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By Tricia P. Glenn –
On March 14, 2013, Richard Killen of Orlando, Florida, presented the Edgefield County Historical Society with Colonel Elbert Bland’s Mock Eagle Head Saddle Circa 1830s. Mr. Killen acquired the saddle two years ago from a barn in southwest Pennsylvania and since then has spent hundreds of hours researching its origin.
The saddle is in remarkably good shape for being so old. Mr. Killen took it to Cowan’s auction in Cincinnati, one of the foremost auction houses in the nation, where it was inspected by Jack Lewis, an expert on firearms and one of the hosts on the popular television series, “Road Show.” He stated that Colonel Elbert Bland’s name was faintly inked on the left side of the saddle skirt and describes the saddle as being well-constructed, half-Spanish style with its original hardware still present.
Colonel Elbert Bland of Edgefield (1823-1863) was a prominent local physician and planter who served in the Palmetto Regiment during the Mexican War. While there he was promoted to Assistant Surgeon of the troops.
When South Carolina seceded from the nation, Bland stepped up to raise a company known as the “Ninety-Six Riflemen.” They entered the service of the Confederate States as company A, 7th Carolina, in the spring of 1861. The company saw heavy fighting throughout the war. In 1863 Bland’s band of men marched with General Longstreet into Pennsylvania where nearly 166,000 American soldiers would be immortalized in a sleepy town named Gettysburg. On July 2, the fighting coming down to ghastly hand-to-hand combat. Bland lost 600 of his men and was severely wounded in his hip.
Incredibly, Bland survived the battle but was mortally wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, later that year. It is highly likely his saddle was abandoned on the battle site at Gettysburg and was stored in a barn where it remained for the next 147 years.
Although the saddle has deteriorated over time, it brings with it a remarkable history of one of Edgefield’s own. The Historical Society plans to put the saddle on display at the Discovery Center on Main Street. They express a sincere “thank you” to Richard Killen for his generous gift.