Grant the Equestrian
General Grant loved horses and was probably the greatest Equestrian in US history. He was a fearless rider with phenomenal endurance and speed.
CSA General James Longstreet
Grant at West Point: “In horsemanship, however, he was noted as the most proficient in the Academy. In fact, rider and horse held together like the fabled centaur...”
Frederick Grant, son of General Grant
“My father was the best horseman in the army, he rode splendidly and always on magnificent and fiery horses when possible to obtain one. He preferred to ride the most unmanageable mount, the largest and the most powerful one. Oftentimes I saw him ride a beast that none had approached. This is another instance of his physical strength.”
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 the service and, when my father was taking his regiment from Springfield, Illinois, to Missouri, he encamped on the Illinois River for several days. 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, turned the pony over to one of his aides-decamp. (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 aides-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 (the 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 from 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. This 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.
About this time (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.
"Cincinnati" 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 Lincoln. Ammen saved Grant's life from drowning while a school-boy. Grant says: "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 me all the time. He was a fine horseman and rode my horse 'Cincinnati' every day."
William Conant Church
“Grant was more noticeable for his horse racing. The town was full of lively fellows and there were many horses whose owners considered them to be fast; and Grant had that pony from Dave Cicotte. He was in the forefront of any racing that was going on. On Saturdays the whole town seemed to get out on Fort Avenue and every man who had a horse took part. Grant had that little black mare and it was a horse of tremendous speed. He was the best horseman I ever saw. He could fly on a horse, faster than a slicked bullet.”
Mary Robinson, slave owned by Fred Dent
“In fact, he had two horses called Bill and Tom which he prized so highly that he would never allow anyone but himself to drive them. I may saw he was very fond of all kinds of domestic animals. One of his pets was a large dog called Leo. I, being the cook of the household, often found it necessary to go out and catch chickens for dinner. Leo always helped me. All I would have to do would be to point out the chicken I wanted to Leo and he would grab it for me...
Grant was always fond of fast horses. He was mounted on his race horse, Nellie, a very fleet-footed animal when he performed his daring ride to the camp of Gen. Taylor during the Mexican war. I have heard him describe the wonderful speed this horse exhibited when he made that perilous trip of two and a half miles exposed to showers of bullets from the rifles of the enemy. He appeared to look upon Nellie's conduct as more courageous than his own...”
Ole Peter Hansen Balling
“I arrived at City Point, Virginia, where General Grant received me very cordially. He had me sit down before his tent and said, "Well, then, you want to see my horses, as you are going to paint us on horseback." And he directed an orderly to being them up. General Grant said: "That little black pony is my pet, and we call him Jeff Davis, as he was brought to me form the Davis estate in Mississippi when we fought around Vicksburg; that one is Cincinnati, a very fine trotter; and that one, Egypt, is a good saddle horse. Now, which do you want?" I said, "For my purpose, I should like like Egypt." Grant answered, "Well, then, we will take a ride out on the road tomorraow." I was given a tent and an orderly and introduced to General Rawlins (Grant's chief of staff). At the table General Grant placed me opposite him, probably anticipating my desire to look at him as much as possible.”
Corporal M. Harrison Strong
“He was a great horseman and sat his horse as if he were part of the horse, all one figure. There was never a movement of any description that was not masterful and graceful. No one ever saw him disturbed in any way, that is, jolted or taken unaware on horseback, whether he was going fast or slow. He was a born horseman. He had a natural love for animals of all kinds and he was of kindly instincts, without being demonstrative at all, except to his family. He never abused an animal, never.”
General Horace Porter
“General Grant was a great rider, simply splendid. He could ride 40 or 50 miles and come in perfectly fresh and tire out younger men. He was much attached to a little horse named Jeff Davis because he was secured on Jeff Davis's plantation. General Grant was the only man I ever saw, except one, who could go through a battle without flinching. He never lacked in courage, never dodged. He wouldn't as much wink when bullets went whizzing by. He had iron nerves. He was never hurt by a bullet, despite his exposure...”