Horses of the Civil War Leaders
The battle chargers of the general officers of the Confederate and Federal armies during the American Civil War, wrote their names upon the scrolls of history by their high grade of sagacity and faithfulness. They carried their masters upon the tedious march and over the bullet-swept battlefields, and seemed to realize their importance in the conflict. The horse of the commanding officer was as well known to the rank and file as the general himself, and the soldiers were as affectionately attached to the animal as was the master.
General Grant's Horses
When the Civil War broke out, my father,(1) General Grant, was appointed colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry and on joining the regiment purchased a horse in Galena, Illinois. This horse, though a strong animal, proved to be unfitted for the service and, when my father was taking his regiment from Springfield, Illinois, to Missouri, he encamped on the Illinois River for several days. During the time they were there a farmer brought in a horse called "Jack." This animal was a cream-colored horse, with black eyes, mane and tail of silver white, his hair gradually becoming darker toward his feet. He was a noble animal, high spirited, very intelligent and an excellent horse in every way. He was a stallion and of considerable value. My father used him until after the battle of Chattanooga (November, 1863), as an extra horse and for parades and ceremonial occasions. At the time of the Sanitary Fair in Chicago (1863 or '64), General Grant gave him to the fair, where he was raffled off, bringing $4,000 to the Sanitary Commission.
(1) This account was furnished at the author's request by General Frederick Dent Grant, U.S.A.--TFR
Soon after my father was made a brigadier-general, (August 8, 1861 ), he purchased a pony for me and also another horse for field service for himself. At the battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861), his horse was killed under him and he took my pony. The pony was quite small and my father, feeling that the commanding general on the field should have a larger mount, turned the pony over to one of his aides-decamp. (Captain Hyllier) and mounted the captain's horse. The pony ,was lost in the battle.
The next horse that my father purchased for field service was a roan called "Fox," a very powerful and spirited animal and of great endurance. This horse he rode during the siege and battles around Fort Donelson and also at Shiloh.
At the battle of Shiloh the Confederates left on the field a rawboned horse, very ugly and apparently good for nothing. As a joke, the officer who found this animal on the field, sent it with his compliments, to Colonel Lagow, one of my father's aides-de-camp, who always kept a very excellent mount and was a man of means. The other officers of the staff "jollied" the colonel about this gift. When my father saw him, he told the colonel that the animal was a thoroughbred and a valuable mount and that if he, Lagow, did not wish to keep the horse he would be glad to have him. Because of his appearance he was named "Kangaroo," and after a short period of rest and feeding and care he turned out to be a magnificent animal and was used by. my father during the Vicksburg campaign.
In this campaign, General Grant had 'two other horses, both of them very handsome, one of which he gave away and the other he used until. late in the war. During the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, a cavalry raid or scouting party arrived at Joe Davis' plantation (the brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) and there captured a black pony which was brought to the rear of the city and presented to me. The animal was worn out when it reached headquarters but was a very easy riding horse and I used him once or twice. With care he began to pick up and soon carried himself in fine shape.
At that time my father was suffering with a carbuncle and his horse being restless caused him a great deal of pain. It was necessary for General Grant to visit the lines frequently and one day he took this pony for that purpose. The gait of the pony was so delightful that he directed that he be turned over to the quartermaster as a captured horse and a board of officers be convened to appraise the animal. This was done and my father purchased the animal and kept him until he died, which was long after the Civil War. This pony was known as "Jeff Davis."
After the battle of Chattanooga, General Grant went to St. Louis, where I was at the time, critically ill from dysentery contracted during the siege of Vicksburg. During the time of his visit to the city he received a letter from a gentleman who signed his name "S.S. Grant," the initials being the same as those of a brother of my father's, who had died in the summer of 1861. S.S. Grant wrote to the effect that he was very desirous of seeing General Grant but that he was ill and confined to his room at the Lindell Hotel and begged him to call, as he had something important to say which my father might be gratified to hear.
