Many years ago in the course of research for my saddle books I came across the artifact pictured below. A Confederate carbine sling made of Spanish Moss. The owner told me he got the sling on a trade with the carbine (a “Confederate marked” cut down Belgian musket) many years before but could not tell me much more about it. As accoutrements were not the focus of my effort at the time I did not give it any more thought. Yet, I did have the good fortune to get the one photograph of it. The owner soon thereafter died and the artifact was subsequently launched into obscurity. In spite of my best efforts to find it now it has never been seen again.
For quite some time I have been working on an article entitled, THE CONFEDERATE ISSUE CAVALRY CARBINE SLING that is now awaiting publication at a popular Civil War periodical. When I sat down to work on the carbine sling article I, of course began to study my one photograph of this unique artifact. My previous research on the Confederate Spanish Moss saddle blanket told me that this native grown Southern product was used for stuffing furniture, mixing with plasters and mortar and, made into other items including components of horse equipment, clothing and belts! I learned that in the 18th and 19th centuries the use of Spanish Moss products was akin to a poor man’s leather. I must add here that while I have found miles of documentation in the Confederate record on the manufacture and use of Spanish Moss blankets and mats I have never seen any written word on their making carbine slings of this material. But, throughout all of my years of gathering primary documentation I NEVER looked for it either.
A study of this photo provided me some speculative observations. Most noteworthy was the iron frame buckle. Similar hand forged buckles have occasionally been dug in CS sites. Being a hopeless “hardware junkie” and having observed and obtained several of these over the years I discovered a common appearance and interestingly, an interior width that exactly corresponds to the ordnance manual’s prescribed width for carbine sling buckles (albeit in brass so one has to accept forged iron as a Confederate expediency). With the exception of artillery harness breeching and hip straps (where horse shoe shaped buckles would be more likely) their two and one half inch width (and frame appearance) do not readily correspond to any other piece of equipment “except” for carbine slings.
From my previous research I know that the Confederacy made saddle blankets/mats and artillery horse collars of Spanish Moss and, I know that other accoutrements were made of other expediencies such as folded and enameled cloth so, despite this one photograph I can only speculate about the possibilities of the South making carbine slings of Spanish Moss. It seems possible that some were made. Perhaps the arsenals made a few or more likely, some were contract made as were many Confederate articles. At any rate, while admitting any provenance is, at best circumstantial, here is something I have been experimenting with....Spanish Moss carbine slings.
Through the uncommon skill, dedication, labor and graciousness of Dawn Klug (who makes the repro Confederate Spanish Moss blankets and mats for Glen Pier Depot), I tried my hand at reproducing this carbine sling. The first is a copy of the original moss carbine sling. It should be noted that my repro has hand forged buckles (courtesy Doug Kidd) and a “keeper” like the original. I am not sure of the purpose of the keeper but some experimentation while on horseback may provide the answer. The second is a Spanish Moss reproduction of the web carbine sling worn by the Texas private pictured in EOG, the Confederacy, Page 147. On it, I used reproduction English import “London” leather (courtesy David Jarnagin) for the billets, chapes, etc. In both cases I used a Federal link strap snap hook and a portion of a snaffle bit for the sling hook.
I post these here for “kicks” and comments.
Ken R Knopp