Traveller-ing Stories For The War Horse In All Of Us

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
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From one of the popular prints of the era depicting Appomattox, this artist can be forgiven for almost ignoring the other famous people there and giving Traveller the spotlight.

No, it's not spelled incorrectly. Almost as recognizable as his owner, the uber-famous grey ' blood horse ' who carried General R.E. Lee through a good portion of the war was descended from a long ( long.... ) line of ' blood ' horses and had an ancestor named ' Traveller ' interestingly related to the Justin Morgan horse. If you think things are a little out of control in human ancestry, who's-who and why we'd like a laminated card proving we're related to someone famous, take a look at the horse world. Traveller was royalty descended from royalty. " Blood horses " were four-legged, better looking royalty.

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We're more than familiar with this LoC photo but it's an important one. This 16H, big grey was only one of Lee's war horses but remains the most iconic.

I'm not sure we pay enough to attention to the 4-footed friends who made the war as mobile as it could get before that stupid infernal combustion engine. Our famous war horses generally got that way because of the guy who sat on them. While important and no disrespect to Lee, he'd have been the first to say " Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. " when writing to daughter Agnes about a proposed portrait of Traveller.


" If I were an artist like you I would draw a true picture of Traveller — representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest and 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, cold, and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affec tion, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts, through the long night marches and days of battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist ; I can only say he is a Confederate gray. I purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 186 1, and he has been my patient follower ever since — to Georgia, the Carolinas, and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battle around Richmond, the second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, the last day at Chancel- lorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, and back to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in 1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wildernesss, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbour, and across the James River. He was almost in daily requisition in the winter of 1864-65 on the long line of defenses from Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher's Run, south of the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburg to the final days at Appomattox Court House. You must know the comfort he is to me in my present retirement. "

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" He was raised by Mr. Johnston, near the Blue Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier county, Va. (now West Virginia); was of the “Gray Eagle” stock, and, as a colt, took the first premium under the name of “Jeff Davis” at the Lewisburg fairs for each of the years 1859 and 1860. He was four years old in the spring of I861. "
Thomas Broun.

' ' Amongst the soldiers this horse was as well known as was his master. He was a handsome iron-gray with black points — mane and tail very dark — sixteen hands high, and five years old. He was born near the White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and attracted the notice of my father when he was in that part of the State in 1861 . He was never known to tire, and, though quiet and sensible in general and afraid of nothing, yet if not regularly exercised, he fretted a good deal, especially in a crowd.. "
Son Robert's account.

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I'm not sure when this was originally published- NYPL includes it in public access.

" One afternoon in July of this year, the General rode down to the canal-boat landing to put on board a young lady who had been visiting his daughters and was re turning home. He dismounted, tied Traveller to a post, and was standing on the boat making his adieux, when some one called out that Traveller was loose. Sure enough, the gallant gray was making his way up the road, increasing his speed as a number of boys and men tried to stop him. My father immediately stepped ashore, called to the crowd to stand still, and advancing a few steps gave a peculiar low whistle. At the first sound, Traveller stopped and pricked up his ears. The General whistled a second time, and the horse with a glad whinny turned and trotted quietly back to his master, who patted and coaxed him before tying him up again. To a bystander expressing surprise at the creature's docility the General observed that he did not see how any man could ride a horse for any length of time without a perfect understanding being established between them. My sister Mildred, who rode with him constantly this summer, tells me of his enjoyment of their long rides out into the beautiful, restful country. Nothing seemed to delight him so much. " Robert, Jr.

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Traveller forever galloping through History's loop, " The Three Generals ", LoC


" When General Lee took command of the Wise Legion and Floyd Brigade, which were encamped at and near Big Sewell Moun tains, in the fall of 1861, he first saw this horse, and took a great fancy to it. He called it his colt, and said he would need it before the war was over. Whenever the General saw my brother on this horse he had something pleasant to say to him about “my colt,” as he designated this horse.

As the winter approached, the climate in the West Virginia mountains caused Rosecrans' army to abandon its position on Big Sewell and retreat westward. General Lee was thereupon ordered to South Carolina. The Third Regiment of the Wise Legion was subsequently detached from the army in Western Vir ginia and ordered to the South Carolina coast, where it was known as the Sixtieth Virginia Regiment, under Colonel Starke.

