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Photo courtesy of National Archives.
There have been many famous war horses in history, from Mare Reckless to Comanche. During the Civil War, multiple horses gained fame due to their smarts, agility, and courage. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable horses from the Civil War.
Photo courtesy of The Civil War Parlor.

Cincinnati

This Thoroughbred stallion proved himself time and time again. Standing at 17 hands, he was a force to be reckoned with, partially due to his impeccable bloodlines; he was the grandson of the famous racehorse Boston. This horse was known to have a quiet temperament, but came alive when he was called upon in battle. Cincinnati’s rider was offered thousands upon thousands of dollars for this powerhouse horse, but seeing as Cincinnati had been a gift, his owner would not part with him. Captain Samuel H. Beckwith spoke admiration of Cincinnati, “No artist could paint the beauty of this horse in the midst of action, when the curb was required to hold him back.” Cincinnati survived the duration of the Civil War and went on to live at the White House stable.
Photo courtesy of Civil War Talk.
Little Sorrel  This tiny gelding survived many battles during the Civil War, such as First and Second Manassas, Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, Cedar Mountain, Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Seven Days Campaign, and Chancellorsville. What made this horse a survivor, is the amazing endurance he had. There is speculation that Little Sorrel may have been a Morgan, which would perfectly explain why he had such a high level of endurance and agility. As a testament to Little Sorrel’s abilities, Kirk Douglas wrote, “He is a remarkable little horse. Such endurance I have never seen in horse flesh. I never saw him show a sign of fatigue. He could eat a ton of hay or live on cobs.” The remarkable gelding went on to live until the age of 36.
Photo courtesy of secondwi.com.
Winchester This striking jet-black stallion was known to cover ground, clocking in 5 mph at a walk. Hailing from prestigious Morgan horse bloodlines, it isn’t a surprise that this horse not only survived but thrived in 19 intense battles. Due to his quick wit during a key war battle, the stallion, previously known as Rienzi, gained the nickname of Winchester, and also gained considerable fame, inspiring artists to paint his likeness on many canvases. His owner Sheridan said of the horse, “He was powerfully built, with a deep chest, strong shoulders, a broad forehead, and had a most intelligent eye. In his prime he was one of the strongest horses I have ever known, very active, and the fastest walker in the army, so far as my experience goes. I rode him constantly, from 1862 to the close of the war, in all the raids, actions, and campaigns in which I took part. His staying powers were superb. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the impression that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was far from being the case, for I could at any time control him by a few soothing words and a firm hand. Moreover, he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my oldest soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden.”
Photo courtesy of Kentucky Digital Library.

Traveller

Considered to be at least one-half Thoroughbred, the dappled, iron grey gelding known as Traveller became quite the Civil War icon. Major Thomas Broun spoke of Traveller fondly, “…he was greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength. He needed neither whip nor spur, and would walk his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of Western Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead so soon as he was mounted.” Traveller had many fans, and often received gifts from the people who admired him. For four years, almost nonstop, the sunny dispositioned gelding was ridden day in and day out, but he never tired. Traveller eventually went on to live out the remainder of his life at Washington College.
While many horses did survive the Civil War, there are hundreds of thousands who did not, as Eric J. Wittenberg explains, “More than 1,000,000 horses and mules were killed during the Civil War. In the early days of the conflict, more horses than men were killed. Just at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg alone, the number of horses killed was about 1,500—881 horses and mules for the Union, and 619 for the Confederacy.” Let’s reflect and remember the livestock who were part of the Civil War.