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Horses of the Civil War

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by dawna, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]

    Culpeper, Virginia. Lt. Williston and horse. U.S. Horse Artillery. September, 1863


    [​IMG]

    Lt. King's horse.

    "Library of Congress"
     

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  3. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    Culpeper, Virginia. Gen. George G. Meade's horse, "Baldy". October, 1863


    [​IMG]


    [Falmouth, Virginia]. Col. George Henry Sharpe's horses, headquarters, Army of The Potomac. March 1863

    "Library of Congress"
     
  4. Alabaman

    Alabaman Cadet

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    Dawna,

    Thanks for the post. It's great to see the fine horses of the WBTS.

    Please post an image of the most famous dappled grey in the world, General Robert E. Lee's famous war-horse, Traveler?

    Sincerely,
    Alabaman
     
  5. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    General Lee's description of Traveller to his wife's cousin:

    "If I was an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller; representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth, and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold; and the dangers and suffering through which he has passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invarible response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-marches and days of the battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist Markie, and can therefore only say he is a Confederate grey."
    [​IMG]

    "Library of Congress"
     
  6. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    Cold Harbor, Virginia. U.S. Grant's horses: on left, EGYPT, center, CINCINNATI, right, JEFF DAVIS. June, 1864

    [​IMG]

    Cold Harbor, Virginia. Gen. John A. Rawlin's horse. June, 1864

    "Heap on the wood!-the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will,
    We'll keep our Christmas merry still." ~Sir Walter Scott~


    "Library of Congress"
     
  7. Jayne

    Jayne Cadet

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    Hey Dawna,
    This is just my type of thread!:thumbsup:
    These horses look in good shape but I'm sure there are loads who did not fare as well during the war.:noway:

    Jayne.
     
  8. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    Jayne:

    Below is an article that I posted sometime ago on horses in the Civil War.

    The life span of a CW horse was 6 months, and they endured much hardship and suffering during their brief army careers. I know that as a fellow horse lover you can well appreciate the courage of these heroic equines, and their enormous, indelible contributions throughout history.

    The Horse in the Civil War


    "Although few people realize it, the horse was the backbone of the Civil War. Horses moved guns and ambulances, carried generals and messages, and usually gave all they had. An instruction from Major General William T. Sherman to his troops shows the value of the horse to the army:

    "Every opportunity at a halt during a march should be taken advantage of to cut grass, wheat, or oats and extraordinary care be taken of the horses upon which everything depends."

    The total number of horses and mules killed in the Civil War mounts up to more than one million. In the beginning of the war, more horses were being killed than men. The number killed at the Battle of Gettysburg totaled around 1,500. The Union lost 881 horses and mules, and the Confederacy lost 619.

    It is the great misfortune of horses that they can be saddle-broken and tamed. If the horse was more like an ox, not suited for riding, the war would have been drastically different. But no matter what the horses were put through, they soldiered on. Whether plodding through choking dust, struggling through mud, rushing up to a position at a gallop, or creeping backward in a fighting withdrawal, the horses always did what they had to do. They served their masters.

    The Cavalry Troops

    At the start of the war, the Northern states held approximately 3.4 million horses, while there were 1.7 million in the Confederate states. The border states of Missouri and Kentucky had an extra 800,000 horses. In addition, there were 100,000 mules in the North, 800,000 in the seceding states and 200,000 in Kentucky and Missouri. During the war, the Union used over 825,000 horses. The average price of a horse was $150.00 a head. Occasionally, high-class horses were found, but the reverse was commonly true.

    The South furnished - involuntarily - many horses to the North. Most of the fighting was done on Southern soil, and the local horses were easily seized by Northern troops. While Confederates had opportunities to take Northern horses during Robert E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania and upon the occasional raids into Northern territory, the number taken was small compared to the thousands commandeered by Union troops, who occupied large areas of the South for several years.

    The Northerners were not the only ones to make off with horses. Both the North and the South soon began to take horses that belonged to enemy allies. This was often done not out of necessity but simply to deprive the enemy of horses.

    Early in the war, the Confederate cavalry was superior. The theory was that in the South the lack of good roads had forced Southerners to travel by horseback from boyhood, while in the North a generation had been riding in carriages and other wheeled vehicles. Although this may have been true, rural young men in the North were also horsemen by necessity, but unlike many of the Southern boys, they had to bear the tedious burden of caring for their animals after plowing behind them all day. Young Northerners who knew horses seemed to have little desire to assume the responsibility of taking them to war, and instead joined the infantry.

