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Thread: Cavalry Farrier's Forge

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Ironbridge, Shropshire, England (UK)
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    Default Cavalry Farrier's Forge

    Here's some pictures taken at "Blasts from the Past" a multiperiod event in Romsey, Hampshire, England which took place last weekend (6 & 7 August) We were pitched with the Southern Skirmish Association and found the set-up to be very popular, ending up making all sorts of accoutrements, pegs, hooks etc, during the weekend. Also got to do an emergency MP40 submachine gun repair!!



    We soon found the forge provided for our every comfort!



    As farriers were often sent out "light" there was no need to take a heavy anvil - just a "pin" and a "bick" as the horseshoes would have been made bulk centrally. The shoes would only need to be heated and shaped for the hooves.



    Overall it was a good event. SOSKAN are the oldest American Civil War reenacting Society in the UK (196 and still have founder members turning up for events. I reckon that makes it a good society to belong to. So much so we joined that weekend!!
    Farrier & Blacksmith to Coy A 2nd Mass. Cavalry (CAL 100). American Civil War Society (UK).
    Civillian Blacksmith Southern Skirmishers Association (UK)

  2. #2

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    Do you have any information about those portable hand-crank forges being period? I got in an online discussion with a fellow who insisted they were, but couldn't provide much information. One sees them at a lot of 1860s events where craftsmen work, so I've been curious.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  3. #3
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    Jul 2011
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    Good point Hank, In the early '70's I worked at a small private museum and they had just such a forge. I sketched it back then, but built this one from memory! The one it's based on belonged to a travelling farrier so I guess it would be the same in the US as in England.

    A common falicy is the big horse-hauled forges often photographed in the Civil War. These were usually for the Artillery Farriers and the Engineer Blacksmiths who would be in established camps way back from the front line. The cavalry farrier's kit would all have to be light enough to get moving at a few moments' notice.
    Farrier & Blacksmith to Coy A 2nd Mass. Cavalry (CAL 100). American Civil War Society (UK).
    Civillian Blacksmith Southern Skirmishers Association (UK)

  4. #4

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    Those portable crank-style forges, for general commercial use from the post-war period, seem to show up a lot in museums and antique/junk shops. The trick is to date one to pre-1865.

    Over on your side of the pond, it looks like the plan was to have both carts and pack-saddle forges for the cavalry:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=dDIBAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA199

    The cavalry have forge carts... The present arrangement of the forge on a separate frame has been introduced since the Crimean war. For mountain service there is a portable forge, which can be carried on a pack-saddle.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=TSoBAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA146
    in accordance with this estimate the farrier's equipment of a cavalry regiment in the field has been set down by the Wo.O. Circular (869, 6th July 1864) at two forge wagons. Two portable forges are also provided per regiment, which are adapted to be carried on pack-saddles.
    I can't find what the U.S. Army was doing at the time, as far as cavalry forges. However, it looks like they did have forges that could be carried on pack mules, for mountain howitzers, but they had bellows:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=dKlEAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA355

    From the description, that kind of pack-saddle forge clearly has a bellows, and the following page describes the bellows in slightly more detail, for both the "field forge" and "portable forge," as being made of wood, iron and leather: http://books.google.com/books?id=dKlEAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA58

    Bit of trivia, concerning Sherman's bummers and portable forges:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=PhNAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA5587

    The portable forge is almost entirely done away with in General Sherman's army. Nearly all the officers prefer carrying a small-sized bellows, using any ordinary box filled with dirt as a fire-box. The bellows is swung between two stakes, usually cut from the woods or taken from some fence, driven into the ground, with a piece nailed across the top to suspend the bellows handle. The box (usually a bread-box) is placed at its proper height on four forks or stakes driven into the ground, with pieces laid from one to the other to set the box on. They transport simply the bellows, anvil and tools, making use of any empty box or barrel for a fire-box. Nearly all the iron-work on the march from Atlanta to Savannah was done with forges of this description. Officers prefer this arrangement to the portable forge, because it does not get out of order and gives a better heat.
    I'm just not convinced the crank-blower technology was typical for Civil War-era military or civilian portrayals, even though it became common post-war. But since crank blowers are so often interpreted to the public as being war-time, specifically war-time military, I'm still curious to see what various living-history blacksmiths have to offer in the way of documentation and research, so that's why I ask.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    11

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    Greetings:

    Cavalrywise, on campaign federal cavalry generally carried a couple of fitted shoes so a forge was only necessary when they settled in for an extended period.

