Lee’s War Horse: Traveller

Of the several horses Robert E. Lee rode during the Civil War, the one he named Traveller was the object of his greatest affection. Lee, who purchased the grey gelding in 1862 for $200, had bonded quickly with his new mount, whom he gushed about in a letter to his wife’s cousin: “If I was an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller; representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth, and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold; and the dangers and suffering through which he has passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-marches and days of the battle through which he has passed.”

Library of Congress

Traveller would remain with Lee through war’s end and accompany him in his return to civilian life. The horse’s popularity remained as high as the former general’s in postwar Virginia, so much so that, as Lee noted in a letter, Traveller’s tail soon took on “the appearance of a plucked chicken,” the result of souvenir-hungry admirers picking hairs from his tail. Lee’s longtime mount would live until 1871, when he was put down after developing tetanus from stepping on a nail. Shown here are Lee and Traveller in a postwar photo.

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