Did John Hunt Morgan Have a Favorite Horse?

JeffBrooks

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Manor, TX
Did John Hunt Morgan have a favorite horse? If so, what was its name and what other details are known about it?
 

CMWinkler

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GEN. JOHN H. MORGAN'S WAR-HORSE.
B. L. RIDLEY, MURFREESBORO, TENN.

Did you ever hear of Black Bess, Gen. John Morgan's fine mare? One day after our army had fallen back from Nashville, on retreat to Shiloh, Morgan's squadron made its appearance in the enemy's rear, passing Old Jefferson, between Nashville and Murfreesboro. Morgan, the ubiquitous raider, the dashing horseman, had dropped from the sky, like a meteor, with his squadron. He stopped for a time, and citizens rushed out to greet them. An orderly was leading an animal that all eyes centered upon. She was trim and perfect—not like a racer, not as bulky as a trotter, nor as swaggy in get-up as a pacer, but of a combination that made her a paragon of beauty. She was an animal given to Col. Morgan by some admirer from his native Kentucky, and they called her Black Bess. She was to bear the dashing Rebel chieftain through many dangerous places. There was gossip in every mouth about his daring feats. I looked and lingered upon Black Bess and the part she was to play in her master's career.

In reporting how she impressed me I employ Hardy Crier's description of his famous horse Gray Eagle. He said that he drove Gray Eagle through the streets of Gallatin, and the high and low stopped to watch his action. He stopped on the square, and a crowd collected, among' them a deaf and-dumb man. who critically examined the horse, and in a moment of utter abstraction took out his slate and pencil and wrote the words "Magnificent! magnificent!" and handed it around to the crowd. This was my idea of Black Bess. Every bone, joint, and tendon of the body, from head to foot, seemed molded to beauty. A flowing mane and tail, eyes like an eagle, color a shining black, height about fifteen hands, compactly built, feet and legs without blemish, and all right on her pasterns —she was as nimble as a cat and as agile as an antelope. My idea of a wild horse of Tartary, of La Pic of Turena, of the Al Borak of Mahomet, could not surpass the pattern that Black Bess presented. Quick of action, forceful in style, besides running qualities, atouch on the ear would bring her from a run to a lope, from a lope to a single-foot, from that to a foxwalk. She was as pretty as a fawn, as docile as a lamb, and I imagined her as fleet as a thoroughbred.

When the squadron left Old Jefferson, on the night of May 4, 1862, they went to Lebanon, eighteen miles. The citizens were enthused. It was a hotbed of Southern sentiment throughout the march, a number of citizens riding all the way to talk to Middle Tennessee soldiers. One of these citizens, Hickman Weakley, our Clerk and Master, was the owner of the "Mountain Slasher Farm," near Jefferson; and, while delighted with friends, his greatest pleasure was to look upon and admire Black Bess. Slasher's colts had reached the acme of Tennessee's boast in saddle-horses, yet nothing he had seen could equal or compare with her.

That night in Lebanon kindness to Morgan and his men was so great that his squadron was permitted to camp almost anywhere. The Yankee nation was bewildered with their daring, and the Confederates were tickled. Forsooth the squadron grew careless over triumphs. When least expected, Morgan turned up. No straggling soldiery with the enemy then, for fear of being captured. Telegraph-wires under control of his operator, and upon every tongue would come the query: "Have you heard anything of John Morgan?" At this zenith he had reached Lebanon. The wires were hot with messages to intercept him, and couriers were busy to unite commands. Gen. Dumont with eight hundred came from Nashville; Col. Dufffeld with a large force from Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, and Col. Woolford from Gallatin; truly the Federal cavalry from every adjacent section were after him, for the chiefs in Scotland's mountain fastnesses were not morefeared. That night Morgan's men camped in the court-house, livery-stables, and the college campus, and the people were preparing to give them a grand breakfast next morning, when about four o'clock, May 5, two thousand Federal cavalry made a dash, went in with the Confederate pickets, and completely surprised Morgan and his men. The horses were stabled so that the squadron could not reach them. It was at this critical time that Col. Morgan called into requisition Black Bess. Every street was jammed with bluecoats. The dash was so sudden that concert of action was impossible. One hundred and fifty of his men (nearly all) had been taken, and hundreds were after the redoubtable John Morgan himself. He mounted his mare, and, with a few of his men, rode out on the Rome and Carthage pike, pursued by Dumont's cavalry. With Black Bess under rein Morgan began a ride more thrilling than that of McDonald on his celebrated Selim and of a different kind from that of Paul Revere. Gen. Morgan was an expert in firing from his saddle while being pursued; so he waited until the foe got within gunshot, wheeled, and emptied his pistols, and then touched up Black Bess until he could reload. The victors tried for dear life to catch him. The prize would immortalize them. Dumont, with a loss of only six killed and twelve wounded, as shown by his report of the battle of Lebanon in " Records of the Rebellion," would have a triumph sure enough could he catch the cavalier who was bewildering the nation. The run was fifteen miles, but at the end of it Black Bess pricked her ears and champed her bit, as if ready for another fifteen. It was more rapid than Prentice's fancied ride in a thunder-storm. When Black Bess got to the ferry on the Cumberland River she was full of foam, with expanded nostrils and panting breath; yet, with fire in her eyes, she looked the idol of old Kentucky breeding and her bottom grew better the farther she went. Aye! she was the marvel of her day, and Dick Turpin's Black Bess could not have been her equal.

Black Bess landed John Morgan out of the danger of his enemies and into the embrace of his friends. I have often thought of this fine mare and wondered whether she was shot in battle or captured, recalling how our women prized clippings from her mane or tail. In this country, before the war, we had the Rattler- Saddlers, the Mountain Slashers, the Travelers, and the Roanokes; since the war, the Hal Pointers, Bonesetters, Little Brown Jugs, McCurdy's Hambletonians, and Lookouts; but for amiability, ease, and grace, nothing, in my mind, has equaled Black Bess, the pride
of the old squadron and the idol of John H. Morgan.