The name excited my father's curiosity and he called at the hotel to meet the gentleman who told him that he had, he thought, the finest horse in the world, and knowing General Grant's great liking for horses he had concluded, inasmuch as he would never be able to ride again, that he would like to give his horse to him; that he desired that the horse should have a good home and tender care and that the only condition that he would make in parting with him would be that the person receiving him would see that he was never ill-treated and should never fall into the hands of a person that would ill-treat him. This promise was given and General Grant accepted the horse and called him" Cincinnati." This was his battle charger until the end of the war and was kept by him until the horse died at Admiral Ammen's farm in Maryland, in 1878.(2)
About this time (January, 1864) some people in Illinois found a horse in the southern part of that State, which they thought was remarkably beautiful. They purchased him and sent him as a present to my father. This horse was known as "Egypt" as he was raised, or at least came from southern Illinois, a district known in the State as Egypt, as the northern part was known as Canaan.
(2) "Cincinnati" was the son of "Lexington," the fastest four-mile thoroughbred in the United States, time 7:19 3/4 minutes. "Cincinnati" nearly 'equaled the speed of his half-brother, "Kentucky," and Grant was offered $10,000 in gold or its equivalent for him, but refused. He was seventeen hands high, and in the estimation of Grant was the finest horse that he had ever seen. Grant rarely permitted anyone to mount the horse --two exceptions were Admiral Daniel Ammen and Lincoln. Ammen saved Grant's life from drowning while a school-boy. Grant says: "Lincoln spent the latter days of his life with me. He came to City Point in the last month of the war and was with me all the time. He was a fine horseman and rode my horse 'Cincinnati' every day."--TFR
General Lee's "Traveller"
The most famous of the horses in the stables of General Lee, the Confederate commander, was "Traveller," an iron gray horse. He was raised in Greenbrier County, near Blue Sulphur Springs, and, as a colt, won first prize at a fair in Lewisburg, Virginia. When hostilities commenced between the North and the South, the horse, then known as "Jeff Davis," was owned by Major Thomas L. Broun, who had paid $175 (in gold) for him. Lee first saw the gray in the mountains of West Virginia. He instantly became attached to him, and always called him "my colt."
In the spring of 1862, this horse finally became the property of the general, who paid $200 in currency for him. He changed the name of his charger to "Traveller" and from the date of purchase it became almost a daily sight to see the commander astride the gray, riding about the camp.
There were a number of battle horses in Lee's stables during the war. There were "Grace Darling," "Brown Roan," "Lucy Long," "Ajax," and "Richmond," but of them all "Traveller" became the especial companion of the general. The fine proportions of tiffs horse immediately attracted attention. He was gray in color, with black points, a long mane and long flowing tail. He stood sixteen hands high, and was five years old in the spring of 1862. His figure was muscular, with a deep chest and short back, strong haunches, fiat legs, small head, quick eyes, broad forehead, and small feet. His rapid, springy step and bold carriage made him conspicuous in the camps of the Confederates. On a long and tedious march with the Army of Northern Virginia he easily carried Lee's weight at five or six miles an hour, without faltering, and at the end of the day's hard travel seemed to be as fresh as at the beginning.
The other horses broke under the strain and hardships; "Lucy Long," purchased by General "Jeb" Stuart from Stephen Dandridge and presented to Lee, served for two years in alternation with "Traveller," but in the fall of 1864 became unserviceable and was sent into the country to recuperate.(3) "Richmond," "Ajax," and "Brown Roan" each in turn proved unequal to the rigors of war.
(3) "Lucy Long," second to "Traveller" in Lee's affections, was recalled from the country just before the evacuation of Richmond; but during the confusion she was placed with the public horses and sent to Danville, and Lee lost all trace of his war-horse. A thorough search was made, and finally, in 1866, she was discovered and brought to Lexington to pass her days in leisure with General Lee and "Traveller." After a number of years the mare became feeble and seemed to lose interest in life, and when "Lucy Long" reached about thirty-three years of age a son of General Lee mercifully chloroformed the veteran war-horse of the Army of Northern Virginia.
