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

By Jack Knox 
Originally published by America's Civil War magazine. Published Online: November 19, 2008 
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AND in the cutting chill The war horse ached. Ached under his drying sweat And drying blood. A once alert, Clearheaded "General's mount," Stunned and trembling From the shock and pain. Jaded. Limping to the holders In the rear. No bugles And no drumbeats here, Only fading sounds across the field. THE HOLDERS slipped the bridle From his lowered head, Wiped the sweat marks From his cheeks and neck. Bathed the blood-red foam From mouth and nostrils, Sponged his wounds, Applied a stinging ointment. They washed his knees And hocks And pasterns. "It's Roderick! The General's mount! Bring the water bucket to him." Roderick, The General's mount Trained in his master's ways. Trained to jump A fence or wall or gulley, To back and wheel, To follow where the General went, To follow closely, Ready for an instant need. And he followed him from training, But he followed, too, From love. THE stinging ointment touched a spark of feeling. The water gave refreshment To his spirit. He raised his head a little, Cocked an ear, And listened . . . In the distance There was shooting And it echoed in the hills. The General always rode To the shooting. HE TURNED to face the sound. His ears were up and pointing. His head was clearing now. He moved a little, Toward the sound, The holders started to him. Shouting "whoa" He moved a little faster, Stiff and aching, Toward the shooting. "WHOA" they shouted, "Head 'im!" He broke into a trot. To a painful, labored gallop To the General. [continued on next page]

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9 Responses to “The General's Mount: a Poem on General Forrest's Horse”

  1. 1
    Mr. M. Music says:

    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. 2
    dave says:

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

  3. 3
    michael goins says:

    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.

  4. 4

    [...] fare as: "Visiting Stonewall Jackson’s Left Arm at Chancellorsville" or "The General's Mount: a Poem on General Forrest's Horse"– that one spans three pages. In other news, the demand for information about fashion [...]

  5. 5
    James Burns says:

    "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. 6
    Debbie says:

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

  7. 7
    Ray Pendergrass says:

    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. 8
    Bill Smith says:

    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…..

  9. 9

    [...] “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.” — Jack Knox, excerpt from The General’s Mount: a Poem on General Forrest’s Horse [...]

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