Clifton, famous Morgan horse of the civil war

Clifton AMHR No. 457 is one of the few Morgans which has been documented by name as having served in the civil war. A son of Hale’s Green Mountain Morgan out of a chestnut mare by Gifford Morgan, Clifton was a bright chestnut stallion about 14.1 hands high and weighed 960 pounds. Foaled in 1852, he was bred by William Bellows of Walpole, NH.

At three moths of age, he was sold to Silas Hale, South Royalston, Ma., thence to S.H. Edgerly, Manchester, NH. at eighteen months. He was resold soon after to F.H. Lyford, who owned him until at least 1857. While owned in New England, Clifton won a walking match against young Morrill by a long distance. Clifton’s owner wrote the following lines about this:

“When Clifton arrived on the track; And waived his flaming tail, Mongrels and Morrills lagged behind, And in the distance trail”

– from “The greatest of Morgan Sires” by Allen W. Thompsom

Between this match race and the beginning of the Civil War, Clifton was apparently sold by F.H. Lyford to William R Capehart of North Carolina. Capehart was attending medical school in Virginia at the start of the Civil War. He enlisted in General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia of the confederate forces as a surgeon. He was attached to Wade Hampton’s cavalry.

“One of the best -bred Morgans that saw service in the war was Clifton, foaled at Walpole, New Hampshire, and ridden by W.R. Capehart of North Carolina until 1864, when the noble animal met a war-horse’s death in a cavalry engagement…..”

– from “Morgan in the Cavalry” by “Old Timer” (1911)

“Was foaled 1852, the property of Wm. Bellows, Esq., of Walpole, NH. Sired by Green Mountain 2nd [i.e., Hale’s Green Mountain Morgan], g sire, Gifford, g g sire, Woodbury, g g g sire, Justin Morgan. Dam, a chestnut, sired by Gifford, g dam by Sherman. Clifton is 14 1/4 hands high, and weighs 960 pounds. His color is a bright chestnut. At three months old Mr. Bellows sold him to Silas Hale, of South Royalston Mass. At eighteen moths old, Mr. Hale sold him to S.H. Edgerly, Esq., of Manchester NH., who shortly after sold him to F.H. Lyford, Esq., whose property he still remains. Clifton is a bold-looking active and muscular horse, and in many respects resembles his celebrated sire.”

– from D.C. Linsley’s Morgan Horse’s, 1857

“…..In September, 1857, at Manchester, NH., he was matched to walk five miles with young Morrill, and won in one hour, two minutes, 46 seconds, the only walking match then on record. Ridden by Dr. W.R. Capehart, North Carolina, through the war. Killed at cavalry fight …….near Cheraw, SC., 1864…..”

– Battell’s Morgan Horse and Register, volume I

After the war Dr. Capehart owned harness racing horses, but no documentation was found that would indicate that he owned many Morgan horses other than Clifton.

Compiled by Elizabeth A. Curler

Historical research in North Carolina by Ina Ish has made the above information on Clifton and Dr. Capehart more complete.

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