But "Traveller" sturdily accepted and withstood the hardships of the campaigns in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. When in April, 1865, the last battle of the Army of Northern Virginia had been fought, the veteran war-horse was still on duty. When Lee rode to the McLean house at Appomattox Court House, he was astride of "Traveller," and it was this faithful four-footed companion who carried the Southern leader back to his waiting army, and then to Richmond.
When Lee became a private citizen and retired to Washington and Lee University, as its president, the veteran warhorse was still with him, and as the years passed and both master and servant neared life's ending they became more closely attached.(4) As the funeral cortege accompanied Lee to his last resting place, "Traveller" marched behind the hearse, his step slow and his head bowed, as if he understood the import of the occasion.(4) During the life of "Traveller" after the-war, he was the pet of the countryside about Lexington, Va. Many marks of affection were showered upon him. Admiring friends in England sent two. sets of equipment for the veteran war-horse. Ladies in Baltimore, Md., bestowed another highly decorated set, and another came from friends at the Confederate capital, Richmond. But the set that seemed to most please "Traveller" was the one sent from St. Louis, in Missouri.
General McClellan's Horses
While General McClellan was in command of the Army of the Potomac, in 1862, he had a number of war-horses. The favorite of them all was "Daniel Webster," soon called by the members of the general's staff "that devil Dan," because of his speed with which the staff officers had great difficulty in keeping pace. During the battle of the Antietam the great horse carried the commander safely through the day.
"Daniel Webster" was a dark bay about seventeen hands high, pure bred, with good action, never showing signs of fatigue, no matter how hard the test. He was extremely handsome, with more than ordinary horse-sense. He was a fast walker, an important requisite in a commander's charger, but a disagreeable quality for the staff officers whose horses were kept at a slow trot. After McClellan retired to private life, "Dan" became the family horse at Orange, N.J., where he died at the age of twenty-three. McClellan said: "No soldier ever had a better horse than I had in 'Daniel Webster.'"
McClellan also had a charger named "Burns," a fiery black, named after an army friend who gave the horse to McClellan. His one failing was that at dinner time he would bolt for his oats regardless of how much depended on McClellan's presence on the battlefield at the critical moment, as in the battle of the Antietam. Running at dinner time became so much an obsession with "Burns" that McClellan was always careful not to be mounted on him at that hour of the day.(5)
(5) The Editor has vivid recollection of "Little Mac" in April, 1862 (then at the height of his popularity), during a ride from Fort Monroe to Big Bethel, being the first day's march of the Army of the Potomac toward Yorktown, Va. The writer commanded the escort (a squadron, Second U.S. Cavalry), and during the ten or twelve miles of the route covered at a gallop, between double lines of infantry, halted for the moment to permit the commanding general to pass, the air was literally "rent" with the cheers of the troops, filled with high hopes of an early entrance to the Confederate capital. As the brilliant staff, headed by the young chieftain of magnetic presence, with bared head, mounted on "Black Burns," swept along amid clatter of hoof, jingle of equipment, and loud hurrahs, the thought came to the writer that thus the "Little Corporal" was wont to inspire his devoted legions to loud acclaim of Vive l'Empereur. (T. F.R.)
General Sherman's Horses
General Sherman's best war-horse was killed early in the Civil War, at the battle of Shiloh, where he led the right wing of the Federal army against General A. S. Johnston's Confederate legions. Two of his other chargers were killed while being held by an orderly. Of the many horses that carried Sherman through the remaining years of the struggle, two had a particular place in the general's affections--" Lexington" and" Sam." The former was a Kentucky thoroughbred, and his fine action attracted the admiration of all who saw him. When the Federal forces finally entered and occupied Atlanta, in 1864, Sherman was astride of "Lexington "; and after peace was declared, in ]865, the general rode the same horse in the final review of his army in Washington.
