Monday, June 18, 2012

Modern Civil War Horses

This weekend, I drove past this sign:

...and of course I had to follow it! How many times in life do you see a garage sale sign advertising time travel? I'm glad I did, because I got to meet some of the coolest people and horses ever.

This is Carl Holzschuh and his horse Hot Sauce. They're reenactors who re-create the civil war so that people like you and me can watch history live, so to speak. Carl is a real veteran as well as a pretend one, and he's been doing this since the 80s. He and his troop, the 1st Alabama Cavalry, came to Columbus, WI this weekend to help celebrate the Columbus Horse and Carriage Festival. Carl is from WI, as are most of his fellow soldiers, but they chose to portray the 1st Alabama because in real history these troops split apart and joined both the Union and Confederate ranks. That means that Carl and his friends can portray both Confederate and Union soldiers and still remain true to history. They appeared at the Midwest Horse Fair's exhibit "Horses of War" under both flags on two different days. Here are some of the incredible things I learned from Carl:

  • It takes 2-3 years for a horse to become well-trained enough to deal with the cannon fire, gun fire & cavalry charges.
  • It costs $5,000 - $7,000 to fully tack up a horse in authentic Civil War era gear.
  • A reenactor pays for everything out of his (or her) own pocket.
  • In the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederates had the advantage when it came to horses, because in the agricultural, aristocratic south, many new officers already had their own horses, and were good riders. The Union took 2-3 years to get horses and men trained well enough to match the South.
  • Cavalry horses were usually Morgans, Standardbreds, Tennesse Walkers and Thourougbreds. Quarter Horses hadn't really developed fully as a breed, and Mustangs were considered inferior mounts.
  • 3.5 million horses and mules died during the Civil War, 5-6 times the number of human casualties.
  • In Sherman's march to the sea alone, 270,000 horses and mules were used.
  • Horses were more often transportation to a battle rather than transportation in a battle. Other than in quick raids, soldiers usually left their horses behind battle lines, then dismounted to go fight. This made sense because loading and firing a gun was usually a two-handed process, the horses were very unreliable under cannon fire, and a man on a horse was a march larger target.

Here are some photos from the event, along with some hopefully enlightening captions:

Then-Wisconsin-Governor Lewis stands by to escort President Lincoln

Horses on a picket line, exactly as they would have been during the war.

This saddle is brand new, but made to exactly replicate an 1859 cavalry saddle.

This Akhal-Teke horse belongs to Buck Brannaman's brother, who was also at the event. Yay celebrities!

These guys actually did sleep in tiny canvas tents during the event!

The gorgeous black stallion Bethesda Horus, a supremely talented Morgan. I think I'm in love.

The Union Color Guard escort President Lincoln down Columbus's main street.

President Lincoln waved at me!! The gorgeous team here is rumored to be going to the Olympics.

ZOMG tiny pony is sooooooooo cute!

A final word on Carl and Hot Sauce. Carl is a very skilled and knowledgeable farrier, and I highly recommend him. He's based out of Sherwood, WI (close to Appleton) and his number is (920) 989-1877. Carl got Hot Sauce straight off the standardbred racing circuit, when he was pulled out due to a tendon injury. He would have been put down or sold to slaughter at only three years old. Carl took him in and fixed him up, and Hot Sauce is now 14 and a perfectly sound, wonderful mount. You can read more about Carl and his horsemanship skills in this article.


  1. What a fun event to stumble upon.

  2. My husband and I were at the Midwest Horse Fair and specifically went to one of the lectures on Horses in War.. it was a little disappointing.
    Not the horses OR the subjects, which this one in particular was the horses in the Afghan war. The powers that be put them in the Andis "arena".. it was a small tent, with seating for about 15 people, a TINY area for 1 normal horse to stand in comfortably OR two if they are super well trained, like Carl's horse. People didn't leave the tent, they simply sat there waiting for the next thing on the program. A dozen people or more wedged their way in so it was standing room only. Outside where we were, it was worse. We couldn't see anything and could hardly hear anything as the speakers for the sound system sucked...
    But it was very kewl to see the horses and learn the role they play in the current conflict.
    We have neighbors who were re-enactors and they still have all their stuff. I just wish I could afford the saddle.. or that it fit my big behind, or my horse.. LOL
    My husbands horse is nigh bombproof, we live near a park that gets cannons fired from it a few times a year, and my horse is a spaz...his horse, munching grass while we are grooming.. cannon is fired multiple times.. she puts here head up to see where its coming from, and then goes back to eating. My horse.. PANIC!!!... OH Panic!!

  3. Augh I'm sorry I missed this. Looks like it was an awesome time.

  4. There's a big reenactment in my neck of the woods each year and I haven't made it yet....this makes me want to plan for next year.