    In the South, long before the war, young men organized themselves into mounted militia companies, often with passionate names. Although these may have been more social than military, the men learned how to drill, ride daringly, and charge with the saber.

    Southern cavalry horses were also superior to Northern horses, largely because of the Southern penchant for racing. Nearly every Southern town had a track, and the sport developed a superior stock of pure-blooded, fleet-footed animals. In the North, the stocky, strong draft horses were preferred because of their ability and willingness to work long hours.

    It is difficult to determine the dominance of any breed in the war. It is probable that breeds native to and developed in the South - the Tennessee Walker, the American Saddlebred - were most widely used because their gaits were smooth and comfortable to ride and they had tremendous endurance. The horses used by the North were most likely ordinary carriage and riding horses, since no particular breed has ever originated from the North. Morgans may have been widely used on both sides. They were small and compact, and good endurance resulted from these qualities. Pictures portray horses that look much like Morgans and Arabians. Arabians may have been scattered here and there, but they were not yet prominent in the U. S. The small Arabian is noted for being fiery, courageous, and having remarkable stamina; perhaps they might have served to slightly change the battle and march patterns of the Civil War.

    On The Battlefield

    Needless to say, the horses selected for military service needed to fit the requirements for artillery horses and were highly scrutinized for as close to the desired qualities as they could possibly come. The qualities most valued in a horse intended for artillery were described in John Gibbon's diary:

    "The horse for artillery service should be from fifteen to sixteen hands high ... should stand erect on his legs, be strongly built, but free in his movements; his shoulders should be large enough to give support to the collar but not too heavy; his body full, but not too long; the sides well rounded; the limbs solid with rather strong shanks, and the feet in good condition. To these qualities he should unite, as much as possible, the qualities of the saddle horse; should trot and gallop easily, have even gaits and not be skittish."

    Horses that were between the ages of five and seven years old were usually selected. John Gibbon carefully portrayed what was wanted, but horses with these qualities were not always available. Horses became scarce and stayed in short supply in areas of continuing conflict.

    Regardless of the shortage, the horses still had to prove they were fit for battle. Supposedly, the horses went to what would now be called a boot camp where they were taught to react to various commands and cues from the rider. They were also taught how to react appropriately to certain situations they might encounter on the battlefield. One training exercise included incoming machine gun fire at body level. At a physical and verbal command from the rider, the horse was supposed to lie down and stay down, thereby eluding bullets and creating a breastwork for its rider.

    At the conclusion of the training, the horses had to pass one final test that determined if they would become army horses. On a signal, the riders dismounted and directed their horses to lie down. Machine gunners at the other end of the field would open fire, scattering bullets over the prone men and animals. The horses that panicked and jumped up were killed promptly and released from duty.

    Artillery and saddle horses had to endure ample danger in battle. An effective tactic used when attacking a battery was to shoot the horses harnessed to it. If the horses were killed or disabled, moving the guns was impossible. Unfortunately for the horses, they could take much punishment. They were difficult to bring down and keep down, even with the impact of large-caliber Minie bullets.

    An example of this tactic was brutally shown at Ream's Station in August 1864. The Tenth Massachusetts Battery was fighting from behind a makeshift barricade with the horses fully exposed. There were six guns, and five soon came under fire. In minutes, only two of the thirty horses were still standing; both animals bore wounds. One horse was shot seven times before it went down. Others were hit, went down, and struggled back up only to be hit again. The average number of wounds each horse suffered was five.

    Despite the thousands of horses killed or wounded in battle, the highest number were lost to disease or exhaustion. The Tenth Massachusetts Battery lost 157 horses between October 18, 1862, and April 9, 1865. Out of these horses, 112 died from disease. Forty-five of these succumbed to glanders. Glanders, a highly contagious disease that affects the skin, nasal passages, and respiratory tracts of a horse, was most widespread. Another forty-five horses from the same battery were lost to fatigue; they simply became too exhausted to work and were put to death.

    The capacity of a healthy horse to pull a load was affected by a number of factors. Chief among these was the nature of the surface over which the load was being hauled. A single horse could pull 3,000 pounds 20 to 23 miles a day over a hard-paved road. The weight dropped to 1,900 pounds over a macadamized road, and went down to 1,100 pounds over rough ground. The pulling ability was further reduced by one-half if a horse carried a rider on its back. Finally, as the number of horses in a team increased, the pulling capacity of each horse was further reduced. A horse in a team of six had only seven-ninths the pulling capacity it would have had in a team of two. The goal was that each horse's share of the load should be no more than 700 pounds. This was less than what a healthy horse, even carrying a rider and hitched into a team of six, could pull, but it furnished a safety factor that allowed for fatigue and losses."