Upon seeing my brother on this horse, near Pocotaligo, in South Carolina, General Lee at once recognized the horse, and again induired of him, pleasantly, about his colt. My brother then offered him the horse as a gift, which the General promptly declined, and at the same time remarked : “If you will willingly sell me the horse, I will gladly use it for a week or so to learn its qualities.” Thereupon my brother had the horse sent to General Lee's stable. In about a month the horse was returned to my brother, with a note from General Lee, stating that the animal suited him, but that he could not longer use so valuable a horse in such times, unless it were his own ; that if he (my brother) would not sell, please to keep the horse, with many thanks. This was in February, 1862. At that time I was in Virginia, on the sick list from a long and severe attack of camp-fever, contracted in the campaign on Big Sewell Mountains. My brother wrote me of General Lee's desire to have the horse, and asked me what he should do. I replied at once: “If he will not accept it, then sell it to him at what it cost me.” He then sold the horse to General Lee for $200 in currency, the sum of $25 having been added by General Lee to the price I gave for the horse in September, 1861, to make up for the depreciation in our currency from Sep tember, 1861, to February, 1862. "
Thomas Broun

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From another LoC image

I had received a letter from my father telling me to come to him as soon as I had gotten my discharge from my company, so I proceeded at once to his headquarters, which were situated near Orange Court House, on a wooded hill just east of the village. I found there the horse which he gave me. She was a daughter of his mare, "Grace Darling," and, though not so handsome as her mother, she inherited many of her good qualities, and carried me well until the end of the war and for thirteen years afterward. She was four years old, a solid bay, and never failed me a single day during three years' hard work. The General was on the point of moving his headquarters down to Fredericksburg, some of the army having already gone forward to that city. I think the camp was struck the day after I arrived, and as the General's hands were not yet entirely well, he allowed me, as a great favour, to ride his horse "Traveller. ' ' The general had the strongest affection for Traveller, which he showed on all occasions, and his allowing me to ride him on this long march was a great compliment. Possibly he wanted to give me a good hammering before he turned me over to the cavalry. During my soldier life, so far, I had been on foot, having backed nothing more lively than a tired artillery horse; so I mounted with some misgivings, though I was very proud of my steed. My misgivings were fully realised, for Traveller would not walk a step. He took a short, high trot — a buck-trot, as compared with a buck-jump — and kept it up to Fredericksburg, some thirty miles. Though young, strong, and tough, I was glad when the journey ended. This was my first introduction to the cavalry service. I think I am safe in saying that I could have walked the distance with much less discomfort and fatigue. "

"....well supplied with equipments. Two sets have been sent to him from England, one from the ladies of Baltimore, and one was made for him in Richmond; but I think his favourite is the American saddle from St. Louis. Of all his companions in toil, ' Richmond,' ' Brown Roan,' 'Ajax,' and quiet 'Lucy Long,' he is the only one that retained his vigour. The first two expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed. You can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait." R.E. Lee

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Thread isn't intended as a horsey-bio, just Travelling stories for the horse geek in all of us.


 

farrargirl

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Location
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf Coast
The story behind the photo: “Gen.R.E. Lee on Traveller”. Miley photographer; Mrs. Lulie Kirby-Parrish, painter.
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This well-known 1866 photograph was selected for a life-size oil on canvas portrait and placed in Washington College during General Lee’s years as President there. Here is a brief sketch of the artist chosen ( A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans, Hale and Merritt, Vol.III, 1913 ).


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I was unable to locate any images or even reprints of the actual portrait, other than some vintage postcards
crediting Miley as the photographer, which were no doubt, colorized.
And lastly, an article from the 1905 Confederate Veteran Magazine with details on the horse, the soldier, and the artist...
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Thanks for adding to a horse thread! I've always been curious about some of these animals, Traveler in particular. ' Blood horses ' were a ' thing ', what we had before Mercedes and BMW's only better. The thing is, what were referred to as blood horses tended to be awfully high strung ( for want of a better term, we just called them kooks ), always wondered how on earth anyone got one actually to hang around a war?

I don't know. For all the discussion over Traveler's bloodlines, somewhere has to have been a good, solid, plain old horse.
 

farrargirl

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Location
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf Coast
Thanks for adding to a horse thread! I've always been curious about some of these animals, Traveler in particular. ' Blood horses ' were a ' thing ', what we had before Mercedes and BMW's only better. The thing is, what were referred to as blood horses tended to be awfully high strung ( for want of a better term, we just called them kooks ), always wondered how on earth anyone got one actually to hang around a war?

I don't know. For all the discussion over Traveler's bloodlines, somewhere has to have been a good, solid, plain old horse.
Thanks for the note. Here is a great blog for horse lovers, and “followers” of Traveller:

 
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