War Horses!

Horses were so important in warfare that they were considered above that of an ordinary soldier's life. World War I was the last war to use war horses. The advent of machine guns during that war rendered them obsolete. There are many monuments erected around the world in memory of horses and other animals that were used in battle.

One of the most famous war horses was Confederate General Robert E. Lee's horse Traveller. Ironically Traveller was born in what was then western Virginia, later to become West Virginia, a northern (Union) state. Lee rode Traveller to and from the signing of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.

After the war Lee would become president of Washington College in Virginia and stabled Traveller there. Traveller was led behind the casket at Lee's funeral and died shortly after. He is buried near his master just outside Lee Chapel at what would be renamed Washington and Lee University.

General George Custer was also an officer in the Civil War, but his big defeat came later: in 1876 he and all his troops were killed in a battle with Native Americans which became known as Custer's Last Stand. The most famous non-human survivor of that battle was Comanche, an Army horse who came through wounded but alive. (Comanche belonged not to Custer but to one of his officers, Miles Keogh.) Comanche was so famous that after his death in 1891 he was stuffed and put on display at the University of Kansas, where he remains to this day.

George Washington can be found pictured on horseback in many places. He mentions two horse that went to battle with him during the revolution. They are Old Nelson and Blueskin. One of Washington's dinner guests a Mr.  John Hunter wrote very eloquently of them:
Washington statue - Boston Public Garden
Photo: CrazyasaCoolFox
"When dinner was over, we visited the General's stables, saw his magnificent horses, among them "Old Nelson," now twenty-two years of age, that carried the General almost always during the war. "Blueskin," another fine old horse, next to him, had that honor. They had heard the roaring of many a cannon in their time. "Blueskin" was not the favorite on account of his not standing fire so well as venerable "Old Nelson." The General makes no manner of use of them now. He keeps them in a nice stable, where they feed away at their ease for their past services.'"
Another famous military pair: Napoleon Boneparte and Marengo. Marengo became most famous after the Battle of Waterloo, when he was captured by the British and taken to England. Marengo was displayed by the British both before his death. He was then stuffed and displayed after his death just like Comanche.

Finally, in researching this post I discovered that Steven Spielberg has a movie entitled War Horse due to be released in December of 2011. Honestly, I had no idea there was a movie of the same name and no incentive to promote this film... but I wish I did, Mr. Spielberg. :)

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