Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A horse is a horse ... or is it?

Everyone knows that horses and mules played an enormous role during the Civil War, and many thousands gave up their lives throughout the duration. Their average life expectancy was a mere six months. These unsung heroes were an essential part of both armies, not only to the cavalry, but also to artillery units, for it was these mighty beasts that pulled the caissons from battlefield to battlefield. They also bore the weight of many a wagon train, consisting of ambulances, baggage, and food supply wagons. Most of these animals are long forgotten, but a few have been recorded into the annals of history.

Traveller is probably the most famous horse to serve during the War Between the States. Previously named Jeff Davis, he was General Robert E. Lee’s gray dapple mount. The horse outlived his owner, marched in his funeral procession, and afterword, “authored” a ghost-penned book about the war as seen through his eyes.

General Grant’s horse was named Cincinnati, given to him by General Sherman in 1864. The horse was the son of a famous racehorse. Other horses owned by Grant included Methuselah, Ronda, Fox, Jack, Jeff Davis, and Kangaroo.

Lexington, sire of Cincinnati, was General Sherman’s favored mount. The famous racehorse took the General through Georgia, and to the final review in Washington D.C.

“Stonewall” Jackson had a favorite horse named Old Sorrel. Because the horse was so small (the general’s feet nearly touched the ground), the equine was renamed Little Sorrel. Jackson was riding this horse when he was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.

Baldy was the name given to General Meade’s horse. (Old Baldy was Meade’s nickname.) The horse accompanied the general through many significant battles, outliving the man, and participated in the general’s funeral procession.

Winchester (previously named Reinzi) was the prize of General Sheridan. So cherished was this animal that, upon his death, General Sheridan had the horse immortalized by stuffing him. Winchester is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

General J.E.B. Stuart’s horse, Virginia, is credited with preventing his capture. The magnificent mare jumped a large ditch, leaving her Yankee pursuers behind.

The infamous Confederate spy, Belle Boyd, rode a mount appropriately named Fleeter.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest held the worst record, having thirty-nine horses shot out from under him. He is quoted as saying that he “ended the war a horse ahead,” meaning he killed thirty-eight Yankees.

These are but a few of the horses that held special places in the hearts of their masters. In an age where vehicles have become disposable, isn’t it interesting that these wonderful equines are still celebrated today?

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