking or crazing.
While not one of the more decorative or attractive bits of the period, its durability and long service life are strong testaments to the historical significance of the Ringgold Watering Bit, and it was proven to be an enduring memorial to Major Ringgold who was killed in action during the Mexican War. This specimen has survived in remarkable condition and would be appropriate to display on the cantle pack of every US Army saddle in use during the 19th Century beginning with the Model 1841 Ringgold, the Model 1847 Grimsley Dragoon and Artillery Driver’s Saddles, and on through the Models 1859 through 1885 McClellans.
Never assigned a model or pattern year designation by the army, the Ringgold Watering Bit was designed by Major Sam Ringgold and adopted by the army in 1844, which would prove to be the start of one of the longest, if not the longest, use of a single piece of equipment in its original form with no modifications in the history of US Army equipment. While this bit was examined repeatedly by the Ordnance Boards of 1847, 1851, 1872 and 1874, the members of each of these boards found no reason to replace or redesign the bit, and it remained in service until replaced by the Model 1885 Watering Bit in 1891. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this long use through the years of the Mexican, Civil and Indian Wars, and the thousands of these that must have been produced during the Civil War years, the Ringgold Bit has all but disappeared from the collector’s market making it one of the more difficult early bits to obtain, surviving in low numbers and many of the extant specimens little more than relics recovered from a battlefield or fort site. Like so many other pieces of antebellum and Civil War equipment, the large inventory of remaining stock after the War, and the financial restraints of the post War years, dictated that the equipment still in inventory be used and no replacements were manufactured, which contributed to the rarity of some of those items today – the Ringgold Watering Bit included.