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Famous Horses of the Civil War

       Many a fighting man had one or more favorite mounts, entitled to bountiful corn and fodder, careful grooming, and a name of its own. One clause in the surrender terms at Appomattox in 1865 puzzled some people: every Confederate cavalryman was entitled to take his horse home with him. This provision, insisted on by Lee, was accepted by Grant when he was told that once they returned to civilian life, former soldiers wouldn't be able to plant spring crops without their war horses.

The following are some of the Confederates and the horses they rode into battle and into history:

Belle Boyd - Fleeter - was ridden by this famous Confederate spy.

Maj. Gen. William B. Bate - Black Hawk - was ridden by this general.

Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne - Dixie- this battle steed was killed at Perryville while being ridden by General Cleburne.

Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell - Rifle - a much cherished steed.

Nathan Bedford Forrest - King Philip - possibly the favorite horse of Forrest, who also owned and rode Roderick and Highlander.

Capt. W I. Rasin.- Beauregard - who survived until 1883, was ridden to Appomattox by Rasin.

Stonewall Jackson - Old Sorrel - formerly a Union officer's mount, was acquired by Jackson at Harpers Ferry when she was about eleven years old. Because the mare was so small that Jackson's feet nearly dragged the ground, she was often known as Little Sorrel. Little Sorrel Lane in Somers, Connecticut, commemorates the animal Jackson was riding when he was mortally wounded.

Brig. Gen. Adam R. Johnson - Joe Smith - was ridden by the general.

Gen. Albert S. Johnston - Fire-eater - a splendid bay Thoroughbred ridden by Johnston when he was killed at Shiloh.

Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee - Nellie Gray - this mare was numbered among the dead at Opequon.

Gen. Robert E. Lee - Traveller - by all odds this best-known horse of the war was Lee's favorite. Earlier he owned and rode Richmond, Brown-Roan, Lucy Long, and Ajax. Traveller is the purported author of a ghost-written volume that depicts the Civil War as seen through equine eyes.

Col. E G. Skinner - Old Fox - ridden by this Col of the First Virginia Infantry.

Maj. Gen. Jeb Stuart - Virginia - credited with having prevented the capture of by jumping an enormous ditch. In addition to the mare, Stuart frequently rode Highfly.

M. Jeff Thompson - Sardanapalus - favorite mount of this partisan of Missouri.

Union officers were as dependent on their horses as were their opponents. Had neither side been provided with mounts, the war might have fizzled out in about ninety days.  The following is the Union side and the horses that helped them make history.

"Mother" Bickerdyke - Old Whitey - the usual mount of Bickerdyke, who was among the most famous of female nurses.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin E Butler - Almond Eye - the steed ridden by Benjamin "The Beast".

Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard - Nellie - The favorite mare of the general.

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant - Cincinnati - presented to Grant in 1864 and immediately identified as his favorite horse. When Colonel Grant rode into Springfield, Illinois, in 1861, he was astride a white horse named Methuselah. Grant first rode into battle on the back of Rondy and during the war also used Fox, Jack, Jeff Davis, and Kangaroo.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker - Lookout - acquired at Chattanooga and named for a battle of that campaign, stood seventeen hands high and was cherished by Hooker.

Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny - Moscow - a white horse used in battle by Kearny against the advice of his colleagues may have been his favorite. Because the big horse was an inviting target, Kearny switched to a bay named Decatur and then to Bayard, whose color was light brown.

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan - Slasher - ridden into battle by Logan and depicted by an artist as dashing along a line of battle with all four feet off the ground.

Col. John McArthur - Boomerang - named for his tendency to move backward, was owned by this Col. of the Twelfth Illinois Regiment.

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan - Kentuck - may have been the favorite mount of McClellan. In addition, McClellan rode a black horse named Bums.

Brig. Gen. George G. Meade - Baldy - wounded at First Bull Run and at Antietam, this horse  later took Meade to Gettysburg and a promotion. Philadelphia's Old Baldy Civil War Round Table helps to commemorate the memory of the horse.

Col. Philip Sheridan - Aldebaron - an early mount of Sheridan, gave way to a gelding named Rienzi. After taking him on his famous ride to Winchester, the name of the animal was changed to that of the town. Winchester (or Rienzi) was so revered that when he died, his stuffed body was presented to the Smithsonian Institution.

William T. Sherman - Lexington - possibly the favorite of Sherman, who also rode Dolly and Sam.

Maj. Gen. George Thomas - Billy - named for Sherman, this was the bay war horse of Thomas.
Source: "Civil War Curiosities" by Webb Garrison

This Page last updated 02/16/02

Horses of the Civil War Leaders A more detail look at some of these great animals.


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