Ulysses S. Grant and His Horses During and After the Civil War
In later years, during the Civil War, Grant's horses were objects of intense public interest. His oldest son, Frederick Dent Grant, tells of the horses Grant owned during the War.
When the Civil War broke out, my father, General Grant, was appointed colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry and on joining the regiment purchased a horse in Galena, Illinois. This horse, though a strong animal, proved to be unfitted for service and, when my father was taking his regiment from Springfield, Illinois, to Missouri, he encamped on the Illinois River for several da ys. During the time they were there a farmer brought in a horse called "Jack." This animal was a cream-colored horse, with black eyes, mane and tail of silver white, his hair gradually becoming darker toward his feet. He was a noble animal, high spirited, very intelligent and an excellent horse in every way. He was a stallion and of considerable value. My father used him until after the battle of Chattanooga (November, 1863), as an extra horse and for parades and ceremonial occasions. At the time of the Sanitary Fair in Chicago (1863 or '64), General Grant gave him to the fair, where he was raffled off, bringing $4,000 to the Sanitary Commission.
Soon after my father was made a brigadier-general, (August 8, 1861), he purchased a pony for me and also another horse for field service for himself. At the battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861), his horse was killed under him and he took my pony. The pony was quite small and my father, feeling that the commanding general on the field should have a larger mount, he turned the pony over to one of his aides-de-camp (Captain Hyllier) and mounted the captain's horse. The pony was lost in the battle.
The next horse that my father purchased for field service was a roan called "Fox," a very powerful and spirited animal and of great endurance. This horse he rode during the siege and battles around Fort Donelson and also at Shiloh.
At the battle of Shiloh the Confederates left on the field a rawboned horse, very ugly and apparently good for nothing. As a joke, the officer who found this animal on the field, sent it with his compliments, to Colonel Lagow, one of my father's aid-de-camp, who always kept a very excellent mount and was a man of means. The other officers of the staff "jollied" the colonel about this gift. When my father saw him, he told the colonel that the animal was a thoroughbred and a valuable mount and that if he, Lagow, did not wish to keep the horse he would be glad to have him. Because of his appearance he was named "Kangaroo," and after a short period of rest and feeding and care he turned out to be a magnificent animal and was used by my father during the Vicksburg campaign.
In this campaign, General Grant had two other horses, both of them very handsome, one of which he gave away and the other he used until late in the war. During the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, a cavalry raid or scouting party arrived at Joe Davis' plantation (brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) and there captured a black pony which was brought to the rear of the city and presented to me. The animal was worn out when it reached headquarters but was a very easy riding horse and I used him once or twice. With care he began to pick up and soon carried himself in fine shape.
At that time my father was suffering with a carbuncle and his horse being restless caused him a great deal of pain. It was necessary for General Grant to visit the lines frequently and one day he took this pony for that purpose. The gait of the pony was so delightful that he directed that he be turned over to the quartermaster as a captured horse and a board of officers be convened to appraise the animal. This was done and my father purchased the animal and kept him until he died, which was long after the Civil War. This pony was known as "Jeff Davis."
After the battle of Chattanooga, General Grant went to St. Louis, where I was at the time, critically ill with dysentery contracted during the siege of Vicksburg. During the time of his visit to the city he received a letter from a gentleman who signed his name "S. S. Grant," the initials being the same as those of a brother of my father's, who had died in the summer of 1861. S. S. Grant wrote to the effect that he was very desirous of seeing General Grant but that he was ill and confined to his room at the Lindell Hotel and begged him to call, as he had something important to say which my father might be gratified to hear.
The name excited my father's curiosity and he called at the hotel to meet the gentleman who told him that he had, he thought, the finest horse in the world, and knowing General Grant's great liking for horses he had concluded, inasmuch as he would never be able to ride again, that he would like to give his horse to him; that he desired that the horse should have a good home and tender care and that the only condition that he would make in parting with him would be that the person receiving him would see that he was never ill-treated, and should never fall into the hands of a person that would ill-treat him. The promise was given and General Grant accepted the horse and called him "Cincinnati." This was his battle charger until the end of the war and was kept by him until the horse died at Admiral Ammen's farm in Maryland, in 1878.
