Charging Through Time, War Horse Evolution

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
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A 1505 depiction of a cavalry charger and ' trooper ', ready to go. Bareback, bridle barely a halter, weaponry a pike. The Battle of Achnashellach was a Scottish clan battle, roughly 1505, if a frame of reference is needed. Da Vinci did famous studies on the fighting- with war horses.

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While far too lengthy a topic for one thread, was once smitten by the a hugely ironic moment during the war. Confederate cavalry, having ridden hard in past weeks, summer of 1863, as always with an eye out for fresh mounts had recourse to our massive, wonderful draft beasties here in Pennsylvania. What a mismatch. Poor everyone. Troopers found them easily blown, not agile and disinclined to be urgent. The draft horses, bewildered at a sudden change in circumstances, said ' Er, no, thank you, we do not feel like charging anyone. May we please have food? "
wh cav pic.jpg

From Hathi again, an 1860's war horse

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The irony was, not too far back in war's evolution these massive, unique animals were the war horses. Try hoisting a gazillion pounds of armored knight onto a Morgan or Irish Thoroughbred.

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Can you imagine?

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The war horse history goes through several centuries of evolution as armies do. As travel grew greater and swifter, first the drafts were improved, to keep up. War horses had to do double duty too- on farms attached to manors. Who could afford to keep a horse only used for war?

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Here's that flaming ninnie Cromwell- saving grace seems to have been an eye for a horse. Cleveland Bays are awesome- and if ever a terrific idea of half-n-half, best of both worlds ( or half way to the ideal, American Civil War charger ), it's the Cleveland Bay. " Dragooners " are elite cavalry.

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Percherons were hugely bred and prized- and ridden until the finer horses took over, as armies became refined.

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Very, very famous horse, ' Draco ' The Brits knew horse blood lines like New England matrons knew ancient genealogy. It's fuzzy but trotters become entangled in the process of breeding the perfect horse. A trotter did not have to just be a trotter- you could go race him, put a saddle on him and go home. Or to war.

Ancient draft lines date back dozens of generations. Cavalry units were extremely elite. The best. most coveted ' blooded ' horses were cavalry mounts. Bar none. War horses here, especially by the time of the Civil War were various by necessity. Goodness. How many, many stories do we have where a town presents an officer with a wonderful animal? How many other stories are there of civilians begging armies to give them their old, blind horse back?

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Also from Hathi Trust, a separate listing, brokers scraped together herds- note no restrictions except ' suitable '.

Still, a few breeds became noteworthy as a result of the war. As far removed from the war horse carrying soldiers to Bosworth Field as a Great Dane, a Pug the followed how war was waged. Custer's Wolverines could not have out blustered Stuart's force on great, lumbering beast; neither could little, swift Morgans and nameless cobs have charged through marsh, uphill into crashing steel and pikes. They evolved through necessity.

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Long marches, like this by Grierson from Tennessee to Baton Rouge could only be achieved by the war horses of the day.

Morgans are another thread but interestingly, in all the mystery of Justin Morgan's horse there's thought to be some draft in this little trooper of our American Civil War. How apt, war horse to war horse in countless generations?

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Col. Sharpe, of the Secret Service, had these two war horses. I think (?) Gimlet may be on the right? Now there's a war horse.
 

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drezac

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2014
Location
Baltimore,Ohio
Another bad battle for horses was Chickamauga. So many artillery horses were lost that batteries had to abandon their guns when retreating due to lack of horses.

Pvt. James Walker of 1st Ohio Battery A stated: "any amount of horses starved to death at the picket rope from want of food"

Capt. Goodspeed of Battery A wrote: "Horses Wounded 15, and in consequence of not unharnessing for six days and the hardship they have undergone, I will loose 25 more horses"

With a battery normally having about 120 horses, this represents 1/3 of his horses lost in this battle alone.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Wonderful thread, JPK! :thumbsup:

The great horses of Europe, like the Percheron, were the ones the Crusaders used in combat. But...it sure wasn't the one they rode to Palestine on! The heavy roll, the bone-jarring step...nope, nope, nope! That's what the palfrey was for...

The specialized training for a war horse is interesting, too. Forrest's famous war horse, King Philip, was a mild mannered saddle horse - actually Morgan and Thoroughbred - but was a very formidable asset after he learned what to do. For instance, on the road outside of Selma Forrest was cornered by a dozen Union soldiers and officers bent on doing him in which they would have done if he hadn't been on King Philip. He and King Philip managed a short run and nearly straight up leap over a supply wagon in the road - to block Forrest's escape - and sure nobody thought either the horse or the horseman could do it!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It has always seemed so wonderful to me- and honestly wonderful, that the troopers looking for war horses here in PA picked up some drafts. Everything had evolved so much that the man off to war in 1863 matched dreadfully with the horse his ancestors needed.

