In honor of this month’s Kentucky Derby, as well as the upcoming Preakness and Belmont Stakes, we thought now would be a perfect time to dive into some of the famous horses of the Civil War. Many know about the great men who made their mark on the war, but few know the stories of their trusted companions.
One of the primary means of transportation during the war, horses played an important role in the war effort. We compiled a list of several of the most famous Civil War horses that joined both the north and south in the war effort and we encourage you to learn more about them below.
- Cincinnati – General Ulysses S. Grant’s favorite horse can be found with him at the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington D.C. Gifted to Grant on the terms that the horse never goes to an owner who would treat it poorly, Cincinnati was the horse Grant rode to negotiate Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
- Traveller – Like Cincinnati with Grant, Traveller was Robert E. Lee’s favorite horse. The Virginia monument here in Gettysburg features Lee and Traveller. Lee bought the horse shortly after taking a liking to him, and the horse was a trusted companion the rest of Lee’s life.
- Old Baldy – Affectionately named for his white face, Old Baldy was George C. Meade’s horse of choice. Old Baldy had quite a decorated war service, as he was wounded several times, including being shot through the neck at the Battle of Antietam. Fortunately the horse survived each time, and eventually retired to a horse farm near Philadelphia. Today you can find the horse’s head displayed in a glass case in the Meade Room of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia.
- Winchester (Rienzi) – Initially named Rienzi by owner Phil Sheridan after the Mississippi town his troops were encamped at, the horse was later renamed Winchester following the storied ride from Winchester, Virginia to Cedar Creek. Featured in a poem by Thomas Buchanan Read, which described the powerful and indestructible (it was shot numerous times and always seemed to bounce back) horse carrying a fierce man into battle. Winchester may also have helped Lincoln win re-election. Today, you can find a mounted Winchester at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Humans weren’t the only valiant participants of the war. This brief list provides just a glimpse of the horses and their stories that were a part of the Civil War. On your next visit to Gettysburg, be sure to take notice how many monuments also feature their trusted companions.
Some others we didn’t feature above include Fancy, Kentuck, King Philip, Lancer, Moscow, Rambler, and Tammany. The list is quite extensive, but if you have any favorites to add to the list be sure to leave us a comment below!