The General’s Mount: a Poem on General Forrest’s Horse

THE BLOOD from deep inside Began to color flecks of foam about the bit. And pink the moisture in his heavy breath. And yet the pain, Sharp and searing hot, Appeared to make no difference in his stride. For this great chestnut gelding, Dark with sweat, Was all a war horse; In his pace And in his sinew, Bone and blood . . . and in his heart. The towering General, light-reined horseman – Light in the saddle, too- Felt the shot That hit the horse beneath him. There is Some indescribable communion Between a man and horse Who’ve shared the roughest roads, The longest hours, The hardest battles; A singleness of spirit, faith unflagging. The General felt the pain As though the gelding’s wound was in himself; It tightened muscles in his jaws and throat. AND then the second shot Struck hard the chestnut’s side. And then the third. Stunning. Staggering. His powerful and easy stride Became a labored lunge, Steadied only by the General’s balanced weight And sure band. The war horse gathered- With every ounce of courage in his heart- To carry on, To fight the mission through. Calmingly, . The General reined him in. And stepping down He loosed the girth And lightly slipped the saddle to the ground. THE GENERALS young lieutenant, Aide de camp- His son- Reined up, Dismounted; Took the General’s horse and gave his own. Scarcely a word was passed, No orders given- None bad to be- As the General, With one backward glance, rode on. And Willie led The wounded war horse from the field And to the rear. Away from powder smoke And battle strain. Into the chill of early March, Into the quieter countryside In Tennessee. To the horse holders beyond the second hill. [continued on next page]

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9 Responses

  1. Mr. M. Music

    Thank you for sharing this poem, in America’s Civil war


    It is truly a very good poem,

    CW reenactor
    17th MI coe infantry

  2. dave

    the genaeral had 30 horses shot out from beneath him,which horse was this?

  3. michael goins

    I first read this poem when I was a child. If not the same one, then one that was very close to it. It was in a copy of the Nashville Banner newspaper from Tennessee. I do not remember the year, but it was a commemorative issue.

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  5. James Burns

    “the genaeral had 30 horses shot out from beneath him, which horse was this?”
    To wit: General Forrest, unlike many Union Generals, actually led his men into battle by riding towards the front and exposing himself to artillery, musket, and sabre. This was CSA General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s horse named Roderick. Roderick was shot out from under General Forrest on 5 March 1863 near Spring Hill, Tennessee. In addition, General Forrest also owned and rode a war horse named Highlander. He cherished both Roderick and Highlander and each time he lost a horse, he lost a little of himself. His favorite horse, King Philip, a large gray horse, was wounded in the neck during the same battle where Nathan’s brother, Colonel Jeffrey Forrest was killed. This so enraged Nathan, that he charged into the Union lines and used his sabre to personally kill or injure over three Union soldiers.
    This was during the Feb 1864 Battle of Okolona.

  6. Debbie

    This brought me to tears when I read it at the Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield information center. An incredible piece.

  7. Ray Pendergrass

    I enjoyed reading this article about General Forrest and his horse. This horse and man are typical of the kind of men that fought for our states rights in the Civil War. This is one reason that it took the Yankees four years to defeat our Southern relatives and friends even though they outnumbered us two and a half millon men to one and a half million men. That is why I am proud to be a Tennessean born southern man.

  8. Bill Smith

    Read this yesterday and got to thinking about Alexander the Great and his horse, Bucephalus. Bucephalus is one of the few horses we know by name from antiquity. He was clearly the favorite of Alexander and some accounts suggest that Alexander personally tamed the animal. Bucephalus carried Alexander to numerous victories in battle, probably dying of fatal injuries at the battle of Hydaspes in June of 326 BC. Alexander founded a town nearby named after Bucephalus to honor his horse and had him buried on that site. A number of classical paintings have been done over the centuries of Alexander and his horse. With the appreciation of classical Greek civilization that was prevalent in the mid 19th Century, I wonder if General Forrest wouldn’t have known about Alexander and Bucephalus…..


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