Another bad battle for horses was Chickamauga. So many artillery horses were lost that batteries had to abandon their guns when retreating due to lack of horses.

Pvt. James Walker of 1st Ohio Battery A stated: "any amount of horses starved to death at the picket rope from want of food"

Capt. Goodspeed of Battery A wrote: "Horses Wounded 15, and in consequence of not unharnessing for six days and the hardship they have undergone, I will loose 25 more horses"

With a battery normally having about 120 horses, this represents 1/3 of his horses lost in this battle alone.


For men who lived and worked with horses in daily lives it must have been horrifying, watching the death toll. Guessing not many were able to detach entirely from horses as animals and see them as only utilitarian. Especially before we became a motorized society- the family horse or horses were part of the family. We rubbed elbows with them daily- not like now when you generally have to go somewhere to see or ride one. Must have been worse than we imagine for even battle hardened men. Just an opinion- have no way of knowing if it's true.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
With artillery, they did their best to take care of the horses. While cavalry could fight dismounted, without horses the artillery was unable to do anything. It had to be very difficult for them when they were unable to obtain food and other supplies they needed for their horses.


You can't imagine! It's always been one of my fascinations- how longggg an army's provision train had to be? Wagons to feed the horses pulling what amounts to War in Wheels- portable War. Guns would be IT, really, although mules get forgotten. Louisa May Alcott had such a great ' memorial ' to Army mules I did a thread on it.

Love to know, in all the buried, unread journals and diaries from the war, if any artillery men speak of how awful it was, seeing their horses come under fire, or struggle with no fodder, or get captured. Read a few cavalry troopers admitting to hating the stuffing out of that side of war.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Bumped into this- public domain, Hathi, a war horse of Meade's OLD Bill, at the Schuylkill Foundry. Can't find him anywhere else but the era publications couldn't get away with making nonsense up like we can today. Too many around to make them look foolish!

meade war hd old bill.JPG

I'd been unhappy presenting Old Bill until he showed up free of restrictions.


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drezac

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
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Location
Baltimore,Ohio
Here's some info from a post a while back, it shows just how difficult the logistics of taking care of the horses was

As far as feeding horses, I did some calculations and the logistics would be even difficult today.

From the field artillery manual regarding horses:
"The Daily allowance of oats, barley and corn is 12 pound;that of hay, 14 pounds."
One Battery would have 120 horses (for mounted. For horse artillery, add about 75 more)

Per Day for a battery:
Oats, barley and corn: 1440 Pounds
Hay: 1680

a modern square bale of hay weighs about 40 pounds.
a modern bag of grain 50 pounds
Per Battery
42 bales of hay
29 bags of feed

At Gettysburg there were approximately 65 union artillery batteries.
65 * 120 horses = 7,800 artillery horses

65 * 1440 Pounds of oats,barley and corn= 93,600 pounds/day
65 * 1680 pounds of hay= 109,200 pounds/day

in modern square bails: 109,200/40=2,730 bales of hay/day
modern bags of feed; 93,600/50= 1,872 bags of feed/day

plus add in water

plus, what goes in eventually comes out - don't know how many pounds come back out of the horse, but for that many horses, that's still a major problem to clean up.

The reality is that there is no way that could be provided. Living off the land was notpossible (that many horses would have the ground stripped to dirt within days.)
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Here's some info from a post a while back, it shows just how difficult the logistics of taking care of the horses was

As far as feeding horses, I did some calculations and the logistics would be even difficult today.

From the field artillery manual regarding horses:
"The Daily allowance of oats, barley and corn is 12 pound;that of hay, 14 pounds."
One Battery would have 120 horses (for mounted. For horse artillery, add about 75 more)

Per Day for a battery:
Oats, barley and corn: 1440 Pounds
Hay: 1680

a modern square bale of hay weighs about 40 pounds.
a modern bag of grain 50 pounds
Per Battery
42 bales of hay
29 bags of feed

At Gettysburg there were approximately 65 union artillery batteries.
65 * 120 horses = 7,800 artillery horses

65 * 1440 Pounds of oats,barley and corn= 93,600 pounds/day
65 * 1680 pounds of hay= 109,200 pounds/day

in modern square bails: 109,200/40=2,730 bales of hay/day
modern bags of feed; 93,600/50= 1,872 bags of feed/day

plus add in water

plus, what goes in eventually comes out - don't know how many pounds come back out of the horse, but for that many horses, that's still a major problem to clean up.

