Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stuffed in the Dining Hall

I’d heard of General Lee’s horse, “Traveller”, but I’d never heard of Stonewall Jackson’s “Old Sorrell” until I came across the story in an old Arizona newspaper. Apparently, the warhorse spent his final days (and then some) at the Confederate soldiers’ home in Virginia.

At an early age the horse was selected for the service of the United States and was en route to Washington when the train he was on was captured near Harper’s Ferry by a group of Confederates commanded by Stonewall Jackson. According to the story, Jackson singled out “Old Sorrell” from the captured horses and paid the quartermaster $150 for the privilege of owning him. Jackson rode his commandeered mount in every engagement until, mounted on “Old Sorrell”, Jackson was shot out of the saddle at Chancellorsville. At Jackson’s death, General J. E. B. Stuart sent the horse to Mrs. Jackson in North Carolina. She eventually moved with her late husband’s horse to Richmond.

For twenty years after the war, “Old Sorrell” made personal appearances at Confederate reunions and other events throughout the South. When the horse became too infirm to travel, he was presented to Virginia’s Lee Camp of the United Confederate Veterans and put out to pasture at the Confederate soldiers’ home in Richmond. Jackson’s horse passed away on March 17, 1886, at the advanced age of thirty-six years.

Unwilling to lose their hero’s mount, the Confederate veterans sent “Old Sorrell” to the studio of taxidermist F. S. Webster in Richmond, where the warhorse was stuffed and mounted “in an attitude of attention, with head and ears erect.” He was returned for display in the dining hall of the R. E. Lee Camp Soldiers’ Home until it closed.

I imagine the aging veterans who lived in the home must’ve had some mixed feelings at mealtime knowing that, though they would eventually die and crumble to dust, their general’s horse would outlast them.

(See The Mohave Miner (of Kingman, Ariz.) July 16, 1887)

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