Molly McMule's Horse Tales - 1001 Stall Stories

Horses of the Civil War

"Oh Beauregard! Who said you could have that extra ration of oats?" called Ginny. "You know that was set aside for Pasquale."

"Well, he was out in the pasture and I was still hungry, so I just helped myself, he said. "I didn't think he would mind because he found that patch of new grass and seemed pretty content with that."

Desi started to nicker because she had never heard Beau called that name before. So naturally, she couldn't resist mimicking Ginny and calling, "Oh Beauregard! Beauregard! What a funny name."

"I don't think you should be laughing at my name. I was named after the Civil War General Wade Hampton's horse. He was a present from General P. T. G. Beauregard and so he was named after him."

"Just who was General Hampton, and why is his horse so important?" several inquiring minds asked.

"Let's start with General Hampton. He and his brother were handsome and also good fighters and excellent riders even before they joined the Confederate Army. They lived in South Carolina and always had large, powerful mounts to carry them on their hunting trips and on their large estate. Several of his horses went to battle as well as Beauregard, so he had a choice of mounts when going into battle.

Wade, sometimes called a "giant in grey" was a crack shot with his revolver, and an expert with a saber. His enemies were not anxious to face him because he had the reputation of being such a fierce fighter. Several of his horses were killed in battle. Both General Hampton and Beauregard were severely wounded in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While General Hampton recovered, Beauregard did not."

"That's sad, isn't it?" said Desi. "We usually don't think about the horses that died during the war."

Beau reminded them "that horses were used extensively in battle and were just as liable as the men riding them to be hit by rifle and canon fire. The Civil war battles were fought with close personal contact so casualties were many."

"How did the Army get their horses," asked Desi.

"They were rounded up by hundreds and even thousands either in pastures or penned in corrals and then sent on to regiments that were waiting for them. They were mostly bays because that was the most common color in America at that time. Indians liked pintos or spotted horses, but the army preferred browns, chestnuts or blacks. General Lee's horse was named Traveller and was gray.

The Civil War was the last war where the horse was of first importance. Generals had to depend entirely on their horses for transportation and so did the other officers - colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants. Also some of the enlisted men - sergeants, trumpeters, privates, and there was even one cavalrywoman.

A lot of the new recruits for the army did not own horses, so they had to learn to ride in a hurry because the Cavalry was badly needed. Soon they formed drill troops and then regiments. Regiments usually had matched horses so that they were very impressive looking as they rode in unison.

Trumpeters sounded the calls ordered by the captain. Certain tunes signaled, "Column Left" or "Countermarch". Another tune meant they were to trot. Once the troopers learned the meaning of the calls and tunes, the horses understood them too. They were even called to battle by the trumpeter with a very lively musical passage, and knew when it was time to be fed by another much slower melody."

"Gee, I didn't realize horses played such an important part during that war, or just how much they had to go through. I guess that makes you pretty proud of your name, right Beau?" said Desi thoughtfully.

"Yep, I sure am," answered Beau. Ben Franklin once wrote in Poor Richard's Almanack, "For want of a horse the rider was lost; for want of a rider the battle was lost." Those words were never truer than at that time."

Molly recommends reading "Famous Horses of the Civil War" by Fairfax Downey. There are lots of stories about the brave horses and the famous men that rode them.