The reality is that there is no way that could be provided. Living off the land was notpossible (that many horses would have the ground stripped to dirt within days.)

That's great! That sort of problem was one of the reasons - a big one, actually - that made Lee decide to invade Pennsylvania. It was also one of the reasons Sherman didn't have a lot of cavalry with him on his march, where he planned to live off the land, and why he kept on moving. Any time he camped he was the largest city in the South except for New Orleans. And full of horses and mules!
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
For men who lived and worked with horses in daily lives it must have been horrifying, watching the death toll. Guessing not many were able to detach entirely from horses as animals and see them as only utilitarian. Especially before we became a motorized society- the family horse or horses were part of the family. We rubbed elbows with them daily- not like now when you generally have to go somewhere to see or ride one. Must have been worse than we imagine for even battle hardened men. Just an opinion- have no way of knowing if it's true.
Remember how R. E. Lee nearly wept with gratitude at Appomattox when Grant allowed the Confederates to take their horses home with them? From Grant's memoirs:

When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it. As I wrote on, the thought occurred to me that the officers had their own private horses and effects, which were important to them, but of no value to us; also that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to call upon them to deliver their side arms.

No conversation, not one word, passed between General Lee and myself, either about private property, side arms, or kindred subjects. He appeared to have no objections to the terms first proposed; or if he had a point to make against them he wished to wait until they were in writing to make it. When he read over that part of the terms about side arms, horses and private property of the officers, he remarked, with some feeling, I thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his army.
Then, after a little further conversation, General Lee remarked to me again that their army was organized a little differently from the army of the United States (still maintaining by implication that we were two countries); that in their army the cavalrymen and artillerists owned their own horses; and he asked if he was to understand that the men who so owned their horses were to be permitted to retain them. I told him that as the terms were written they would not; that only the officers were permitted to take their private property. He then, after reading over the terms a second time, remarked that that was clear.

I then said to him that I thought this would be about the last battle of the war—I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.
This account always moves me greatly.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Remember how R. E. Lee nearly wept with gratitude at Appomattox when Grant allowed the Confederates to take their horses home with them? From Grant's memoirs:

When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it. As I wrote on, the thought occurred to me that the officers had their own private horses and effects, which were important to them, but of no value to us; also that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to call upon them to deliver their side arms.

No conversation, not one word, passed between General Lee and myself, either about private property, side arms, or kindred subjects. He appeared to have no objections to the terms first proposed; or if he had a point to make against them he wished to wait until they were in writing to make it. When he read over that part of the terms about side arms, horses and private property of the officers, he remarked, with some feeling, I thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his army.
Then, after a little further conversation, General Lee remarked to me again that their army was organized a little differently from the army of the United States (still maintaining by implication that we were two countries); that in their army the cavalrymen and artillerists owned their own horses; and he asked if he was to understand that the men who so owned their horses were to be permitted to retain them. I told him that as the terms were written they would not; that only the officers were permitted to take their private property. He then, after reading over the terms a second time, remarked that that was clear.

I then said to him that I thought this would be about the last battle of the war—I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.
This account always moves me greatly.


Good catch Kansas and I can see why it did. So many families in already war torn states were trying holding on until men came home. I simply do not understand how most did it, and hung on. If there is no food today- how do you make it until harvest? Boy, if harvest can't happen you're sincerely done.

Do you feel his language was on purpose, in ' claimed to own ? There were infantry, no hope of a horse- generals clearing the way to allow what animals remained in harness to be sent home to new purpose?

You read this understanding terms of surrender must be a little stern but can't help thinking it would have been useful for men in the ranks to be allowed their means to hunt, too. Food was a little thin in the South.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Here's some info from a post a while back, it shows just how difficult the logistics of taking care of the horses was

As far as feeding horses, I did some calculations and the logistics would be even difficult today.

From the field artillery manual regarding horses:
"The Daily allowance of oats, barley and corn is 12 pound;that of hay, 14 pounds."
One Battery would have 120 horses (for mounted. For horse artillery, add about 75 more)

Per Day for a battery:
Oats, barley and corn: 1440 Pounds
Hay: 1680

a modern square bale of hay weighs about 40 pounds.
a modern bag of grain 50 pounds
Per Battery
42 bales of hay
29 bags of feed

At Gettysburg there were approximately 65 union artillery batteries.
65 * 120 horses = 7,800 artillery horses

65 * 1440 Pounds of oats,barley and corn= 93,600 pounds/day
65 * 1680 pounds of hay= 109,200 pounds/day

in modern square bails: 109,200/40=2,730 bales of hay/day
modern bags of feed; 93,600/50= 1,872 bags of feed/day

plus add in water

plus, what goes in eventually comes out - don't know how many pounds come back out of the horse, but for that many horses, that's still a major problem to clean up.