    And my favourite CW poem which was written to honour Roderick, General Bedford Forest's especial mount.

    The General's Mount
    by Jack Knox

    THE BLOOD from deep inside ​
    Began to color flecks of foam about the bit. ​
    And pink the moisture in his heavy breath. ​

    And yet the pain, ​
    Sharp and searing hot,
    Appeared to make no difference in his stride.
    For this great chestnut gelding,
    Dark with sweat,
    Was all a war horse;
    In his pace
    And in his sinew,
    Bone and blood . . . and in his heart.

    The towering General, light-reined horseman
    - Light in the saddle, too-
    Felt the shot
    That hit the horse beneath him.

    There is
    Some indescribable communion
    Between a man and horse
    Who've shared the roughest roads,
    The longest hours,
    The hardest battles;
    A singleness of spirit, faith unflagging.

    The General felt the pain
    As though the gelding's wound was in himself;
    It tightened muscles in his jaws and throat.

    AND then the second shot
    Struck hard the chestnut's side.
    And then the third.
    Stunning.
    Staggering.

    His powerful and easy stride
    Became a labored lunge,
    Steadied only by the General's balanced weight
    And sure band.
    The war horse gathered-
    With every ounce of courage in his heart-
    To carry on,
    To fight the mission through.
    Calmingly, .
    The General reined him in.
    And stepping down
    He loosed the girth
    And lightly slipped the saddle to the ground.

    THE GENERALS young lieutenant,
    Aide de camp-
    His son- Reined up,
    Dismounted;
    Took the General's horse and gave his own.
    Scarcely a word was passed,
    No orders given-
    None bad to be-
    As the General,
    With one backward glance, rode on.
    And Willie led
    The wounded war horse from the field
    And to the rear.
    Away from powder smoke
    And battle strain.
    Into the chill of early March,
    Into the quieter countryside
    In Tennessee.
    To the horse holders beyond the second hill.

    AND in the cutting chill
    The war horse ached.
    Ached under his drying sweat
    And drying blood.
    A once alert,
    Clearheaded "General's mount,"
    Stunned and trembling
    From the shock and pain.
    Jaded.
    Limping to the holders In the rear.
    No bugles
    And no drumbeats here,
    Only fading sounds across the field.

    THE HOLDERS slipped the bridle
    From his lowered head,
    Wiped the sweat marks
    From his cheeks and neck.
    Bathed the blood-red foam
    From mouth and nostrils,
    Sponged his wounds,
    Applied a stinging ointment.
    They washed his knees
    And hocks
    And pasterns.

    "It's Roderick! The General's mount!
    Bring the water bucket to him."

    Roderick,
    The General's mount
    Trained in his master's ways.
    Trained to jump
    A fence or wall or gulley,
    To back and wheel,
    To follow where the General went,
    To follow closely,
    Ready for an instant need.
    And he followed him from training,
    But he followed, too,
    From love.

    THE stinging ointment touched a spark of feeling.
    The water gave refreshment
    To his spirit.
    He raised his head a little,
    Cocked an ear,
    And listened . . .
    In the distance
    There was shooting
    And it echoed in the hills.
    The General always rode
    To the shooting.

    HE TURNED to face the sound.
    His ears were up and pointing.
    His head was clearing now.
    He moved a little,
    Toward the sound,
    The holders started to him.
    Shouting "whoa"

    He moved a little faster,
    Stiff and aching,
    Toward the shooting.
    "WHOA" they shouted,
    "Head 'im!"
    He broke into a trot.
    To a painful, labored gallop
    To the General.

    THE GALLOP warmed his blood
    Loosened stiff and aching muscles.
    Ahead,
    A fence,
    He cleared it
    With a mighty surge of effort.
    He was warm
    And he was running,
    A painful, awkward stride,
    But running hard
    To the General.

    THE next fence-
    Up and over-
    He almost lost his footing;
    But he could smell the powder now.
    The General smelled of powder.

    NOW he could see the men and horses,
    Nervous horses,
    Ready for the charge.
    Now he could see the General.
    One last fence before him
    And the field.
    He cleared it as the bugles blasted "CHARGE!"

