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Generals in the saddle. [from the rider aud driver, October, 1891.]

Famous men in the Federal and Confederate armies who were good Horsemen—Their Characteristics and Peculiarities in Camp and on the Field—Some imposing figures on Horseback—Grant was a hard rider, and Sheridan was a centaur.

All the Federal and Confederate Generals who won fame during the civil war were good horsemen. Most of them learned the art of equitation under competent teachers at West Point, but even those who rose to military command from civil life sat in the saddle with more or less grace and dignity. General Grant was from boyhood [168] an ardent lover of good horses, and while he was in command of all the United States armies he had a large number of exceedingly fine animals at his disposal. It is an equine axiom that a merciful man is merciful to his beast, but though Grant had as full a share of mercy in his heart as most men, he was so earnest and stubborn as a soldier that he never hesitated to sacrifice human or animal life to gain a decided end. He was, in fact, cruel to be kind. He sat in the saddle rather ungainly, that is to say, he had an exceedingly good seat, but his utter indifference regarding the uniform of his rank somewhat detracted from his appearance as a horseman. He never wore a sword or a sash after becoming a brigadier, even on parade days for review, While on the march or campaign General Grant carried his flat-brimmed hat down over his eyes, and wore a coat supposed to be one that had done duty at Vicksburg. It certainly looked like it. Grant always went at a hard gallop when following the movements of his troops, an unlighted cigar clenched firmly in his powerful jaws. When the Army of the Potomac was pursuing Lee's forces, after the evacuation of Richmond and the Petersburg siege-works, Grant wore out no less than six horses inside of three days. So furiously did he ride from point to point, it frequently happened that all of his orderlies were left behind. Indeed, very few of the headquarter staff could keep up the pace. Grant once covered fifty miles in four hours on three horses.

General Lee had a very graceful carriage in the saddle. While in motion he sat erect and composed, but he seldom rode at a faster gait than a canter. He had a curious habit of laying his hands on the pommel on halting to converse with any one. Leaning gently forward Lee's attitude was at once courteous and engaging. I chanced to meet the great Confederate leader on two occasions. Being a wounded prisoner after the battle of the Wilderness, I was lying under a locust tree by the roadside, when Lee came riding slowly past. Quietly halting, he leaned over me and began asking questions concerning the Federal army. On my politely declining to answer some of his queries, the General's face grew sad. He bowed slightly, acknowledging my right to refuse, and then rode on in deep thought, for I had told him that Grant was present and in real command of the Army of the Potomac.

Major-General Meade was one of the most perfect riders in the service. He sat erect at all times, and it was an inspiring sight to see him gallop past a halted corps. In answer to the tumultuous cheers that invariably greeted him on such occasions, he would lift [169] his braided cap, and holding it high above his head, pass through the ranks of his men like a meteor. Meade took good care that his chargers were capable of speed and endurance, and he was very careful of them.

Major-General G. K. Warren was an ungainly horseman. His engineering studies and tendencies rendered him careless of his equitation, and of course, he could sit on a horse and gallop, but if he had a position to reconnoiter, out of the saddle would he go, in order to clamber on top of a rock scarcely any higher than his horse's back. There on foot, with solid ground under him, Warren could plan at leisure and with ease. Neither was he particular regarding the sort of horseflesh at his command. His rank gave him a right to the best, and his quartermaster always saw that he was well mounted. He paid no attention to the matter. The animals might be changed daily and the fact entirely escape Warren's attention, so long as the old saddle remained. To him a horse was a military necessity, and I do not believe that he rode on horseback twenty miles after the war ended.

Major-General Burnside was an imposing figure on a horse. His remarkable moustaches and whiskers, with the folded Burnside hat on his head, made him easily recognizable. He always wore full dress, even on the march, while a huge pair of snow-white gauntlets lent additional magnificence to his costume. As a rider Burnside was easy and graceful, and he seemed to love being in the saddle.

Major-General McClellan was one of the handsomest men on horseback in the Federal service. He sat in the saddle with a grace and ease peculiarly his own. All his appointments were in the most correct taste, and his horses were full-blooded animals. Wearing highly polished riding boots coming nearly up to his hips, and wrinkled from the instep to the knee, he would go splashing over the roads until horse, rider, and boots were covered with Virginia mud, probably the stickiest substance in existence. His servant, too, always had a clean pair of boots for the General on his return to quarters, after which the man would spend a couple of hours cleaning the other pair. The soldiers at Yorktown used to say that ‘Little Mac’ could collect more mud in an hour's time than any other General in the army. McClellan was passionately fond of horses, and preferred to have them coal black.

General Sherman was a nervous and somewhat careless rider. He wore his stirrup leathers very long, seeming to be, almost all the time, standing in the irons. This appearance was intensified by his [170] habit of rising in his stirrups on reaching a turn in the road or some advantageous point of observation. While always careful of his animals, Sherman did not appear to have that fondness for them that is so common among good horsemen. He was constantly on the go, and his eye seemed to be everywhere except where his horse was treading. Sherman's rein was rather a loose one, for he trusted, apparently, to the natural sagacity of his steed, rather than to his own guidance. Seen at the head of a column of troops, or giving orders for their disposition on the field, Sherman presented a remarkable figure. Riding along the road he was constantly gazing about him, noting the lay of land passed over, as if internally planning how a battle could be fought there. After his retirement from the army, General Sherman seldom mounted a horse, for he said he was getting too old, and had had enough of such exercise.