"Sam" was a large, half-thoroughbred bay, sixteen and a half hands high. He possessed great speed, strength, and endurance. The horse made one of the longest and most difficult marches ever recorded in history, from Vicksburg to Washington, through the cities of Atlanta, Savannah, Columbia, and Richmond. He had a rapid gait, and could march five miles an hour at a walk. While under fire "Sam" was as calm and steady as his brave master. He was wounded several times, while mounted, and the fault was usually due to Sherman's disregard of the horse's anxiety to seek cover. In 1865, Sherman retired "Sam" to a well-earned rest, on an Illinois farm, where he received every mark of affection. The gallant warhorse died of extreme old age, in 1884.
General Thomas J. (" Stonewall ") Jackson, the great Southern leader, had his favorite battle charger, which at the beginning of the war was thought to be about eleven years old. On May 9, 1861, while Jackson was in command of the garrison at Harper's Ferry, a train load of supplies and horses, on the way to the Federal camps, was captured. Among the horses was one that attracted Jackson's attention. He purchased the animal from his quartermaster's department for his own personal use. The horse, named "Old Sorrel," carried Jackson over many of the bullet-swept battlefields and was with Jackson when that officer fell before the volley of his own men at the battle of Chancellorsville. During the swift campaign through the Shenandoah, in 1862, when Jackson marched his "foot cavalry" towards the citadel at Washington, the horse was his constant companion.
In 1884, a state fair was held at Hagerstown, in Maryland, and one of the most interesting sights was that of the veteran war horse, "Old Sorrel," tethered in a corral and quietly munching choice bits of vegetables and hay. Before the fair was ended nearly all the mane and hair of his tail had disappeared, having been plucked by scores of relic hunters. For many years after the cessation of hostilities, Jackson's gallant old war-horse was held in tender esteem at the South.
When the veteran battle charger died, admirers of Jackson sent the carcass to a taxidermist and the gallant steed now rests in the Soldier's Home in Richmond, Virginia.(6)
(6) From the Confederate Veteran
General Sheridan's "Rienzi"
General Sheridan's charger was foaled at or near Grand Rapids, Michigan, of the Black Hawk stock, and was brought into the Federal army by an officer of the Second Michigan Cavalry. He was presented to Sheridan, then colonel of the regiment, by the officers, in the spring of 1862, while the regiment was stationed at Rienzi, Mississippi; the horse was nearly three years old. He was over seventeen hands in height, powerfully built, with a deep chest, strong shoulders, a broad forehead, a clear eye and of great intelligence. In his prime he was one of the strongest horses Sheridan ever knew, very active, and one of the fastest walkers in the Federal army. "Rienzi" always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements created the impression that he was exceedingly impetuous, but Sheridan was always able to control him by a firm hand and a few words. He was as cool and quiet under fire as any veteran trooper in the Cavalry Corps.
At the battle of Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864, the name of the horse was changed from "Rienzi" to "Winchester," a name derived from the town made famous by Sheridan's ride to save his army in the Shenandoah Valley. Poets, sculptors, and painters have made the charger the subject of their works. Thomas Buchanan Read was inspired to write his immortal poem, "Sheridan's Ride," which thrilled the North.
From an account of this affair in "Scribner's Magazine," by General G.W. Forsyth, who accompanied Sheridan as aide-de-camp, the following is quoted:
The distance from Winchester to Cedar Creek, on the north hank of which the Army of the Shenandoah lay encamped, is a little less than nineteen miles. As we debouched into the fields . . . the general would wave his hat to the men and point to the front, never lessening his speed as he pressed forward. It was enough. One glance at the eager face and familiar black horse and they knew him and, starting to their feet, they swung their caps around their heads and broke into cheers as he passed beyond them; and then gathering up their belongings started after him for the front, shouting to their comrades farther out in the fields, "Sheridan! Sheridan!" waving their hats and pointing after him as he dashed onward .... So rapid had been our gait that nearly all of the escort save the commanding officer and a few of his best mounted men had been distanced, for they were more heavily weighted and ordinary troop horses could not live at such a pace.
