Monday, April 18, 2011

Unsung Heroes of the Civil War

Unsung Heroes of the Civil War-
April marks the start of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. And for every battle reenacted and every general commemorated there were the unsung heroes--the silent backbone of the war. They moved guns, pulled supply wagons and ambulances, carried messengers and generals, rode into enemy fire and gave everything they had. Over one million horses and mules died in the Civil War and I thought to honor their sacrifice by blogging about the most famous horse of the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveller.
Traveller: Raised by Andrew Johnston and originally named Jeff Davis, Traveller was born in 1857 in Greenbriar County, VA. He was an American Saddlebred, 16 hands high, iron-gray in color, with black points. In 1861 the quartermaster of the 3rd Virginia Infantry, Captain Joseph M. Broun purchased the horse to use during the war from Andrew Johnston’s son, for $175 dollars. The horse was four years old at the time and Broun named him Greenbriar. General Lee took a fancy to the horse and Broun sold the horse to him in February, 1862. Lee named the horse Traveller because of his ability to walk at a fast pace.
A horse of great stamina, he could move at five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of West Virginia. Because he was difficult to frighten he was a good horse for an officer to ride in battle. However, he was sometimes impatient, high-spirited and hard to hold. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Lee was dismounted, holding Traveller, when the horse was spooked by some movement of the enemy and pulled Lee down a steep bank, breaking both his hands.
In 1870, during Lee’s funeral procession, Traveller was led behind the caisson bearing the General’s casket, his saddle and bridle draped with black crepe. Not long after Lee’s death, Taveller stepped on a nail and developed tetanus. There was no cure, and he was euthanized to end his suffering.
Lucy Long: Lucy Long was five year old mare owned by Mr. Stephen Dandridge, of Jefferson County. She was 15.1 hands high, and an easy-moving, quiet sorrel mare. In 1862, during the Sharpsburg campaign, General J.E.B. Stuart bought the mare and gave her to General Lee, who had been forced to ride in an ambulance due to his injuries from his mishap with Traveller.
General Lee became very fond of the mare he called, “Miss Lucy.” Though she didn’t have the stamina of Traveller for long marches, he rode Lucy Long for two years until she got with foal in the lines around Petersburg and was sent to the rear. General Lee once more mounted Traveller.
Lucy Lee was stolen shortly before the close of the war and just after the surrender was found at a public riding academy in the eastern part of the state. She was purchased by a family friend and Captain R. E. Lee brought her to his father in Lexington. Several years after General Lee’s death she injured her hind legs and was retired to the care of John Riplogle in Rockbridge. After his death Lucy Long’s care was turned over to Mr. John R. Mackay where she lived into her thirty-fourth year.
Richmond: General Lee was presented with the bay stallion in early 1861 from the people of Richmond. But the horse behaved badly in the company of other horses and the General didn’t care for him. He rode Richmond for a time and during his inspection of the Richmond defenses. Richmond died in 1862 after the battle of Malvern Hill.
Brown-Roan: General Lee purchased him during the first summer of the war. Also referred to as “The Roan,” the horse went blind in 1862 and had to be retired. He was left with a farmer.
Ajax: The sorrel horse, was used infrequently because he was too large for Lee to ride comfortably. Ajax remained with the Lee’s after the war. He accidently killed himself by running into the prong of an iron gate latch.
After the war, an artist made a request to paint Lee’s horse and before his death the general dictated a letter to his daughter Agnes.
“…But I am no artist; I can only say he is a Confederate grey. I purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 1861, and he has been my patient follower ever since — to Georgia, the Carolinas, and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battle around Richmond, the Second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, the last day at Chancellorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, and back to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in 1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and across the James River. He was almost in daily requisition in the winter of 1864-65 on the long line of defenses from Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher's Run, south of the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburg to the final days at Appomattox Court House. You must know the comfort he is to me in my present retirement….Of all his companions in toil, 'Richmond,' 'Brown Roan,' 'Ajax,' and quiet 'Lucy Long,' he is the only one that retained his vigor. The first two expired under their onerous burden, the last two failed. You can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait.” -- R.E. Lee


Paris said...

