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First Posted: July 16, 2007
Oct 11, 2011

Horse's Role in Civil War

by Debora Johnson

The American Civil War would have been quite different if it were not for the horse. The horse's role in the War Between the States cannot be minimized. There is a statue at The National Sporting Library, in Middleburg, VA, which gives tribute to the one and one half million horses and mules who were wounded or died in that war.

Artillery Horses

This has been taken from The Artillerist's Manual. The format has been changed. It gives the specifications for a suitable artillery horse:

  • The horse for artillery service should be from five to seven years old (the latter age to be preferred), and should be from fifteen to sixteen hands high.
  • The saddle horse should be free in his movements; have good sight; a full, firm chest; be sure-footed; have a good disposition, with boldness and courage; more bottom than spirit, and not too showy.
  • The draft horse should stand erect on his legs, be strongly built, but free in his movements; his shoulders should be large enough to give support to the collar, but not too heavy; his body full, but not too long; the sides well rounded; the limbs solid, with rather strong shanks, and feet in good condition.
  • To these qualities he should unite, as much as possible, the qualities of the saddle horse; should trot and gallop easily; have even gaits, and not be skittish. The most suitable horse for the pack-saddle is the one most nearly approaching the mule in his formation. He should be very strong-backed, and from fourteen to fifteen hands high.

If is difficult to imagine what went into the maintenance of these horses. We know, as horse owners, that often it is difficult to give the necessary care under the best of circumstances in time of peace. Both the Calvary and the Artillery were dependent upon their horses in battle. The Calvary rode them and the Field Artillery used them to pull the cannons. The horses were as much a target as the soldiers. Both the soldiers and the horses were subject to disease, lack of food, poor living conditions, and the absence of medical care.

To give some perspective on this I found in my research that "a battery of six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery. As the principle motive power for the guns, they were a prime target for the opposing force; disabling the horses meant that the guns were at risk of capture."

For More Information:

In the Blacksmith Shop Exhibit the Sporting Library Middleburg, VA
The National Sporting Library

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