A True History
Warhorses of the Civil War
Were just as brave as men
And bore the bloody burdens
Time and time again.
They hauled the heavy caissons
To the high ground and the hill,
The wagons and the cannon,
And they watched the soldiers kill.
They saw the cities burning;
They heard the dying screams
And pulled the muddy armies
Over deep, rain-swollen streams.
And they died faster than men died
On those ghastly killing fields,
For they made bigger targets
And were often used as shields.
One of these was Little Sorrel,
A warhorse for the South
Who fought to free Virginia
Of invaders from the North.
He first met the Union army
In the early summer clashes
Along Bull Run and the stone walls
Of bloody 1st Manassas.
Then he crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains
To help the Rebels rally
And turn back Union raiders
In the Shenandoah Valley,
Then back across the Blue Ridge
To the horror and the pain
Of the brutal week of dying
Called The Seven Days Campaign,
Where they drove the hated Yankees
Fighting at Mechanicsville
Across the Chickahominy
All the way to Malvern Hill.
Little Sorrel was there for all of it,
Dying horses, dying men,
Smoke, canister, and Minie ball...
And Manassas yet again.
Through that second bloody summer,
He heard the cannon shriek,
And saw the bloated bodies heaped
Along Antietam Creek.
He was cut by flashing sabres,
Bayonets, and searing lead,
And several times went to his knees,
But rose to move ahead.
And he never flinched or shied away
Or showed a sign of fear,
So they let him bear the battle flag
At Fredericksburg that year.
All these were Southern victories
(Antietam maybe not)
And Little Sorrel rode wherever
The fiercest fights were fought.
But the greatest victory of all
Came at Chancellorsville.
There Little Sorrel once again
Showed leadership and skill
In a forced march through the wilderness
That put the Yanks in panic,
Breached their flank, and drove them back
Across the Rappahannock.
Little Sorrel was in the vanguard
Of that surprise attack,
The stars and bars borne bravely
On Little Sorrel’s back.
And when they counted up his scars
And the battles where he’d been,
They decided to retire him
And not make him fight again.
For the Rebels were great horsemen
And loved their noble steeds
And hoped to save a record
Of the warhorse and his deeds.
But that may have been an error,
For wherever he had been,
Good luck followed Little Sorrel
And the South... win after win.
Of course, no one that day could know
What the future had in store,
For after Chancellorsville their luck ran out,
And then... they lost the war.
Little Sorrel lived out his final years
On a farm in Carolina,
In green fields with many horses,
And his mistress’ name was Anna.
And Anna left a memoir,
For she wanted folks to hear it,
Recounting Little Sorrel’s life
And his unflagging spirit,
His intelligence, his gentle soul,
His fierce independence,
And his love of liberty.
For he wouldn’t stay corralled for long,
Or in his stable stall,
Or in the lower pastures;
They couldn’t fence him in at all.
He learned to lift the latches
On his stable stall and door,
And go out to the paddock
If he chose... but even more,
He learned to drop the railings
On the pasture fence at will,
For his heart was ever turning
To the green fields on the hill.
And they never found him there alone,
For the strangest thing of all,
Was how he lifted all the latches
On every horses’ stall.
He must have known that freedom
Was every heart’s desire,
And to the very end his spirit
Never lost that fire.
Then in a stately slow parade,
Each mule and thoroughbred,
Would follow Little Sorrel out,
Where Little Sorrel led,
Across the pasture paddock,
O’er the fence rails he would spill,
And up along the dogwood
To the green fields on the hill.
In the end they couldn’t part with him;
They preserved his head and hide
And resurrected Little Sorrel
When Little Sorrel died.
And you may see him yet today,
The bravest horse of all,
In Lexington, Virginia...
Little Sorrel standing tall.