Major General Hooker was probably the best-looking mounted officer that ever rode at the head of a Federal army. He was a true soldier of the old type, had an easy carriage, a firm seat, and sat in the saddle as straight as an arrow. Sometimes the simile is used, ‘as straight as an Indian,’ but an Indian never sits on a horse straight, however he may walk.

Major-General Kilpatrick might be called a born horseman, for he was never so happy as when in the saddle. Though a perfect horseman in every sense of the word, Kilpatrick did not present a good appearance in the saddle. He rode more like a Comanche Indian than the pupil of a school of equitation, and he could fight like a Comanche, too.

Before Major-General Sickles lost his leg at the battle of Gettysburg he was a picturesque figure on horseback. Accustomed to the ordinary riding saddle before he donned the uniform, ‘Dan,’ as his soldiers always called him, fell into the military one with ease and freedom. Sickles sat in the saddle with an aplomb peculiarly his own, and he appeared to advantage on the gallop, for he rode easily. Most men look well when riding over a clean country road at the head of a moving column of troops, for they form a part of the pomp and circumstance of war. At any rate, General Sickles did, for he was a gallant and brave officer, a gentleman by instinct and breeding.

Major-General Wade Hampton was, like all Southerners, a graceful rider. Like Sickles, the loss of a leg has ended his horsemanship, but he was not deprived of the useful member by a casualty on the battle-field. Wade was a dashing horseman, rather dandified [171] in his attire, and somewhat fond of display, but he did good service for his side of the great national quarrel, and is deservedly popular among the men of the South. One of my comrades, who saw him ride over a field while the former lay a wounded prisoner, tells me that Hampton made a splendid figure in the saddle, which he sat while on the gallop with rare ease, scarcely a swing being noticeable, despite the rapid pace. He was always magnificently mounted, and ‘could ride like the devil,’ as my friend expressed it.

Major-General Benjamin F. Butler could sit on a horse and ride without fatigue, but to the eye of a riding-master he would be a source of humor. Not that Butler was a bad horseman, but he was too heavy a man for easy carriage, while the portentous boots he always wore in the field made him look like a Dirk Hatteraick suddenly lifted into a saddle. Whether it was his huge boots or the saturnine temperament of the man, he nevertheless rode as if the horse was a mechanical one and not made of flesh and blood. If he tried a gallop, which was seldom, it looked as if rider and steed would soon part company, for his body rose and fell violently at every stride. But Butler never prided himself on his feats of horsemanship, and active field movement was not his forte.

Major-General John Pope made himself famous in 1862 by issuing a grandiloquent bulletin to his army that until further orders headquarters would be in the saddle. Then the reverses to McClellan began, and Pope's headquarters were kept on the steady run by Lee all through the Virginia Valley. The soldiers used to say that Pope's hindquarters were in the saddle and his headquarters nowhere. But soldiers are always sarcastic. General Pope was a fine horseman, and looked exceedingly well in the saddle.

General Sheridan did not appear to advantage on foot. In the saddle he was a centaur. When astride of a horse the Shenandoah Valley hero gained in inches, for he was longer in statue above his sword belt than below it. Sheridan always sat well back, unconsciously leaning against the rear pommel of his military saddle. This attitude brought his feet a little in advance of the correct line, but it did not detract much from his appearance as a horseman. The fierce bundle of nerves that were encased in his small body would not permit General Sheridan to long sit still, and he was always on the gallop, even when his army was lying idle and the pickets were silent. [172]

Major-General Custer was the beau ideal of a perfect horseman. He sat in the saddle as if born in it, for his seat was so very easy and graceful that he and his steed seemed one. At West Point he was at the head of all the classes in horsemanship, and delighted in being on the tanbark. It is related of him that he could cut down more wooden heads on the gallop than any other one of the cadets. Unlike most ardent raiders during the war, General Custer seldom punished his horses. It was only when the moment for charging arrived that he loosened rein for a headlong dash.

Major-General Alfred Pleasanton was an exquisite horseman, both in his dress and his manner of riding. Slightly under the average height for military men, Pleasanton would have looked boyish in the saddle but for his neatly trimmed and glossy beard. He always wore tight fitting riding boots, that came just to the bend of the knee, and he had a habit of tapping them, while in conversation, with the feminine riding whip he invariably carried in his hand As a cavalry leader he had few equals, despite the fact that Sheridan subsequently became so prominent in that branch of the service.

Major General Hancock looked exceedingly well in the saddle. Those who only remember him when his hair became gray can have no idea of the change in his personal appearance. During the war Hancock had a swarthy complexion, the result of being so much in the open air. His dark hair and huge goatee gave his face a look of sternness, though it was freqently lighted up by a pleasant and engaging smile. His figure was rather slender then, which made him seem taller than he really was. He sat on his horse bolt upright, bridle-hand well forward, and with scarcely a bend in the knee. He had usually a tall horse, which added to the imposing effect of his figure.