In one of the closing scenes of the war -Five Forks- Sheridan was personally directing a movement against the Confederates who were protected by temporary entrenchments about two feet high. The Federal forces, both cavalry and infantry, were suffering from a sharp fire, which caused them to hesitate. "Where is my battle-flag.?" cried Sheridan. Seizing it by the staff, he dashed ahead, followed by his command. The gallant steed leaped the low works and landed the federal general fairly amid the astonished Southerners. Close behind him came Merritt's cavalrymen in a resistless charge which swept the Confederates backward in confusion. The horse passed a comfortable old age in his master's stable and died in Chicago, in 1878; the lifelike remains are now in the Museum at Governor's Island, N.Y., as a gift from his owner.
General Stuart's "Highfly"
The battle horse, "Highfly," carried General "Jeb" Stuart through many campaigns and had become his favored companion. The intelligence and faithfulness of the steed had many times borne the dashing cavalier through desperate perils. In the summer of 1862, at Verdiersville on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Orange, in Virginia, Stuart was stretched out upon a bench on the porch of the tavern, awaiting the arrival of General Fitzhugh Lee with whom he desired to confer on the next movement of the cavalry. "Highfly" was unbridled and grazing in the yard near the road. The clatter of horses aroused the Confederate general, and he walked to the roadway, leaving behind on the bench his hat, in which was a black plume, the pride of Stuart's heart. Suddenly, horsemen dashed around the bend in the road and Stuart was within gunshot of Federal cavalry. He was nonplussed; he had expected to see Fitzhugh Lee. Mounting his faithful and speedy bay he soon left the chagrined cavalry far behind, but the foe carried away the hat with its black plume.
General Meade's "Baldy"
In the first great battle of the Civil War, at Bull Run, there was a bright bay horse, with white face and feet. His rider was seriously wounded. The horse was turned back to the quartermaster to recover from his wounds received that day. Later, in September, General Meade bought the horse and named him "Baldy." Though Meade became deeply attached to the horse, his staff officers soon began to complain of the peculiar pace of "Baldy," which was hard to follow. He had a racking gait that was faster than a walk and slow for a trot and compelled the staff, alternately, to trot and then to drop into a walk, causing great discomfort.
"Baldy's "war record was remarkable. He was wounded twice at the first battle of Bull Run; he was at the battle of Dranesville; he took part in two of the seven days' fighting around Richmond in the summer of 1862; at Groveton, August 29th, at the second battle of Bull Run; at South Mountain and at Antietam. In the last battle the gallant horse was left on the field as dead, but in the next Federal advance "Baldy" was discovered quietly grazing on the battle-ground, with a deep wound in his neck. He was tenderly cared for and soon was again fit for duty. He bore the general at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. For two days "Baldy" was present at Gettysburg, where he received his most grievous wound from a bullet entering his body between the ribs, and lodging there. Meade would not part with the gallant horse, and kept him with the army until the following spring.
In the preparations of the Army of the Potomac for their last campaign, "Baldy" was sent to pasture at Downingtown, in Pennsylvania. After the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox, Meade hurried to Philadelphia where he again met his faithful charger, fully recovered. For many years the horse and the general were inseparable companions, and when Meade died in 1872, the bullet-scarred war-horse followed the hearse. Ten years later "Baldy" died, and his head and two fore hoofs were mounted and are now cherished relics of the George G. Meade Post, Grand Army of the Republic, in Philadelphia.