These are the bits of history that are often lost in the official telling but it's information like this that puts an identifiable "face" on the real participants. Thank you so much for letting us know more about these unsung heroes.

Tina Donahue said...

What a fascinating post, Kathy. Thanks for sharing with us.

Redameter said...

Finally someone pays tribute to the fine animals that were a part of our history.
What a tribute. We will remember!

Love and blessings

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Paris,
There were so many horses that were favorites of other generals, I wanted to write about all of them, but it was too much for one blog.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Tina,
So nice to see you this morning. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Redameter,
Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Though it's not often discussed, as soon as camp was made, part of a soldier's were duties were to cut grass and hay for all the horses. The officers knew how vital the horses and mules were to the army. Their importance has just been lost in history.

Michael said...

Great post Kath and very informative

S.Lira aka Michael M and Rawiya

Delaney Diamond said...

I never think of the animals involved and their importance to the troops. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I loved your post, Kathy. I was struck with awe and respect for the animals that served during the Civil War. What a rich and warm telling of their service you did here.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for stopping. Glad you enjoyed the info on Traveller.

Jennie Marsland said...

These horses were heroes indeed. From what I understand, at one point during the battle of the Wilderness, the underbrush was set afire by artillery. The horses had to be as brave as the men that rode them to save as many woulded as possible from the flames. They deserve to be recognized.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Delaney,
Like so many animals today, the horses saved their rider's lives many times. Lt. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart (who bought Lucy Long for Gen. Lee), had a favorite Thoroughbred mare named Virginia. She once helped the General to escape Union pursuit by jumping a 15ft. wide ditch.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Sarah,
Great to have you stop by. I was touched when I read what General Lee wrote about Traveller in his letter. Having had horses for 35 years of my life, it always broke my heart to see battlefield photos with all the dead horses. They never complained, they just did what they were asked to do.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Jennie,
In my new book, Lost Hearts, the hero had fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. He was one of the men caught, wounded in those terrible fires along Orange Plank Rd. From what I understand the woods and thick undergrowth were so dense the infantry had a hard time holding a line. But there was calvary action on May 5th and 6th along Catharpin Rd. and Brock Rd., west of Todd's Tavern.

Adele Dubois said...

Interesting post! I confess I never thought about the horses and other animals involved in the war before. Thanks for your informative blog.


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Adele,
Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment. I see you on Facebook all the time. Best wishes.

Vicki said...

Love this post. There's a story in here somewhere, right?


Cheryl Pierson said...

Hey Kathy,

What an interesting post! I learned a lot from this--so sad to think of all the horses that have died during the years in battle. Thanks for a great post. I enjoyed it.


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Vicki,
Sorry, no story on my part. I dug into it a bit about the horses when I wrote A Christmas Smile. During the war, the hero, Tom, came home to get some new horses, because while the Union Army provided mounts for their soldiers, the Confederates had to buy their own.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Cheryl,
This has prompted me to wonder how many horses died in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Spainish American War, etc. It's sure not like today's horses who are treated like pets.

D'Ann said...

As a horse lover, I know this story well. I coached horsebowl for years, and one of the questions was what is horse's greatest contributions to mankind? The answer is as a tool of warfare.
Sad, when you think about it.

Paula Martin said...

Fascinating information, Kathy, thanks for sharing.
I followed your link from 'Sweet to Sensual' as anything to do with Robert E Lee fascinates me.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi, D'Ann,
I see your beautiful horse in your photo. I'm so glad that horses are no longer used for warfare, expcept reenacting and that's okay.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Paula,
So glad you found your way over here. With the anniversary of the Civil War starting, there should be lots of cool stuff floating around about General Lee. I'll be gleaning lots of info, too!