In the annals of American history, no war has produced as many famous horses as the Civil War: Traveller, Little Sorrel and Rienzi are among the best known, but there are others. Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, for example, rode several great mounts, including his loyal horse Roderick.
At the March 1863 Battle of Thompson’s Station, Tenn., Roderick had been shot three times and removed froEE the front, but he jumped three fences to return to his master’s side, where he suffered a fourth and fatal wound. As the legend goes, Forrest knelt and wept beside his dying steed.
Today, a new statue of Roderick marks the chestnut gelding’s final resting place. The memorial was dedicated this spring as part of the town’s commemoration of the 145th anniversary of the Thompson’s Station battle. In addition, the town’s mayor, Leon Heron, announced the creation of the Roderick Award of Courage, which will be presented each March, starting in 2009, to an individual who exhibits bravery in the face of adversity.
Outside the world of horse racing—which has erected statues for such famous chargers as Seabiscuit and Secretariat—it is uncommon for a horse to be so honored without his famous rider depicted as well.
The Roderick statue, therefore, is a unique and fitting way to celebrate Civil War history. As historian Eric Jacobson said at the monument’s unveiling. “We may all live for the future,” he noted, “but all of us are products of our past.”
Read “The General’s Mount,” a poem tribute to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s horse.