Meet the Horses that Won the Civil War
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You’ll notice an absence of Super Bowl- or even Super Bowl advertisement-related content on MA101 today, and that’s because I didn’t watch it. I’m almost sorry — the blackout sounds hilarious, if worrying, and a friend who did watch said they mostly filled the downtime with footage of sweaty men stretching in tight spandex — but overall I’m comfortable with my decision to mark the end of the football season at “whenever the Packers play their last game.”
Caring about a team is something I’m happy to do. Caring about a whole sport is a level of effort that’s just beyond me.
So instead of Super Bowl stuff, let’s look at ponies.
Today’s ponies (and my interest in them) come to you by way of the New York Times‘s “Disunion” series, a blog following the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
If you’re not reading it yet, I highly recommend adding it to your Facebook or RSS feed or whatever — the articles are short, entertaining, and good small-talk fodder for parties. And sometimes you get articles about pretty ponies:
Despite an initial supply problem and lack of leadership and mission focus, by mid-1863 the Union cavalry was coming into its own. Union quartermasters smartly purchased many Morgans, a uniquely American breed known for endurance, versatility, heart and courage. The largest cavalry battle of the war, involving 17,000 horsemen, occurred on June 9, 1863, at Brandy Station, Va. Stuart’s forces were preparing to advance in order to screen Lee’s march north toward Gettysburg. Begun by a Union surprise attack, the Confederates finally fended off the enemy. Yet the Union soldiers’ strong stand resulted from the fact that for the first time, they had trained and been commanded as a coherent corps. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Union cavalry fought 15 battles in 16 days and captured or destroyed half of Stuart’s cavalry, as well as 4,000 or so horses and mules and 1,000 loaded wagons. The South’s food crisis also gave Union cavalry operations an edge; by early 1865 well-fed Northern cavalry mounts were able to beat malnourished Confederate horses to their own supply trains and depots in Virginia.
The “Morgan horse” in question has always been one of my favorites, despite its coastie origins and tendency to be too small for my 6’8″ frame. They’re smart and sturdy, and what’s more important, they’re really pretty:
The official breed standard includes the terms “…an expressive face, large eyes…” in its laundry list of what makes a Morgan a Morgan. Who could fail to love a horse like that? Other than the Confederate cavalry, obviously, although they had their share of Morgans too, just not the massive bulk-purchases that kept the Federal cavalry mounted.
True story: many years ago at a bar, a mutual acquaintance pulled my ladyfriend aside and whispered conspiratorially “Geoffrey has pony eyelashes.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but I’ll cop to it. I do have pony eyelashes.
Now wasn’t that more fun than Super Bowl power outage jokes?