Equine Relics of the Civil War

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Equine Relics of the Civil War

by Drew Gilpin Faust
Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 1: Five-Year Anniversary Issue

"Wounded fourteen times in all, Old Baldy was lucky to have a carcass left to be stuffed."

In the first battle of the Civil War, the only casualty was a horse. When the smoke lifted after the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861, southerners hailed the “bloodless victory” that had yielded the federal fort into Confederate hands without the loss of a single human life. The death of an army horse in the shelling all but escaped notice. In the years of conflict that followed, horses played a crucial military role, as mounts for officers and cavalry, as transport for artillery, and as all-purpose conveyance for the wide variety of army movements. Present in every Civil War camp and on every battlefield, horses suffered and died in numbers that rivaled even the Civil War’s high rate of human devastation. An estimated 1,500,000 horses and mules were wounded and killed, or died of disease in the war, as compared with 970,000 military casualties.