It is a fancy of mine that these two famous horses stood flank to flank, hitched to a post outside the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Courthouse on this day in history, April 9th 1865.
The Civil war began with the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861 on the McLean farm so Wilmer McLean said that the Civil War started in his backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865. In the photo on the left is Ulysses S. Grant with Cincinnati, his most famous mount of the Civil War, a giant at 17 hands. On the right is Robery E. Lee mounted on Traveller, his most famous mount of the war. These were the horses ridden by the two Generals on that fateful day.
By the etiquette of the time Lee should have presented his sword and horse to the victor and walked back to his soldiers following the surrender of his Army of Northern Virginia. Instead Grant began the long slow process of reconciliation by allowing Lee to retire with full honours. Lee rode back to his troops on Traveller, armed with his sword. He also rode back with the good news that the Union army were arranging to deliver food to his starving troops. Food exchanged for rifle muskets.
Traveller (originally named Greenbriar), a grey colt of 16 hands, was purchased by Major Thomas L. Broun, who sold him to Lee. Greenbriar “was greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength. He needed neither whip nor spur, and would walk his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of Western Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead so soon as he was mounted.”
Their sleepless, bloodshot eyes were turned to me.
Their flags hung black against the pelting sky.
Their jests and curses echoed whisperingly,
as though from long-lost years of sorrow – Why,
You’re weeping! What, then? What more did you see?
A gray man on a gray horse rode by.
— Passage from Traveller, a novel by Richard Adams
From Frederick Dent Grant’s notes on his fathers horses:
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.