[Side note on Cincinnati: He was the son of "Lexington," the fastest four-mile thoroughbred in the United States, time 7:19 3/4 minutes. Cincinnati nearly equaled the speed of his half-brother, "Kentucky," and Grant was offered $10,000 in gold or its equivalent for him, but refused. He was seventeen hands high, and in the estimation of Grant was the finest horse that he had ever seen. Grant rarely permitted anyone to mount the horse. Two exceptions were Admiral Daniel Ammen and President Abraham Lincoln. Ammen saved Grant's life from drowning while a school-boy. Grant said: "Lincoln spent the latter days of his life with me. He came to City Point in the last month of the war and was with all me all the time. He was a fine horseman and rode my horse Cincinnati every day."] According to General Horace Porter, Grant rode Cincinnati to the surrender meeting with General Robert E. Lee.
About the time of January, 1864, some people in Illinois found a horse in the southern part of that state, which they thought was remarkably beautiful. They purchased him and sent him as a present to my father. This horse was known as "Egypt" as he was raised, or at least came from southern Illinois, a district known in the state as Egypt, as the northern part was known as Canaan. [End of narrative by Frederick Dent Grant]
General Horace Porter described Grant's technique in mounting Egypt. When the horse was brought up, the general mounted as usual in a manner peculiar to himself. He made no perceptible effort, and used his hands but little to aid him; he put his left foot in the stirrup, grasped the horse's mane near the withers with his left hand, and rose without making a spring by simply straightening the left leg til his body was high enough to enable him to throw the right leg over the saddle. There was no 'climbing' up the animal's side, and no jerky movements. The mounting was always done in an instant and with the greatest possible ease.
At Vicksburg, Grant and his horse are described as follows: "It was hard for new troops to believe that the low-voiced man in the blouse and straw hat was the one center of all direction and command of this mighty force. His horse, however, was always in full uniform. That was due to the orderly, no doubt." (Hamlin Garland, Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character) [bsms Note: It probably had to do with Grant. One of the first purchases he made after rejoining the Army was a saddle valued at $150 - a big sum in 1861! He was noted for sparing no expense on tack for his horses.
One horse, however, proved too much even for General Grant. In August of 1863, right after the fall of Vicksburg, Grant went to New Orleans to confer with General Banks about movements west of the Mississippi. One September 4th he reviewed General Banks' army at Carrollton and was given a large and somewhat wild and nervous horse to ride for the occasion. An accident occurred which Grant described in his Memoirs. "The horse I rode was vicious and but little used, and on my return to New Orleans ran away and, shying at a locomotive in the street, fell, probably on me. I was rendered insensible, and when I regained consciousness I found myself in a hotel near by with several doctors attending me. My leg was swollen from the knee to the thigh, and the swelling, almost to the point of bursting, extended along the body up to the arm-pit. The pain was almost beyond endurance. I lay at the hotel something over a week without being able to turn myself in bed. I had a steamer stop at the nearest point possible, and was carried to it on a litter. I was then taken to Vicksburg, where I remained unable to move for some time afterwards.
" Grant was on crutches for two months after this incident.
Cincinnati, Jeff Davis and Egypt all lived to enter the White House stables when Grant became president in 1869. Albert Hawkins was in charge of those stables at this time. He reports that arrangements were made during Grant's second term for an equestrian statue of him mounted on Cincinnati, and that every day for nearly a month the General would have the bridle and saddle put on Cincinnati and ride out to meet the sculptor. Hawkins relates that Jeff Davis was a kicker and he had the habit of biting to such an extent that the stable hands were afraid to go near him. General Grant, however, could handle him as he desired and as soon as he entered the stable. Jeff would throw back his ears and move about restlessly until the General came up and patted him.
...Ulysses S. Grant always had plans for the future, most of which did not work out the way he intended. The opening line to the preface of his Memoirs reflects his fatalistic philosophy: "Man proposes, God disposes;" man has very little control over his destiny, he lamented. During the Civil War Grant was dreaming of the day when the War would be over and he would be free to train horses. He extended this daydream to cover his old age as well.
"I am looking forward longingly to the time when we can end this war and I can settle down on my St. Louis farm and raise horses. I love to train young colts ... When old age comes on, and I get too feeble to move about, I expect to derive my chief pleasure sitting in a big arm-chair in the center of a ring-a sort of training course, holding a colt's leading-line in my hand, and watching him run around the ring.
There is a good article on the horses of Lee and Grant here: Lee, Grant and Their Steadfast Steeds | HistoryNet