    Below is a photo of a 1st Maine Cavalry forge in operation during the winter of 1862-63 opposite Fredericksburg. The vehicle combines the tool chest, an internal bellows (one fellow is holding the bellows pole), and the forge itself back aft. The portable anvil is set up on a post or tree trunk. Note the small kegs of shoes for fitting. The image is published in Tobie's History of the First Maine Cavalry.

    Hope this helps,
    Andy German
    1st Maine Cavalry
    1MEforge,early'63.jpg

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Northeast Pennsylvania
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    Gents,
    This link will lead you to US Letters Patent for a crank forge blower dated Feb 1860. I'm nowhere near mechanic enough to understand if this is exactly the kind of thing you are discussing, but it's worth a look.

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=a2B...blower&f=false

    regards
    Ron Myzie
    Ron Myzie
    "God gave us two ends - one to sit on and one to think with. Success depends on which one you use. Heads you win, tails you lose."

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephraim_Zook View Post
    Gents,
    This link will lead you to US Letters Patent for a crank forge blower dated Feb 1860. I'm nowhere near mechanic enough to understand if this is exactly the kind of thing you are discussing, but it's worth a look.

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=a2BkAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA2&dq=crank+forge+blow er&hl=en&ei=77xRTq-2E8nZ0QGd9eydBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resn um=3&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAjgU#v=onepage&q=crank%20forge%2 0blower&f=false

    regards
    Ron Myzie
    Now we're getting somewhere. Thanks! So, then the questions to explore are, was it in production? Who was using it, in what context? Was the crank located above the fan, as in the patent drawing, the only or most common configuration?

    Though of course the other way to approach it would be to find out what kind of equipment was being used in the circumstances being portrayed, and focus on that.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Wheaton, IL
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    2,388

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy German View Post
    Greetings:

    Cavalrywise, on campaign federal cavalry generally carried a couple of fitted shoes so a forge was only necessary when they settled in for an extended period.

    Below is a photo of a 1st Maine Cavalry forge in operation during the winter of 1862-63 opposite Fredericksburg. The vehicle combines the tool chest, an internal bellows (one fellow is holding the bellows pole), and the forge itself back aft. The portable anvil is set up on a post or tree trunk. Note the small kegs of shoes for fitting. The image is published in Tobie's History of the First Maine Cavalry.

    Hope this helps,
    Andy German
    1st Maine Cavalry
    1MEforge,early'63.jpg
    great pic! also shows a backwards facing cap (baseball catcher style), caps not kepi's, and a ton of hat brass on that dress hat.......
    RJ Samp
    Horniste! Blas das Signal zum Angriffe!
    "But in the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of 'tomfoolery' can explain away conduct that in the end makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong. "

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Near Gettysburg PA
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    The sources of information on the subject of blacksmithing equipment are mainly:
    1) Ordnance Manual(s) for Use of Officers........ in the various versions
    2) The "Official Records", as available online and searchable for free.
    3) The official army drawings created for the use of manufacturers of equipment for field use by the U.S. Army by Captain Albert Mordecai circa 1840s/1850s.

    *Not* shown below is a wheeled Traveling Forge that I built, because I am not allowed to post attachments. The wheels by themselves took me about a year to construct, each wheel weighing over 200 pounds.

    I am now working on reverse engineering a Naval-style blacksmith forge based upon a photograph of such a forge on the monitor Lehigh in the U.S. Naval archives. Because no other official documentation has yet to be found on these forges, I am using information from the Mordecai drawings of both the “Traveling Forge” and the “Portable Forge” for some of the details.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    earth
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    David,

    Just curious, and a question that begs to be asked... how much Farrier work did Naval blacksmiths do?
    I believe, should someone want to actually check, ferries and blacksmiths are two similar yet very separate trades.
    Having work as a Blacksmith at both Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Settlement Park for almost 10 years, I can assure you, they are very much different!

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