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