    HE was racing with the shouting horsemen now.
    He was straining hard
    To reach the General's side,
    Five good strides ahead.
    Bleeding.
    Straining hard.
    Three good strides . . .
    When the killing bullet hit him in the chest.

    THE keen ear of the General caught a sound;
    Inaudible, almost, against the din.
    Half a plaintive nicker,
    Half a choking scream;
    Like the scream of horses "bad hit" on the field.
    Amid the shouting and the shrieking and the fire
    The General heard it.
    He stiffened,
    Half turning in his saddle.
    And there behind him
    In the charge,
    Stumbling, plunging, dying,
    His war horse
    -On his feet, but dying
    In the charge.

    THE feared
    And fearless,
    Battle-hardened General
    Spurred ahead;
    To fight more awesome battles for his cause.
    But the man-the horseman-
    Underneath his honored uniform
    -Bedford Forrest-
    Died a little there
    On the field near Spring Hill,
    March the fifth,
    1863.


    "Horses of the Civil War " (Christine Porter)
    "Hail to the Horses" (Jim Kushlan)
    Story by: Deborah Grace
     
  9. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    Dear Dawna,
    I love this thread. I believe Richard Adams wrote a book narrated by Traveller himself!
     
  10. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    Matthew:

    Richard Adam's book is brilliant and a must for horse lovers, much like Anna Sewell's classic, "Black Beauty."

    To our silent heroes.

    Dawna
     
  11. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]
    Brandy Station, Virginia. Capt. Beckwith's horse, headquarters, Army of the Potomac. February, 1864


    [​IMG]

    Yorktown, Virginia. Captain Perkin's "Sesesh" horse captured at Cornwallis cave.


    "Library of Congress"
     
  12. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]

    Dead cavalry horses.


    [​IMG]

    Shattered caisson.


    "Virginia Horse Industry Board, Richmond, Virginia."
     
  13. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]

    [font=tahoma,arial]African-American farrier at Grant's headquarters during the Civil War[/font]

    "Virginia Horse Industry Board, Richmond, Virginia."

    [​IMG]
     
  14. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][font=tahoma,arial]Mounted Union cavalry.[/font]


    "Virginia Horse Industry Board, Richmond, Virginia."

     
  15. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]
    Culpeper, Virginia. Capt. Pierce's private horses, wagons, etc. September, 1863
    [​IMG]
    Washington, D.C., vicinity. 17th New York Battery, with horses harnessed to guns. June, 1863



    "...we call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words." ~Anna Sewell: Black Beauty~



    "Library of Congress"
     
  16. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG]

    Union's winter cavalry stables.


    "The Ground Beneath Our Feet"
     
  17. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Union Camp.

    "The Ground Beneath Our Feet."
     
  18. Alabaman

    Alabaman Cadet

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    Hi Dawna,

    Would you happen to have info (a discription, etc.) on General P.R. Cleburne's mount during the battle of Pickett's Mill, Georgia, or anyof the general's war horses? I've read an account of him riding his horse, IIRC ?, named 'Jeff Davis' during this battle. There seems to be a severe lack of photos taken of the Confederate Army of Tennessee when comparing it to the Eastern Army. I'd appreciate you or anyone sharing info regarding Gen. Cleburne's warhorses. I think another horse Gen. Cleburne rode was named 'Red Pepper.'I can't locate info on any of his mounts.

    Respectfully,
    Alabaman
     
  19. FSPowers

    FSPowers Cadet

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    Excellent thread.

    There is an article in the February 2006 issue of Civil War Times concerning horses in the Southern Armies.

    Total losses for horses in the entire WTBS was about 20% 7.4 million horses.

    Southern losses were about 1.25 million horses, or about 1/2 of what they had to begin with.

    Reason was that it was advantageous to kill the horses in order to deny the enemy forces easy mobility, especially artillery and cavalry.

    A standard artillery battery (six guns) required about 100 horses to move the guns and associated equipment.

    The loss of horses not only crippled the Southern war effort, but the economy as well. The inability to provide forage for the remaining horses contributed to the Union forces, with better fed animals, being able to overtake the Southerners. The weakened state of the Southern animals meant that even though Gen Grant allowed the surrendering Confederates to take their horses home, not all made it home.
     
  20. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    Rob:

    There isn't a great deal of information on General Cleburne's war horses and there is definitely a severe lack of photos taken of the Confederate Army in comparison to that of the East; but one horse I know of named Dixie was killed at the Battle of Perryville.

