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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TRAVELLER - Famous mount of Robert E. Lee

And now at last,
Comes Traveller and his master. Look at them well.
The horse is an iron-grey, sixteen hands high,
Short back, deep chest, strong haunch, flat legs, small head,
Delicate ear, quick eye, black mane and tail,
Wise brain, obedient mouth.
Such horses are
The jewels of the horseman's hands and thighs,
They go by the word and hardly need the rein.
They bred such horses in Virginia then,
Horses that were remembered after death
And buried not so far from Christian ground
That if their sleeping riders should arise
They could not witch them from the earth again
And ride a printless course along the grass
With the old manage and light ease of hand.

— Passage from Army of Northern Virginia, a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet

The history of Dressage, which means "Training," is deeply imbeded in war. The horse was long an essential part of war. Dressage was designed as the method of training war horses who needed to respond quickly forward, backward, left or right and turn on the forehand or the haunches. One of the most famous war horses in the U.S. was Traveller, the mount of General Robert E. Lee, who carried his rider into the battles of the civil war.

Traveller, originally named Jeff Davis (yes, weird name...I like Traveller better, too!), was born in 1857 in Blue Sulpher Springs, Greenbrier County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia.) He was half thoroughbred and half Saddlebred. He was originally purchased by Captain Joseph M.Broun of the Third Regiment of the Confederate Infantry from Capt. James W. Johnston, son of the breeder. His purchase price was $175 which would translate to over $4,000 in today's dollar. Captain Broun's brother latter wrote of the horse:
He was "...greatly admired for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage and muscular strength."
From Thomas L. Broun, Southern Historical Society Papers, Richmond Virginia.

Major Broun also noted that there was never a need for whip or spur with Jeff Davis, the problem, unlike what is written in the poem above, was holding him back!

In the fall of 1861, General Robert E. Lee was camped with his brigade near Big Sewell Mountains, in close proximity to the camp of the Third Regiment. It was there that General Lee first laid eyes on the big, gray, Gelding. He took an immediate fancy to the horse and called him "My Colt." During the winter, both groups were sent down to South Carolina where Lee saw the horse again. Captain Joseph M. Broun offered the horse as a gift, which Lee declined. He said that if Broun was willing to sell the horse he would try him out for a week. After the week was up, Lee paid Captain Broun $200 for Jeff Davis.

Lee renamed the horse "Traveller." While he used Traveller for most of the war, it was not always a match made in heaven. In 1862 during the second Battle of Bull Run, Lee was standing beside the excited gelding on the front line. Traveller bolted and dragged Lee down a steep bank, breaking both his hands! Lee spent the next two years ridng a nice, calm mare named "Lucy Long." I can't blame him!

Lee returned to riding Traveller when Lucy Long got pregnant and rode him for the rest of the war and until the General's death on Oct. 12, 1870. Traveller died shortly thereafter in 1871 after stepping on a nail and developing Tetanus.

Traveller is currently buried on the Campus of Washington and Lee Univ. in Lexington, Virginia. The stable where he lived his last days is connected to the Lee family house that is on the campus. Traditionally, the stable door is left open so Traveller's spirit can wander freely.

I am attaching a link to an interesting video about three famous civil War horses, including Traveller. The video is from the Museum of the Confederacy.

No doubt about it! Traveller has his unicorn horn by now. I just can't decide if the horn is white to match his body or black to match his mane!

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