Horses of History: Traveller
General Lee's Favorite War Horse
Yes there are, or rather were, two “L’s” in Traveller, which was the English spelling back when people were writing about him. And what a memorable horse he was, as there are many anecdotes and descriptions of Confederate General Robert E Lee’s favorite war horse. We know not only what he looked like, but how he behaved and what he meant to the humans who knew him.
He was born in Greenbrier County, in what is now West Virginia, and as a colt, he took first prizes at the local fair. He was purchased for $175 (approximately $5,000 today) in 1861 while General Lee was commanding a small force in Western Virginia and at that time was named “Greenbrier.”
There are numerous paintings and photographs of Traveller that leave no doubt that he was physically beautiful; a gray American Saddlebred with a dark mane and tail, 16 hands tall. Compactly built, with almost a Spanish horse body shape, not long and lanky.
He was an immediate success, as Major Thomas L. Broun recalled:
“He 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 walked his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of West 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 as soon as he was mounted.”
Oh – ouch. Ridden in a leverage bit on a tight rein at all times. Makes me wince. But this isn’t an attack on General Lee or horse trainers of that time who did things differently than we do.
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