Rooney Lee

During the tour of the historic Farley plantation last Saturday, our guide Clark “Bud” Hall talked about Gen. Robert E. Lee’s son, Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee and his horse “Frantic,” both of whom participated in the Battle of Brandy Station.

Of course, when he started talking about a Virginia man and his horse, my ears perked up. There was also a general discussion on horses and the huge role they place during the Civil War.

For a little background on “Rooney,” he became a captain in the Confederate Army cavalry at the outbreak of the Civil War and was soon promoted to major. He was eventually placed under the command of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, becoming a lieutenant colonel, and later colonel of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.

After the Battle of South Mountain, Lee was promoted to brigadier general. He fought at Antietam under the command of Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, his cousin. He then commanded the 3rd Brigade of Stuart’s Cavalry Division at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and was wounded during combat at Brandy Station at the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign. Two weeks later, he was captured by Union forces at Hickory Hill while recuperating. He became a prisoner of war in New York State until returned to the Confederate Army on February 25, 1864 as part of an exchange.

Lee was promoted to major general and by the end of the war, had risen to second-in-command of the Confederate cavalry. He surrendered along with his father at Appomattox Court House.

In the book Gray Cavalier: The Life and Wars of Gen. W.H.F. Rooney Lee, the author says the Lee was an excellent judge of horses.

“So well and wisely did he select them, that when mounted there seemed an admirable harmony between his own massive form and the heavy build and muscular power of his steed.”

The book quotes a young trooper who was somewhat awed by the sight of Rooney Lee on horseback. He swore that he could make out Lee “in the darkest part of that forest at the darkest period of the night.”

“He was six feet, three or four and weighed not an ounce less than three hundred pounds. He was mounted on his brown war horse, ‘Frantic,’ a horse he always had his saddle changed to before going into a fight. The two together, man and horse, made one of the largest establishments I ever saw.”

This got me to thinking about some of the other horses that served during the Civil War. Bud told us that for every man killed during the Civil War (around 625,000), three horses died. Here are some of the famous horses that played a role in the Civil War.

King Philip – One of the more well known warhorses of General N.B. Forest.

Traveller – Probably the most famous horse of the war, he was a big gray gelding that served Robert E. Lee throughout the war and after. Traveller died in June 1871, almost one year after his master’s death. He is buried outside of Lee Chapel on the grounds of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. Visitors still leave apples and treats on his grave.

Virginia and Skylark – Two of the more famous warhorses owned by Gen. J.E.B.(Jeb) Stuart. (I think Maryland was another one).

Little Sorrel – Warhorse of General Stonewall Jackson. Jackson was riding Little Sorrel when he was shot by friendly fire at Chancellorsville. Little Sorrel survived and was eventually returned to Gen. Jackson’s widow.

Cincinnati – Big warhorse ridden by General U.S. Grant.

Dixie – E.Porter Alexander (and Col. Alexander Hunter in the historical fiction novel, Shades of Gray)!

Magic -William Blackford.

Grey Eagle – John Buford, the Federal hero of the first day at Gettysburg.

Charlamayne – Joshua L. Chamberlain of 20th Maine and Little Round Top. After the war he gave the local children rides around the neighborhood on his beloved Charlamayne.

Lancer, Don Juan, Harry, Roanoke – Civil War horses of General G.A. Custer.

Dixie – Henry Kyd Douglas.

Roderick – Another of the great warhorses ridden by old N.B. Forrest.

Red Eye-Dick Garnett. Red Eye survived Picket’s Charge. General Garnett did not.

Fanny – John Gibbon.

Milroy – John B. Gordon.

Captain – Wade Hampton.

Pretty – David McM. Gregg.

Billy – Frank Haskell.

Dan – Alexander Hays.

Jeff Davis – John B. Hood.

Faugh-a-Ballagh – Patrick Kelly.

Old Spot – Judson Kilpatrick.

Nellie Gray – Fitz Hugh Lee.

Lucy Long – The forgotten warhorse of the beloved General Robert E. Lee,who served him ably throughout the war.

Hero – James Longstreet. Hero saw it all and survived the war.

Old Baldy– George Meade.

Slicky – Alfred Pleasonton.

Prince – John F. Reynolds, one of the Union Army’s finest horseman. He was riding Prince at Gettysburg when he urged the Iron Brigade forward into McPherson’s woods on the first day. Reynolds was killed by a rebel sharpshooter. Prince was returned to his family in Lancaster, Pa.

Firefly – Robert Rodes.

Renezi – Phil Sheridan. I just saw his stuffed remains at the Smithsonian. His name was changed to Winchester after the famous ride from that town.

Handsome Joe – John Sedgewick.

Tammany – Dan Sickles.

Jinny – Issac Trimble.

Old Jim – Strong Vincent.

Billy – Charles Wainwright.

Fleetfoot – Walter Taylor.

Sheridan – Warhorse of James Harrison Wilson. He fondly referred to his horse in letter’s home as “The Prince of Horses.”

Old Bench Legs -Warhorse of Benjamin Grieson.

Chief – The last living cavalry horse of the U.S. Cavalry.


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