Tag Archives: Rienzi

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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Morgan Horses of the Wild West


As emigrants trekked westward in the 19th century, the frontier advanced with them. Vermonters initially emigrated to northern New York, thence to Ohio. by the 1850’s, they could be found in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin in large numbers. In the U.S. Census of 1850 Vermont had the highest number of its native- born population living outside their native state (41%)

To provide transport for their wagons and goods, Vermonters took their Morgan horses with them. Ohio agricultural journals mention Morgan horses frequently in the 1850’s. Two Morgan stallions, Black Hawk and Hale’s Green Mountain 42, were shown at Midwestern state fairs in the early 1850’s. Both attracted much attention and were widely admired.

In what was then the west (but is now the Midwest), Morgans were used to pull stagecoaches, for light farm work, and as buggy horses. The high demand for them created high prices. Some Vermonters became concerned about the possible depletion of their breeding stock. One writer warned Vermont farmers not to be tempted to sell all their best stock as they needed to retain some to be able to continue to supply the market. The high prices were difficult for many Vermonters to resist as their children needed tuition for school or mortgages needed to be paid.

In the 1850’s Morgans could be found throughout Ohio and Michigan and as far west as Wisconsin. They were so popular that many less-than-honest folks were claiming Morgan ancestors for horses that had no Morgan blood in their ancestry. Complaints appeared in the press about the problem to no avail.

At the start of the Civil War the Second and Third Michigan Cavalry were mounted on Morgan horses. Union General Philip Sheridan’s famous mount Winchester (a.k.a. Rienzi) was presented to him by Captain Archie Campbell of the Second Michigan Cavalry.

As the Western Frontier continued to expand, the Morgan horse influence continued to spread also. As ranches were established, they proved to be reliable and enduring mounts. Richard Sellman of Texas established his ranch at this time. by the early 20th century he had the largest herd of Morgans in America. He registered over 300 mares and a few stallions, but most of the colts were simply gelded and used as ranch horses.

During the Gold Rush days of 1848 a herd of 125 Morgans was taken west to California. Most survived the trip and were sold for high prices upon arrival. Other Morgans arrived in California as well with the stallions often commanding high stud fees. St. Clair sired over 600 offspring while standing at stud in Sacramento in the mid-19th century.

In the 1880’s Morgan horses were used as part of a government program to educate Native Americans about modern agricultural practices. The program was short lived. Morgans were again used about 1920 to 1940 to upgrade Native American horse herds and provide their schools with experienced breeding purebred horses.

Morgan stallions were used in the Remount program of the army to produce quality cavalry horses. Remount stallion services were available to farmers and ranchers for a nominal fee. The $25.00 fee was waived if the breeders contracted with the government to have the offspring available for consideration as a cavalry mount. A colt resulting from the breeding was inspected at three years old for soundness and conformation. If the young horse was accepted by the army, the breeder received $150.00 for the purchase price. If the breeder chose to retain the fillies, the fee was again waived. Other conditions under which the fee was waived included foals that were injured or born with deformities.

Morgan were used in the U.S. Part Service by park rangers as mounts and for packing. One horse, Red Cloud, was said to have averaged 800 miles a year according to former ranger T.W.Daniels. One year he went 1,200 miles and on some fire calls he went 55 miles without a stop, often after dark. Daniels stated that “The horse never missed putting his feet in the trail and a bad windfalls he knew the detour without a misstep, although it was pitch dark to me….At the end of these trips he never showed any leg weariness.”


“[I have lived in Chicago since 1839] during which time I have been largely engaged in the business of staging — which business affords constant employment for about fifteen hundred horses — and have thus had opportunity for observing and testing the capacity and endurance of horses. I have no hesitation in saying, I consider Morgan horses far superior to any other breed or blood I have ever known for the road or farm.”

“In fact, I would prefer them over all others for any kind of service … They are invariably good feeders, are easily kept, and will not only perform and endure more service in a year, but more years of service, than any other breed of horses I have ever known … a Morgan horse, from New England, will outlast two horses raised in the West.”

-M.O. Walker, Chicago, letter dated April 14, 1856

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