Category Archives: famous morgan horses

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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Colonel Rush’s Lancers


Lt. Col. C.F. Ruff

Philadelphia, Pa.

August 12, 1861

“Relative to the price paid for horses for Col. Rush’s Regt. thinks the $120 horses are not good enough”

General I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communications of the 10th inst. in regards to horses for Rush’s Regiment Volunteer Cavalry – I have just seen Colonel Rush, in reference to the matter, he is entirely satisfied that Horses suitable for Cavalry, cannot be procured at a less price than $135.00 each, that such horses as are offered for $120 are actually dearer than horse he can procure, and would accept at $140 – In all this is entirely agree with Colonel Rush, I have watched this matter of horses pretty closely, and – know to a certainty that such horse as will be procured at $140 are cheaper to the government than any horse can possible be purchased at any place, for $120 – for Cavalry Service: Colonel Rush’s – Opinion in this matter entirely disinterested, he seeks no contract, and no profit arising from from contract, he is as free from pecuniary interest in this matter as I am, and in this respect of personnel interest, differs from most, if not all, the colonels of volunteer cavalry; I understand him to say, and believe him, that his sole object is to mount his regiment efficiently. The regiment can be mounted here and well mounted, on northern horses from Vermont, and the northern part of New York [which are the best and most serviceable horses] at $140 each perhaps at an average of $135 and I will take care that no other description of horses shall be furnished. Allowance to say that it is bad economy to mount men on indifferent horses, at any price, and that having the presence and deffering to the wishes of Colonel Rush at every inspection of horses, he cannot fail to be satisfied, nor can it very well happen that the judgment of both of us, should be at fault.

Horses are offering here and elsewhere as Kentucky Horses. I know that they are not Kentucky Horses. In 1853 I had to purchase for my own regiment 500 Horses – I did so a Cincinnati’s, Ohio, and the horse market there was filled with horse buyers from Kentucky, in expressing my surprise at this, they told me they had turned their attention to breeding mules as the most profitable, that nothing but the finer class of horses, and mostly of racing stock was raised in Kentucky, and that they found it more to their interest to buy at Cincinnati, their ordinary, saddle, road, and draught horses – The horse here represented to be Kentucky horses are from Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and every way inferior to the Vermont, and Northern New York Horses: I make this representation on behalf of Colonel Rush, because he really feels and express his desire to have a well mounted regiment, and of course an effective one. I trust his wishes may be gratified, and express again the conviction that such horses as he accepts will be cheaper at $140 than any horses that can be procured any where else for Cavalry Service. I believe too the average may be reduced to $135 – not lower – please reply at your earliest convenience by telegraph.

Source – National Archives, Washington D.C. – “Horses” 1861 / Box 839 – Quartermaster / Consolidated, Correspondence / File 1794 – 1915

Available through the efforts and courtesy of Barbra Lindauer

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Morgan Horses in the Civil War


Upon the start of the Civil War in 1861, volunteers promptly signed up on both sides to defend their chosen beliefs. Horses were an essential component in the transport of cavalry troops, supplies, and artillery weapons throughout the war.

Morgan horses are known to have been used in both the Union and Confederate armies. Due to the quality of the Morgan horses and their physical attributes, they were in high demand. They were hardy and their thick winter coats enabled them to survive without shelter during bad weather, they were able to survive on scant forage, their resilient skin reduced saddle sores, and the Morgans were highly trainable and willing to please.

Individual Morgan Horses

Rienzi (a.k.a. Winchester) – favored mount of Union General Philip Sheridan; a black gelding of Black Hawk lineage presented to Sheridan at Rienzi, MS in 1862 by an officer of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry; Rienzi was ridden in battle by Sheridan during the rest of the war

Charlemagne – mount of General Joshua Chamberlain when he won the fight for Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863

Mounts of the 5th NY Cavalry – Pink, Billy, Cockeye, Prince, Frank, Mink, Mollie, Jack (#1), Topsy, Nellie, Jack (#2), Dunlap’s Mare, Sukey, Black Dick, Brydon’s Nellie, Charley, Jane, Pomp, Wyman Horse, June, Lucy; a monument honoring Pink stands in Crown Point, NY as well as a grave marker for Billy