Major-General Logan made a conspicuous figure in the saddle. His coal-black hair and tremendous moustache gave him a ferocious appearance, though in reality his disposition was a genial one. But he often had fits of passion, and then his eyes blazed; but these ebullitions of temper were evanescent and they usually occurred on the battlefield. Logan was an exceedingly good horseman, his seat being firm yet easy. When galloping he used to lean backward, his feet well to the front. At critical moments in an engagement he was wont to go at tremendous speed toward the threatened part of his line of battle. Then he was magnificent. His hat jammed down over his eyes, his eyes bright and his long moustache waving in the [173] air gave him an odd look, while the terrific pace of his steed was appalling. He overcame every obstacle with ease, and it was a beautiful sight to see his horse go flying over fences, ditches or fallen trees, while the rider sat in the saddle with ease and apparent reckless indifference.

Lieutenant-General Thomas Jonathan (‘Stonewall’) Jackson was a great horseman. He sat in the saddle easily, while there was a sort of abandon visible which showed his familiarity with horseflesh from boyhood. His seat was very erect, and though it had none of the stiffness of the cavalry style, it was very correct. His stirrups were shortened to give a slight bend to the knee and enable him to adjust his body to the movements of his steed without apparent exertion.

Major-General James Ewell Brown Stuart (best known as ‘Jeb,’ from the initials of his name) was a grand horseman. He was the Pleasanton or Sheridan of the Confederate army. No man could ride better or faster than Stuart. He carried a careless rein, gripping the saddle with a knee clasp, which prevented his being unseated. He was always well dressed, and as the uniform of a Confederate general was a very handsome one, Stuart made a dashing appearance.

Major-General Martin T. McMahon was a debonair rider, from the days when he rode as a Captain in McClellan's staff until he deservedly rose to higher command. I once saw him walk across a battlefield, having had his horse killed under him, and he was swearing away at a terrible rate. Just then an orderly rode up and surrendered his own horse. Mac stopped swearing, and, leaping into the saddle with an angelic smile, galloped off to deliver his interrupted orders.

Major-General Philip Kearney, who was killed among the pines at Hanover Court House, Va., during McClellan's Peninsular campaign, had left an arm in Mexico. Like Howard, he depended on the knee for guiding his horse. He was a brave but exceedingly rash man. During the first year of the war officers were apt to expose themselves by riding off alone, and Kearney had not yet learned that Southern soldiers were not Mexican greasers. During the battle of Hanover Court House he rode into a belt of young pines on a personal reconnoissance, only to find himself confronted by a group of Confederate infantrymen acting as a vidette. They [174] called on him to surrender, when ‘Phil’ turned his steed swiftly and galloped away. But bullets travel faster than horses, and Kearney fell from his saddle perfectly riddled. There was a reckless manner about Kearney that was peculiarly fascinating. He was a hard fighter and fairly revelled in the tumult of a battle. Had he lived, he would undoubtedly have attained important command.

Major-General E. O. C. Ord was a famous horseman. He sat bolt upright, with long stirrup leathers, but there was a peculiar firmness in his seat. He had great endurance, for he seldom alighted, except when on the march, while his corps was halted for rest. He favored tall animals like himself, so that steed and rider were well fitted.

Major-General Lew Wallace was a fine rider. Though disposed to be rather careless of his outward appearance during a campaign, Wallace always had good horses and knew how to use them. He was an exceedingly pleasant-tempered man, and war correspondents were fond of him, because he was not afraid of them, as many generals were. There was not much of the military style about his seat, but it was a firm and secure one.

Lieutenant-General Jubal A. Early was a fierce rider. Anything he attempted or did was fiercely conducted. He had a swinging, easy seat, the result of constant galloping, for during a battle Early was here, there and everywhere. Though neatly dressed, he was one of the few Confederate generals who were not military or soldierly in their appearance. He sat in the saddle like a southern gentleman; but it was the insignia of his rank that showed him to be a soldier. He would have looked fully as well in the old suit of homespun he had worn before the war.

Major-General N. P. Banks rode a horse beanpole fashion. Being exceedingly long-legged, his stirrup leathers were lowered to the very last hole. Therefore he seemed to be sitting on a fence and not on a horse. Despite this he rode well, and as his body was as long as his legs, he made a tolerably good appearance. Galloping with him was evidently hard work, showing that his seat was too rigid.

Major General A. H. Terry made a youthful appearance in the saddle. But he was a perfect horseman and rode very easily. His horses were beauties, and he was very careful of them. Fond of a gallop, Terry would go over a fence or a ditch like a bird, and so lightly did he occupy the saddle that his horse was seldom blown, even after a hard stretch across a field. After the war Terry was in [175] the saddle almost every day for several years. He rode from Bismarck, Dak., to the Canadian line in search of Sitting Bull; and officers on that tedious and tiresome expedition have told me that the general was always the freshest man in the command when nightfall called for a halt and camp.

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