In the Army of Tennessee, when John C. Breckinridge, John C. Brown, and E. C. Walthall appeared on horseback, they were mentioned as the handsomest of our generals and the outfit complete; but to see John Morgan in Confederate uniform and mounted on prancing Black Bess, upheaded, animated, apt, and willing, as horse flesh should be, the equipment was simply perfect, the accouterment grand.

I submitted this article to Gen. Basil Duke, Morgan's right arm in war-times, who replied in substance that Black Bess was presented to Col. Morgan by a Mr. Viley, of Woodford County, Ky.; that she was captured at the Cumberland River on this famous run, and that after the war Mr. Viley offered by advertisement a large sum for her or to any one who would give information concerning her. She was sired by Drennon, a famous saddle stock of Kentucky, and her dam was a thoroughbred. Her saddle qualities were superior. About fifteen hands high, she was a model beauty, though a little hard-mouthed. Morgan was much wrought up over her loss.

Confederate Veteran, 1897.
 

CMWinkler

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John-Hunt-Morgan-and-horse.jpg
 

Vicksburger

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I'm glad you posted this, C.M., because I saw it in Edison Thomas's book on Morgan and I wondered about it then. It is attributed to be from the Louisville Courier-Journal, a "rare" photo of Morgan. But doesn't it appear to be a pre-computer technology paste-job, with someone pasting Morgan's face on a drawing/painting? Does anyone else think this is a fake?
 

Allie

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Dec 17, 2014
I'm glad you posted this, C.M., because I saw it in Edison Thomas's book on Morgan and I wondered about it then. It is attributed to be from the Louisville Courier-Journal, a "rare" photo of Morgan. But doesn't it appear to be a pre-computer technology paste-job, with someone pasting Morgan's face on a drawing/painting? Does anyone else think this is a fake?
Something about the photo looks off to me. I can't tell exactly what. There are no shadows. Sometimes photos were altered during the time period.
 

donna

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Mr. Edison first published his book, "John Hunt Morgan and His Raiders" with this photo in 1975. I don't think much was done with computers at that time.

The Morgan Men's Association has the photo on their site and say it is original.

I have tried to find out more on the photo but only have those references.
 

Allie

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Dec 17, 2014
Mr. Edison first published his book, "John Hunt Morgan and His Raiders" with this photo in 1975. I don't think much was done with computers at that time.

The Morgan Men's Association has the photo on their site and say it is original.

I have tried to find out more on the photo but only have those references.
No one is suggesting computer editing. It was common even in the early days of photographic reproduction to alter pictures using plain old fashioned scissors, white out, and paint. There are many Civil War era photos of famous people which were published during or close to the era, having been edited in some way. In this case I think the man and horse may have come from a different background. I can't tell what's been done, but my eye, and Vicksburger's eye, says something is weird.
 

donna

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Allie thanks for commenting. I think I misread the original post when he referred to computer. My mistake.

I know it looks a little strange but would like to know its exact date. Will try to research more.
 

donna

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Just found some interesting information on Black Bess.

"Captain H.B. Clay possessed Morgan's horses after Morgan died at the raid on Greensville, Tn. in 1864. Clay lived in Rogersville on Main Street and it was in Rogersville in 1864 when Brigadier General Alvin C. Gilliam attacked the town. While in Rogersville during the surprise raid, Sergeant J. H. Pharr of Company A the 13th, captured a fine black horse belonging to Captain Clay; it was Black Bess. General Gilliam rode the horse throughout the campaign of East Tennessee."

From: http://agreenhorse.blogspot.com/2009/12/horses-of-military-war.html

This is first time I have read of who had Black Bess. Captain Henry B. Clay was the eldest son son of Henry Clay. He joined the Confederacy in 1862 and was first on Kirby Smith's staff. Captain Clay was with General Morgan when Morgan was killed in Greenville, Tn. Clay, assistant adjutant general, was captured near the Williams House. After being asked to identify the body of the dead Morgan, he fell to his knees besides the general crying, "You have killed the best man in the Confederacy".

This from: http://www.angelfire.com/tn/hawkinscocivilwar/clay.html
 

donna

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Another favorite horse of General John Hunt Morgan was Glencoe. After he lost his mare, Black Bess, Glencoe was given to Morgan by A. Keene Richards, a prominent breeder of thoroughbreds in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. He was a supporter of the Confederacy and friend of Morgan. On the great raid into Indiana and Ohio, Morgan rode Glencoe. Unfortunately he had to give horse up when he was captured near Buffington island.
 
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scone

2nd Lieutenant
Honored Fallen Comrade
His favorite was a mare named Black Bess. She was a gift. She was a famous line of Bluegrass saddle stock. Unfortunately after a raid and trying to escape she was left behind. Morgan and his men had to escape across the Cumberland River near Lebanon, Tn. He never saw her again.
live just west of Lebanon , Tn use do a reenactment of the battle of Lebanon.. gone Course there was his Hartsville, Tn raid in Dec 7 1862
 
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Joined
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Cincinnati, Ohio
Another favorite horse of General John Hunt Morgan was Glencoe. After he lost his mare, Black Bess, Glencoe was given to Morgan by A. Keene Richards, a prominent breeder of thoroughbreds in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. He was a supporter of the Confederacy and friend of Morgan. On the great raid into Indiana and Ohio, Morgan rode Glencoe. Unfortunately he had to give horse up when he was captured near Buffington island.

Alas, Morgan was not captured at Buffington, he went on for several more days and wound up being captured about 80 miles from Cleveland, Ohio.
 
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