General Thomas' "Billy"
The "Rock of Chickamauga," General George H. Thomas, possessed two intelligent war-horses, both powerful and large, and able to carry the general, who weighed nearly two hundred pounds. Both horses were bays; one named "Billy" (after Thomas' friend, General Sherman) was the darker of the two, about sixteen hands high, and stout in build. He was, like his owner, sedate in all his movements and was not easily disturbed from his habitual calm by bursting shells or the turmoil of battle. Even in retreat, the horse did not hurry his footsteps unduly, and provoked the staff by his deliberate pace. "Billy" bore General Thomas through the campaigns in middle Tennessee and northern Georgia. He was on the fields of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and marched with the Federal host in the advance upon Atlanta. From Atlanta, he next moved to Nashville where his master engineered the crushing defeat to the Confederate arms in the winter of 1864, the last battle in which Thomas and "Billy" participated.
General Hooker's "Lookout"
General Hooker first became acquainted with his famous charger, "Lookout," while the animal Was stabled in New York, and when Louis Napoleon, the French emperor, and an English gentleman of wealth were bidding for its purchase. Napoleon repeatedly offered the owner a thousand dollars for the horse. Hooker finally obtained him and rode him in the campaigns in which he later participated.
"Lookout" was raised in Kentucky, and he was a three-quarters bred, out of a half bred mare by Mambrino. He was of a rich chestnut color, stood nearly seventeen hands high, and had long slender legs. Despite his great height, the horse was known to trot a mile in two minutes and forty-five seconds. When the battle of Chattanooga occurred, the horse was seven years old. It was here that the animal received its name of "Lookout." The grandeur of "Lookout's" stride and his height dwarfed many gallant war-horses and he has been termed the finest charger in the army.
General Kearny's Horses
General Philip Kearny was a veteran of the Mexican War, with the rank of captain. It had been decided to equip Kearny's troop (First United States Dragoons) with horses all of the same color, and he went to Illinois to purchase them. He was assisted in the work by Abraham Lincoln and finally found himself in possession of one hundred gray horses. While engaged in battle before the City of Mexico, mounted upon one of the newly purchased grays, "Monmouth," Kearny was wounded in an arm, which was finally amputated. During the Civil War, Kearny had many excellent animals at his command, but his most celebrated steed was "Moscow," a high-spirited white horse. On the battlefield, "Moscow" was conspicuous because of his white coat, but Kearny was heedless of the protests of his staff against his needless exposure.
Another war-horse belonging to General Kearny was "Decatur,"a light bay, which was shot through the neck in the battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines. "Bayard," a brown horse, was ridden by Kearny at this battle, and his fame will ever stand in history through the poem by Stedman, "Kearny at Seven Pines." At the battle of Chantilly, Kearny and "Bayard" were advancing alone near the close of the struggle, when they met with a regiment of Confederate infantry. "Bayard" instantly wheeled and dashed from danger, with Kearny laying flat upon the horse's neck. A shower of bullets fell about the general and his charger. They seemed about to escape when a fatal bullet struck the general.
The leader of the Southern legions in the West, General Albert Sidney Johnston, rode a magnificent thoroughbred bay, named "Fire-eater," on the battlefield. The steed stood patiently like a veteran when the bullets and shells hurtled about him and his master, but when the command came to charge, he was all fire and vim, like that Sunday in April, 1862, the first day of the bloody battle of Shiloh.
Among the hundreds of generals' mounts which became famous by their conspicuous bravery and sagacity on the battlefields, were General Fitzhugh Lee's little mare, "Nellie Gray," which was killed at the battle of Opequon Creek; Major General Patrick R. Cleburne's "Dixie," killed at the battle of Perryville; General Adam R. Johnson's "Joe Smith," which was noted for its speed and endurance; and General Benjamin F. Butler's war-horse, "Almond Eye," a name derived from the peculiar formation of the eyes of the horse.
Source: "Photographic History of the Civil War: Article by Theo. F. Rodenbough, Brigadier-General, United States Army (Retired)
This Page last updated 12/23/01