HORSES IN WAR
I BELIEVE THAT EVERY SOLDIER WHO HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH HORSE OR MULE HAS COME TO LOVE THEM FOR WHAT THEY ARE AND THE GRAND WORK THEY HAVE DONE, AND ARE DOING IN AND OUT OF THE DEATH ZONES. Captain Sidney Galtrey, Autumn 1918
My Favorite Painting "GOOD-BYE OLD MAN"
I found this story in the New York Times for September 15, 1918,an article written by a Blue Cross worker on the Western Front during World War 1. It has nothing to do with any Schuylkill County soldier, but I am sure many of the men who were in the ammunition trains of our various regiments, like the 103rd Engineers would have felt the same way about their horses. It also reminds me of my favorite of all paintings; a painting entitled “Good-Bye Old Man” . It was painted by Fortunio Matania famous artist who painted and made drawings of World War 1 scenes. It depicts a soldier's love and sympathy for his injured, even dying, horse. It is a haunting and emotional picture of a sad goodbye. The image was a bestseller and first shown in the magazine “Sphere”, because it illustrated the real distress that soldiers faced when their loyal horses were wounded and killed.
I was very fortunate to have owned a horse. And for 15 years used him in various living history programs depicting a member of the 5th U. S. cavalry, Company C. He was a wonderful horse and a great companion that I shared many a hot and tiring march with. Though we were never in a battle and witnessed the horrors of the campaigns, he made me realize how hard it was to be a member of the U.S. Cavalry and the responsibility of taking care of a horse in the field. We went on many, many rides, some over 7 days long. I really miss him. By the way his name was “Savage”.
The Blue Cross was set up to assist animals during the Balkan War. Animals were to be helped in future conflicts, including the first (1914-1918) and second (1939-1945) world wars.
THE HORSE IN WAR
Early in the retreat from Mons a shell crashed right into the midst of the section with which I was moving. Our gun was wrecked and the driver in front was blown to bits. As I mounted a fresh horse I turned and saw my other two horses struggling and kicking on the ground to free themselves, but was unable to go back and help them. My feelings were indescribable. A French Chasseur dashed up and cut the traces, and although their driver was a long way off, the horses galloped after him, and followed him for four days. They were not needed, but they kept their places in the line liked trained soldiers.
After every engagement at the front rider less horses are always rounded up and brought in. Often they are found near their dead masters, or following other riders. It was one of the Coldstream Guards who told how, after the fierce fighting at Loos, a horse was seen standing between the firing lines. For two whole days he remained there, when some of our men crawled out and found him he was standing by the dead body of his rider, the horse himself unharmed. It was with difficulty he was induced to leave the spot, and only by blindfolding him could he be persuaded to leave his dead master and return to the British Lines.
During the many visits I have paid to the hospitals at the front I heard several remarkable stories of the faithfulness, sagacity, and tenacity of our army horses.
“Many of them, “ said an officer to me, “have very retentive memories and display great aversion to go near or pass any point where they have been frightened or injured. A very striking instance of this came under my personal observation just before our great offensive at ________. Being in want of a fresh mount, I had acquired one from a brother officer who was returning to England suffering from shell shock. He assured me that I could have no better charger on which to ride forward when we advanced. As strong and brave as a lion, yet as mild and obedient as a lamb when answering the reins, an absolutely trustworthy steed.” “Were the owner’s words as we concluded our bargain. And, truth to tell. I found nothing to complain of in the behavior of that mare until one afternoon when, riding out of the ruined village of ---------- in Flanders, I came to a long road where, but a short time before, there had been a beautiful avenue of poplars, now mere stumps.
I had no sooner got half way down than my horse stood stock still, began to tremble all over, and, with dilated nostrils refused to go a step further, until I applied the spurs. I put this incident down to a sudden caprice, and, forgiving her dismissed it from my mind. But when the same thing happened again a few days later I made a mental note of the fact, and as soon I got back from the reconnaissance wrote to my friend. His reply solved the mystery. “Poor Dolly ! I had no idea that she was also suffering from shell shock,” He said, in substance. “But she’s really not as bad as her old master. The fact of the matter is it, was on that very avenue, near the village, that a shell fell which led to my return to Blighty. She evidently remembers it as keenly as I do. But take her anywhere else than there, and I think you will find she will behave like a thoroughbred lady,” C.W. Forward (Blue Cross Worker)
By the autumn of 1918 the British forces in France had over 475,000 horses and mules. By the end of the war over 1 million horses saw service with the British and Commonwealth Forces. Just on the western front over 256,000 horses and mules died. Credit must be given to the veterinary services of the time or the total would have been worse.
Though no one will ever know the true figure it is estimated that over 1500 horses were killed in the battle of Gettysburg, to include artillery, Cavalry and officers mounts. One artillery battery the 9th Massachusetts, lost 80 of its 88 horses near the Trostle farm. A rough estimate is that the Union Army lost 881 horses and mules and the Confederacy lost 619.
More than one million horses and mules were killed during the Civil War 1861-1865
To read an excellent article on the horse in the Civil War Google The Horse in the Civil War, by Deborah Grace.
A few photo's of me and my WAR HORSE Savage..Two Socks
Me and Savage at Gettysburg doing some living history and C company 5th U.S. Cav at the charge!
He was a great horse and I had 15 years of fun with him. I really miss him.
REST IN PEACE AT FIDDLERS GREEN