Memorial Day and Its War Horses

By Karine Burt

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. … Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

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The real meaning of Memorial Day. … In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday during the Vietnam War. We honor on this day the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. For those who have served in combat, Memorial Day has special meaning.

While in observance of this special Day let’s also take a moment to remember the War Horses that were lead with obedience and valor who gave their lives in combat. Without the horse, there could be no cavalryman. In many instances, the loyal horses did their duty until they could do no more, collapsed and died.

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The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons. By 1600 BC, improved harness and chariot designs made chariot warfare common throughout the Ancient Near East, and the earliest written training manual for war horses was a guide for training chariot horses written about 1350 BC. As formal cavalry tactics replaced the chariot, so did new training methods, and by 360 BC. The effectiveness of horses in battle was also revolutionized by improvements in technology, including the invention of the saddle , the stirrup and later, the horse collar.

The most well-known horse of the medieval era of Europe is the Destrier, known for carrying knights into war. However, most knights and mounted men-at-arms rode smaller horses known as coursers and rounceys. (A common generic name for medieval war horses was charger, which was interchangeable with the other terms).

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Many different types and sizes of horse were used in war, depending on the form of warfare. The type used varied with whether the horse was being ridden or driven, and whether they were being used for cavalry charges, raiding , communication, or supply. Throughout history, mules and donkeys, as well as horses, played a crucial role in providing support to armies in the field.

During the era of the Civil War, 1861-1865, there were no internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline, so there were only three ways to transport men, equipment and supplies: by boat, by train, or by horse. Horses were the primary means for logistics. Horses were used by artillery, by cavalry, by infantry, and by teamsters to move men and equipment. When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, there were approximately 3.4 million horses in the Northern states, and 1.7 million in the Confederate states.

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More than 1,000,000 horses and mules were killed during the Civil War. In the early days of the conflict, more horses than men were killed. Just at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg alone, the number of horses killed was about 1,500—881 horses and mules for the Union, and 619 for the Confederacy. The toll taken on these loyal animals.

Horses were heavily used in World War One. Horses were involved in the War’s first military conflict involving Great Britain – a cavalry attack near Mons in August 1914. Horses were primarily to be used as a form of transport during the war.

Eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War. They were used to transport ammunition and supplies to the front and many died, not only from the horrors of shellfire but also in terrible weather and appalling conditions. The German Army entered World War II with 515,000 horses, and over the course of the War employed, in total, 2.75 million horses and mules.

Horse cavalry began to be phased out after World War I in favour of tank warfare, though a few horse cavalry units were still used into World War II, especially as scouts. By the end of World War II, horses were seldom seen in battle, but were still used extensively for the transport of troops and supplies.

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It’s easy to forget about the sacrifices of the loyal steeds during times of War, and I hope that this brief article helps people to remember those sacrificed.

www.HorseShoeBox.com

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