Broken down horses

bobinwmass

Private
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
In his book "The Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry in the Civil War", Steven M. LaBarre recounts how the regiment, despiting mustering and training as cavalry, and despite attempts of State officials and senior officers, was ordered dismounted and armed as infantry upon reaching the war front. Inexperienced as infantry, they did not perform well in their first engagement at Baylor's farm, and were soon reassigned to guard Confederate prisoners at Point Lookout. But their desire to serve as Cavalry continued, as expressed in a letter written by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Francis Adam's Jr to his mother on August 27, 1864. It reads in part: "My business in Washington was to try and get the government, as they would not mount the 5th Cavalry on new horses, to give them enough old horses unfit for present service, owing to severe work in the present campaigns, and to let them build them up while doing their present work at Point Lookout." Apparently this request was successful, as LaBarre reports that by the fall of 1864 the regiment had obtained a supply of horses for the purpose of building them up for military campaigning. By March 1865, the regiment , numbering 1200 men and 900 horses, and despite being still armed with muskets, was ordered back to the front to function as cavalry.
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
I read an account about Sherman's March where broken down horses were destroyed to prevent them from being used by the Confederates . There was a disturbing story about how they used sledge hammers to kill them instead of shooting them . One mortally injured cavalry horse recovered enough to walk many miles to catch up with the trooper who had ridden it before it died .
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
You read different accounts? Porter Alexander speaks of giving away horses unfit to make the trip back from Gettysburg, to civilians along the way. Then there were the inevitable contractors who bought the unfit ones ( and may have sold them to the government that way in the first place, you see a few scandals investigated ).

It's a good question @bankerpapaw ? Surely it could have been a matter of how ' broken ', where and when maybe? Horses worn out just through long marches and poor feed could certainly be ' rehabbed ' given time and care, guessing it depended on whether or not that'd be possible.
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
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Jan 16, 2015
Here's a report following the Gettysburg campaign:

Weekly Advertiser and Register, Mobile, Alabama, Saturday, August 22, 1863

Our Army Correspondence

Letter from Virginia

I write from Mason’s farm, Orange County, about midway between Orange Court House and Fredericksburg … The rest at Culpeper, as was remarked in my last letter, was of great service to the troops and animals of the army. More time is necessary to restore the thirty or forty thousand horses employed in the service of the army to the condition in which they were when they started from Fredericksburg. ...
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I recommend the Photographic History of the Civil War, The Cavalry, which is available online. The chapter on Union remount facilities was written by a veteran officer. The vast facilities dedicated to receiving both newly purchased & rehabilitating broken down horses returned from the front are extremely impressive. The Supply For Tomorrow Must Not Fail by Lanette Taylor, has numerous references to the number of horses & mules returned from the front during the Tullahoma Campaign. Perhaps the definitive statement on this subject was by General Stanley, "The cavalry uses up horses the same way infantry uses up shoes."
 

Montbrun

Cadet
Joined
Jun 19, 2020
My girlfriend and I own a horse farm, and we provide rides to the public. At any given point in time we have between 40 and 60 horses. I can tell you that there is always some sort of issue - sickness, lameness, shoe issues, etc. I can only imagine what other issues may had occurred with cavalry horses during the ACW - training, forage, shoes, etc. "Broken Down" horses may, or may not, be able to mend, but that may take quite a while. There are some maladies that can't be corrected, and you have to put the horse down...

Brad
 

Frank Watson

Private
Joined
Oct 27, 2014
...There was a disturbing story about how they used sledge hammers to kill them instead of shooting them ...

That was somewhat traditional. My daughter was an archaeologist and found a Revolutionary War horse -- a French artillery pony in the Yorktown campaign, to be more precise -- which had died from a "blow to the head with a blunt instrument." Basically, a blow to the head is free.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
My girlfriend and I own a horse farm, and we provide rides to the public. At any given point in time we have between 40 and 60 horses. I can tell you that there is always some sort of issue - sickness, lameness, shoe issues, etc. I can only imagine what other issues may had occurred with cavalry horses during the ACW - training, forage, shoes, etc. "Broken Down" horses may, or may not, be able to mend, but that may take quite a while. There are some maladies that can't be corrected, and you have to put the horse down...

Brad
I read somewhere that the real destroyer of horses was the artillery and the trains. A soldier's "personal" horse in the cavalry was better cared for than the horse that was just part of a heard -- one was a friend, the other was an animal.
 

Peace Society

Corporal
Joined
Jun 25, 2019
Location
Ark Mo line
Those who have not looked into the matter have the idea that actual combat was the chief source of the destruction of horseflesh. But, as a matter of fact, that source is probably not to be credited with one-tenth of the full losses of the army in this respect. It is to be remembered that the exigencies of the service required much of the brutes in the line of hard pulling, exposure, and hunger, which conspired to use them up very rapidly; but the various diseases to which horses are subject largely swelled the death list.

John D Billings, 10 MA battery
Hardtack and Coffee, 1887

If the army was not near a river, watering the horses might require miles of riding and then result in brackish or muddy puddles.