Betty Root – Lt. Trusselis’ horse in the First Vermont Cavalry; wounded in 1863; owned by Asa Livingston, St. Johnsbury, VT in 1872

Old Clem – purchased in 1861 at 19 years of age by Colonel Lemuel Platt who organized the First Vermont Cavalry; lost hooves to foot rot in winter 1862-1863; wrenched a shoulder while being used by Phillip Ide in 1864 and sent to Giesboro Depot for recruit; seen in July 1864 by Ide when Old Clem was once again in the ranks

Clifton AMHR #457 – a son of Gifford Morgan that won walking races in New England in the 1850’s; apparently sold after 1857 to Dr. William Capeheart of North Carolina; Clifton was used by Capeheart, a surgeon, in the Army of Northern Virginia (CSA) until killed in action in March 1864

Bemis Horse (Amasa Bemis) AMHR #685 – a black 15 hand son of Billy Root and foaled in the 1840’s. Described as a “. . .very stylish and active horse”, he won third premium at the 1853 Vermont State Fair. He was sold to a Mr. Bryan of Georgia, VT, then to the army. He was killed in action.

Cavalry Units Mounted on Morgan Horses

The following regiments of cavalry were mounted on Morgan horses when they were first organized. As the horses used in the Union army became casualties of the war, they were replaced by government-owned mounts which often varied widely in quality. Some troopers owned their horses at the start of the war, but the U.S. government later purchased these horses.

Confederate troopers supplied their own mounts and, unless their horse was killed in action, could not expect any financial assistance for replacements. They had to purchase a replacement, capture a replacement from the enemy, or become a member of the infantry (which most cavalrymen refused to do).

First Maine Cavalry (USA)

Second Michigan Cavalry (USA)

Third Michigan Cavalry (USA)

Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry (USA)

Fifth New York Cavalry, Company H (USA)

First Rhode Island Cavalry (USA) – the two New Hampshire battalions which were part of the original makeup of this unit were mounted on Morgans and French Canadian horses.

Fourth Virginia Cavalry, Company H (CSA) – also known as the Black Horse Cavalry or the Black Horse Troop; this unit created panic among the raw recruits of the Union army at the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Mannassas) which caused a humiliating rout.

First Vermont Cavalry (USA) – this regiment received shipments of more Vermont horses during the war; 200 of the original 1,200 Morgans used to mount this regiment survived the war.

“The mounts of the First Vermont Cavalry were decidedly the best I had ever seen. Everybody was attracted by them. I have heard both General Buford…and General Hatch…say that the mount of this regiment was the best in the army. Gen. Buford…also told me that he would as soon have this regiment of Vermont volunteer cavalry as a regiment of the regular army.”

– Charles Tompkins, Captain, U.S. Army

‘The other day, a very fine horse being offered at the Inspection Ground, I bought him. He is a chestnut horse about 15 1/2 hands high, five years old, weighs between 1000 and 1100 and is pretty as a picture. He is of the Morgan breed, proud and high spirited, yet fearless. He will stand within four feet of a puffing locomotive and never thinks of being frightened. He is deep-chested and has very powerful and muscular limbs. Built for strength, speed and endurance. He has a very fine head and ears and a neck that might serve as a model in painting. In fact, he is a prince among horses, and I doubt not that I shall be envied my treasure when I rejoin my regiment. I ride him a little every day and enjoy it hugely. It seems good to be once more in the saddle. On the street his proud bearing attracts much attention and the rascal gets more admiring glances than his rider.’

– Captain William C. Hazelton, 8th Illinois Cavalry, letter to his mother, June 3, 1864

Morgans Used for Artillery Purposes

“[Dad] fought in the Civil War and saw a lot of that company from Vermont that had all the Morgan horses. Dad was with the artillery. Six horses were needed to pull each big piece of equipment and Dad got two of those Vermont Morgans for his lead team. He sure thought a lot of them and according to him there wasn’t anything they couldn’t do. They were constantly in demand to move pieces of artillery that were mired and other teams had failed to move.”

– A.G. Maier speaking of his father and his Morgan horses in 1950

Compiled by: Elizabeth A. Curler

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