War Horse Retires

His comrades in the Army would be first to admit that he has never really been the stiff-upper-lip sort.

So when Thomas the strapping black gelding retired after almost 20 years of impeccable military service yesterday, he bowed out in an emotional farewell, complete with goodbye kisses for everyone.

His slobbery smooches for the soldiers looking after him have become the stuff of legend in the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.  Click Here to read the rest of the article.

New Review of “War Horse”

A Recent and I believe fair review of War Horse in Michigan War Studies Review byGervase Phillips, Manchester Metropolitan University :

A one-volume history of mounted warfare is a bold undertaking, for the scope of the topic is immense. As Louis DiMarco remarks in the introduction to this new study, “the war horse and rider was a viable military system for more than 3,000 years, far longer than any other military system” (ix). It is a challenge that has largely defeated the handful of historians who have attempted the task thus far: G. T. Denison, in the late nineteenth century, wrote what was, essentially, a polemic advocating the then current “mounted rifleman” school rather than a history;1 in 1961, James Lunt, a former cavalryman, published an elegy for his arm, too episodic to serve as a general history.2 In the 1970s, two works, one a collection of essays,3 the other a monograph by John Ellis,4 attempted a more comprehensive coverage, but these slim volumes provide only superficial treatment of their topic, and Ellis’s work is marred by his ideological prejudices against those social classes who (in the west at least) traditionally dominated the cavalry branch. DiMarco’s work is different: in his history, the horse itself provides the strong, central, unifying theme. The physical characteristics of the horse, breeds and types, horse equipment, equitation and horse mastership (care of horses) in the field—these are DiMarco’s concerns as he takes his reader from the earliest years of man’s blossoming relationship with equids, up through their use by American special forces in Afghanistan today.

I can recommend DiMarco’s work as the best single-volume history of cavalry….

Read the complete Review Here.

“History of the Horse” Coming Soon

Above is the trailer for a six part documentary entitled “The History of the Horse” that will be on most PBS stations later this year (dates and times TBD).  I helped out some with the episode on the horse warrior.  I have no idea what the final product looks like but the trailer promises a pretty interesting project.

See below for more information.

Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse is a television series airing on public television stations across the nation

The show celebrates the relationship between horse and human. Whether you own a horse or just love to watch them in the movies, we have a storied partnership with this magnificent animal. This series showcases everything from training tips for horse owners to trail destinations for recreational riders. We visit ranches and other locations where our bond with horses is illustrated in countless ways.

Click here to follow to the webpage.

Memorial Day Includes Four Legged Comrads

Reckless: “Pride of the Marines.”

The story of Reckless is not only remarkable – it is unusual. And once you learn about her, you will see why the Marine Corps not only fell in love with her – but honored her and promoted her every chance they got. And it wasn’t just the Marines that served with her in the trenches that honored her – her last promotion to Staff Sergeant was by Gen. Randolph McC Pate – the Commandant of the entire Marine Corps. You can’t get higher than that in the Marines.

Read the Rest of Reckless’ story Here.

Comanche, Old Baldy and their Buddies

There is a little known group of distinguished horses that to my knowledge has never been documented or recognized in any formal way as a group.  That group is the war horses whose remains have been preserved and are on display.  To my knowledge, there are only four American military horses that belong to this group:  Commanche, Winchester, Old Baldy, and Little Sorrel.

Old Baldy, General George Meade’s Civil War mount at the battle of Gettysburg and throughout most of the war was recently recovered and in the news.  He will soon be on display again.  Only Old Baldy’s head was preserved after his death.   See the story here.  Baldy’s display seems to be somewhat half-hearted and makes me a bit uncomfortable. 

Actually, I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea of perserving the remains of these fine horses.  But at least, if its going to be done it should be done completely as an honor, not partially, like a trophy.  The other three horses that I know of in this group are displayed with significantly greater care and honor.

Commanche was the mount of Captain Miles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry.  The horse was the only known survivor of Custer’s command at the Little Big Horn.  Commanche is displayed at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History.  The museum has recently invested significant effort to ensure the integrity of the display and its preservation. 