George Peck, in his memoir, has an entertaining account of shooting glanders-infected* horses, and then managing to give away the ones that could recover with good care. *a contagious bacterial disease that created swelling on the jaws and discharge from the nostrils
 

NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
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Feb 5, 2017
It would depend on what was broken down. If they had damaged legs - bowed tendons and such, they could be rehabbed only to a point of light riding for possible home use. They would never be able to be rehabbed back to a cavalry horse. If their wind was broken from extreme galloping - damaging lungs and diaphragm, that isn't recoverable either - again light riding. If it was starvation and overexertion, then rest, food, and mental relaxation, yes a broken down horse can come back. If they had big sores either from collars not fitting correctly or not being changed and their necks being washed often enough (artillery or pulling horses/mules) then they can come back from that, provided they are given complete relief and allow the sores to heal. Same with girth and saddle sores. Let the sores heals, which will take time and then get properly fitting equipment.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Those who have not looked into the matter have the idea that actual combat was the chief source of the destruction of horseflesh. But, as a matter of fact, that source is probably not to be credited with one-tenth of the full losses of the army in this respect. It is to be remembered that the exigencies of the service required much of the brutes in the line of hard pulling, exposure, and hunger, which conspired to use them up very rapidly; but the various diseases to which horses are subject largely swelled the death list.

John D Billings, 10 MA battery
Hardtack and Coffee, 1887

If the army was not near a river, watering the horses might require miles of riding and then result in brackish or muddy puddles.

George Peck, in his memoir, has an entertaining account of shooting glanders-infected* horses, and then managing to give away the ones that could recover with good care. *a contagious bacterial disease that created swelling on the jaws and discharge from the nostrils
Am currently reading another account of Prices raid, it mentions part of the reason for shortage of mounts was a glanders outbreak in the months preceding.
 

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Location
Gettysburg, PA
Am currently reading another account of Prices raid, it mentions part of the reason for shortage of mounts was a glanders outbreak in the months preceding.
Exactly. The USDA has called glanders an epidemic during the ACW. It is highly contagious and even more so when animals are stressed, poor diet and are in large numbers together. It can even be passed by shared harnesses.
Three forms, nasal, pulmonary and cutaneous. Animals can have one or more forms. Incubation is 3 days to 2 weeks. Then death can occur in just a few days. The harness horses worked closely in teams and shared my items.
Here is a good short run down of glanders from the Merck Vet Manual
www.merckvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/glanders/overview-of-glanders
The average working life span of an artillery horse was just a few months.
For the OPs question, it depends on what the horse was allficted with. Many could be brought back for others it was a death sentence.
 
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Montbrun

Cadet
Joined
Jun 19, 2020
Water definately would be a controlling factor - a horse can go a couple of days without food (just grazing) but can't go without water.
Higher-quality feed would be needed to maintain a good cavalry or work horse or mule.
Glanders is nasty, although I've never experienced it first-hand.
Strangles is another issue, but, it's "icky," just not usually fatal.
Cholic would be another issue - this is something that is not preventable in any way, it just "happens."
 

Carronade

Captain
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
That was somewhat traditional. My daughter was an archaeologist and found a Revolutionary War horse -- a French artillery pony in the Yorktown campaign, to be more precise -- which had died from a "blow to the head with a blunt instrument." Basically, a blow to the head is free.

Isn't that a common way of killing cattle etc. in slaughterhouses?
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Isn't that a common way of killing cattle etc. in slaughterhouses?
During a memorable summer job, I worked in a packing house & witnessed thousands of cattle being slaughtered. The intention of the blow to the head in a slaughterhouse is to stun, not kill the animal. Back when, a hammer blow was the common procedure. The animal is then bled to remove the blood from the body. Modern practice involves using a pneumatic gun that rams a piston into the forehead of the animal. Pigs are stunned by electricity. I have never seen it used, but have seen a pistol like device that vets used to fire a piston. In my experience, modern vets use drugs.

My dad, who grew up with working horses, was asked by a neighbor to put down a horse for them. As you might imagine, it was a kindness to have a neighbor do the necessary. It is grim, perhaps, but Dad told me that it is possible to fire a round at the forehead of a cow or horse & have it deflected. Knowledgable individuals take up an aiming point from behind at the joint between the skull & spine.

There are numerous illustrations of soldiers preparing to shoot cows in the forehead. So, it must have happened. However, if the animal was killed by the bullet & not bled, the meat would not have been very palatable.
 
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Frank Watson

Private
Joined
Oct 27, 2014
Isn't that a common way of killing cattle etc. in slaughterhouses?

I'm a engineering consultant, not a farmer, but I had a meat company as a client and as I recall a pneumatic bolt or gunshot (for smaller places) is common. They have to be certified and have periodic audits on how they do it. A sledgehammer is against the law or regulations in most states. (Holiday In Express disclaimer: It was a 2-day project, so I may not know what I'm talking about.)
 

NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
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Feb 5, 2017
I'm a engineering consultant, not a farmer, but I had a meat company as a client and as I recall a pneumatic bolt or gunshot (for smaller places) is common. They have to be certified and have periodic audits on how they do it. A sledgehammer is against the law or regulations in most states. (Holiday In Express disclaimer: It was a 2-day project, so I may not know what I'm talking about.)

I have no practice with any of this but we have a USDA slaughterhouse within a couple of miles of us and I sit on a committee for NH Sheep and Wool so this topic comes up A LOT. A USDA slaughterhouse, these days, has to have a USDA inspector on site at all times, and no they do NOT use sledge hammers anymore, thank the Lord. What a horrible thing for man or beast. It is a pneumatic bolt that drives into the brain.
 

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