    An excerpt on the horse Jeff Davis by General F.D. Grant:

    "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."

    Hope you had a great Christmas.

    Dawna
     
  21. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

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    FSPowers:

    Thanks for the information from "Civil War Times" and I thought you might enjoy this article on artillery horses, and one in particular named Old Sam:

    It is easy to forget that the field artillery was almost as a dependent upon horses as the cavalry. Gibbon held that a battery of six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery. As the principle motive power for the guns, they were a prime target for the opposing force; disabling the horses meant that the guns were at risk of capture. Horses, like the soldiers who depended upon them, were also subject to the rigors of disease, poor rations, and the too-often squalid living conditions of an army camp. The death toll has never been calculated, but the cost of the War in horse flesh was surely enormous.

    As their lives and guns so often depended upon their horses, artillerymen were disposed to accept without excessive grumbling the regulations for their care. The bugler would sound stable call after reveille and roll, and water call after breakfast. The same routine for the horses would be repeated late in the afternoon. Morning and afternoon drill also meant a workout for the horses, after which they needed to be walked to cool down, curried, and probably watered again. There were always sick horses requiring care, and those who died requiring burial. (This last was described by John Billings, with the humor that can only be the product of a long passage of time, in his Hardtack and Coffee.)

    One driver was assigned to each pair of horses, riding the on (left) horse and holding reins for it and the off horse.

    Skilled riders were required for this service, which combined the daring of the cavalry troopers with the precision teamwork expected of the artilleryman. Drivers were issued a leg-guard, an iron plate encased in leather and strapped to the right leg to prevent the limber pole from injuring them. The duties of a driver are described in more detail in Field Artillery Positions and Duties, by R. B. Hansen. For a more extended discussion of artillery horses, see James R. Cotner, Horsepower Moves the Guns.

    The Story of an Artillery Horse: Loomis Battery's "Old Sam"

    The Coldwater Light Artillery had been a crack militia unit well before the commencement of the Civil War, and when hostilities began, this unit from Branch County, Michigan, was one of the first to offer its services for the cause of the Union. The people of Coldwater were justifiably proud of their Battery, and donated everything needed to complete the equipment of the unit.

    Among these donations was the use of Old Sam, a horse owned by Mr. Clark, a local innkeeper. Old Sam had been employed for several years as a cab horse, bringing passengers from the train station to the inn. When the Battery left Coldwater in May, the thoughts of those left behind were all of the men; few could have spared concern for a horse. But the men themselves had apparently already adopted Old Sam as something of a pet, the sight of him pulling his cab down the old post road being familiar to them all.

    Loomis's Battery was often found where fighting was the thickest, and the toll on the Battery's horses was even more fearsome than the toll on the men. In savage fighting at Perrysville 33 horses were killed or disabled. The Battery was again heavily engaged at Murfreesboro, losing nearly 40 horses. Finally, in the debacle at Chickamauga, the Battery lost five of its guns and nearly 50 horses. In the course of the War, many others were lost to disease, or simply wore out their lives in the hard work and scant forage that were the lot of the artillery horse.

    But somehow, through all of this, Old Sam plugged along. His seemingly charmed life made him a symbol of survival to the men of Loomis's Battery, and he continued to be a reminder of the home they had left behind so many months before.

    After mustering out, the men of the Battery were sent home to Coldwater, and so was Old Sam. When the ramp from his railroad car was lowered, Sam needed no one to tell him that he had reached his old familiar station. Not waiting to be bridled, he simply trotted down the ramp and went directly to his old stable, his empty stall waiting for him. Again like the soldiers with whom he had spent four years, he returned to the work he had known before the War. He retired to a local farm a few years later, but continued to be a special participant in every Decoration Day parade and GAR encampment.

    When at last his time had come to an end, the veterans with whom he'd served had long since come to regard Old Sam as one of them, and were loathe to part with him, even in death. Though the law forbade his being buried in the local cemetery, those veterans felt there was a higher law to be followed. Local legend, passed on from father to son for over a century, says that they buried Sam in an unplotted area of the town's cemetery. There are still a few descendants and relatives of those men who can point to a large shallow depression in a disused corner of the cemetery as the final resting place of Old Sam, the artillery horse.

    [​IMG]
    For more information on Loomis's Battery (Battery A, 1st Michigan Light Artillery) see: Matthew C. Switlik, Loomis' Battery: First Michigan Light Artillery, 1859-1865 (1975)
     

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