The reality is that there is no way that could be provided. Living off the land was notpossible (that many horses would have the ground stripped to dirt within days.)


Staggering? Thank you! It doesn't seem possible, does it? There's a danger, when speaking and writing of armies, of forgetting how cumbersome they must have been? And how long it took for some part of one to pass, going through a town or village. Imboden's famous 17 miles of wounded, goodness- seventeen miles. Difficult imagining one mile, wagon and horses, end to end, 17? Guessing the Confederate army lacked the full amount of fodder you calculated but boy, it brings it home.

Bet horse manure was the least objectionable odor on the battlefield. I forget from how many miles away you could smell Gettysburg? -Between dead horses and men buried is such shallow graves, manure may have seemed an air freshener.
 

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Location
Gettysburg, PA
I always thought the feed regs were cutting it close especially for horses on campaign. While on the move and pushing a load they would be burning alot of calories. Maintaining a balanced diet was also a problem. Pushed hard and without proper feed, it doesnt take long for the effects to show. Average life span for an artillery horse was mere months, but that includes all manor of death.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
Good catch Kansas and I can see why it did. So many families in already war torn states were trying holding on until men came home. I simply do not u tonderstand how most did it, and hung on. If there is no food today- how do you make it until harvest? Boy, if harvest can't happen you're sincerely done.

Do you feel his language was on purpose, in ' claimed to own ? There were infantry, no hope of a horse- generals clearing the way to allow what animals remained in harness to be sent home to new purpose?

You read this understanding terms of surrender must be a little stern but can't help thinking it would have been useful for men in the ranks to be allowed their means to hunt, too. Food was a little thin in the South.
Yes, Grant was very generous. He had a great concern for the men who had to get back to "their little farms." Grant's fondest dream since his own childhood had been to be a farmer. When he was young and hated his father's tannery so much, his parents, for all their flaws, were kind enough to let their oldest boy out of working at the tannery and instead let him do all the plowing, hauling, etc., on the family farm, since that involved working with horses, which was his gift and his passion. By the age of ten, Ulysses had his own little business transporting people to other towns with his horse and buggy, and he also had his own little business training horses for people. He was a "horse whisperer" from early on. So, no surprise, all those years later, he would be looking out for farmers and their need for horses. "The war is over. The rebels are our countrymen again."
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I always thought the feed regs were cutting it close especially for horses on campaign. While on the move and pushing a load they would be burning alot of calories. Maintaining a balanced diet was also a problem. Pushed hard and without proper feed, it doesnt take long for the effects to show. Average life span for an artillery horse was mere months, but that includes all manor of death.


While you're on here, came across some amazing stuff while wasting time in Hathi, pretending to research this thread but really getting lost in ' horse '. Rats- link is on the home computer but will find it. Meanwhile, on the topic of how war horses traditionally did duty at home as farm workers, harnesses kept popping up! Thought you'd be interested!

wh22.jpg

And genesis of draft, this one smaller
wh23.JPG


PLUS, quite a few separate illustrations indicating our Clydies have characteristics strongly embedded in DNA . Without going backwards again, several illustrations of those markings on ancient war horses, little crazy!

Boy, talk about fodder carried on campaign! You'd think by 1861 someone would have gotten it right?
 

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Location
Gettysburg, PA
While you're on here, came across some amazing stuff while wasting time in Hathi, pretending to research this thread but really getting lost in ' horse '. Rats- link is on the home computer but will find it. Meanwhile, on the topic of how war horses traditionally did duty at home as farm workers, harnesses kept popping up! Thought you'd be interested!

View attachment 145047
And genesis of draft, this one smaller
View attachment 145048

PLUS, quite a few separate illustrations indicating our Clydies have characteristics strongly embedded in DNA . Without going backwards again, several illustrations of those markings on ancient war horses, little crazy!

Boy, talk about fodder carried on campaign! You'd think by 1861 someone would have gotten it right?

Thank you always like looking at those and the details of the rigs.Love Shires and Clydes favorites for a long time. Hard to source in the Amish circles here locally, lol.
"The Old English War Horse or Shire-Horse" by Walter Gilbley is a good read.
 
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