Little Sorrel was the mount of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson.  Jackson was killed by friendly sentry fire in 1863 and was riding Little Sorrel at the time.  Little Sorrel lived a long life, dying in 1886 at the age of 36.  His hid was mounted and is on display at the Viriginia Military Institute.  His bones were cremated and buried on the grounds at VMI.

The final of the four horse warriors is Winchester, the mount of Union Civil War General Phil Sheridan.  Winchester is the mount that Sheridan rode in the counterattack against Confederate forces at the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864.  Union forces were surprised and in retreat.  Sheridan galloped twenty miles on Rienzi, the horse’s original name, and arrived just in time to rally the troops and lead the successful counterattack.  Winchester was a black Morgan and stood 16 hands.  Sheridan said of him: ““an animal of great intelligence and immense strength and endurance. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the idea that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was not so, for I could at any time control him by a firm hand and a few words, and he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden by any one.”  Winchester died after the war at the age of nineteen.  He was immortalized in a poem entitled “Sheridan’s Ride.”

Excerpt from “Sheridan’s Ride.”

And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

If you know of any other American or international warhorses that are on display let me know.

Age Old Issue of Stallions vs Geldings in Military Use

For centuries the armies of Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East used Geldings and Mares as their primary military horses. European armies, however, persisted in using Stallions until the early modern period. The obvious advantage of the Gelding/Mare was their calm in large groups and their trainability. European knights, however, preferred stallions because of their fighting ability. European knights believed that it was dishonorable to go into battle on anything other than a Stallion. Some new insights into this issue are gained from the news report below on the Terracotta Army:

Expert: Horses in terracotta army ‘castrated’

(Xinhua)
Updated: 2010-03-01 16:20

XI’AN – Most of the clay horses unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, had been “castrated”, a Chinese archeologist said after studying more than 600 of the life-sized animals.

All the 520 horses that pulled chariots in the terracotta army, unearthed from the mausoleum on the outskirts of Xi’an, capital of the northwestern Shaanxi province, had penises but no testes, said Yuan Jing, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The situation varied, however, with the 116 cavalry horses, he said. “Some of them were castrated but many others were not.”

Read the rest of article here.

Winter Hunting

The Fort Leavenworth Hunt out two weeks ago after one of this winters many snowfalls.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

British Army Horses Traveling

The Army have decided to reward their loyal horses with an off-duty trip to Blackpool.

Read Complete Article Here.

Another article Here.

Household Cavalry arrives in the Middle East.  Read Article Here.

Book Announcement: Horse Soldiers

New Book coming out next month: Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, by Doug Stanton, describing the operations in Afghanistan by U.S. special operations and the Northern Alliance horse mounted forces against the Taliban.  Interesting how this all comes together with the final chapter of my book, and the last part of the Corb Lund song of the same title. 

Good thing I didn’t choose Horse Soldiers as my title –but I didn’t want to compete with the Randy Steffen classic series of reference books by the same name –not to mention the John Ford movie mentioned in a previous blog.

Anyway, it looks like an interesting book and if I get a chance to get to it this summer I will post a review.  Also, Disney has bought the movie rights and so we might see it on the big screen in a year or two.  In the meantime, check out the PBS interviews which was one of the sources I used in my writing on the subject.

Book Review: War Horse

A very nice review was just published on my book, War Horse, in the most recent Society of Military History’s Journal of Military History.  Though I won’t reproduce the whole review here, the bottom line from the reviewer, Catharine Franklin:

… War Horse is an excellent book. In addition to its coverage of military topics, it explores the physical characteristics of horse breeds, the training of horses and riders, and the evolution of horsemanship. Historians of both ancient and modern warfare will find this text of interest, as it attests to the complexity of cavalry actions and considers current trends in military history. Those who love horses will, like this reviewer, be heartened by the book’s focus on the horse and the author’s steadfast assertion of the horse’s selfless service in war.

Catharine R. Franklin
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma