General Robert E. Lee captured in his appearance and manner the image of a knight. With his gray beard, immaculate military uniform, and soldierly bearing, he was a model of the courtly warrior, chivalrous, strong, and resolute. Combined with his military skills and reputation, it is no wonder that Confederate soldiers broke into shouting and cheering when “Marse Robert” rode by.
Many of the pictures, paintings, and depictions of Lee show him on horseback. According to some descriptions, Lee had proportionally short legs. But seated on horseback, Lee took on a much larger persona. Horses were means of travel in Lee’s day, and for a warrior-leader, a strong reliable horse, who would not flinch in battle, was essential.
Most of the paintings and descriptions of Lee on horseback show him on a large gray stallion. This was Traveller, perhaps the most famous horse from the Civil War. (The double l’s in the spelling were the more traditional British spelling of the name.) Traveller was four years old in 1861 when Lee first noticed him. According to Major Thomas Broun, Lee “took a great fancy” to the horse, which belonged to his brother, Captain Joseph Broun. Lee referred to the horse, which was actually named “Jeff Davis” at the time, as “his colt.”
Joseph Broun offered to give the horse to General Lee, but he declined the gift. “If you will willingly sell me the horse, I will gladly use it for a week or so to learn its qualities.” Lee found the horse agreeable, but it was some time before a deal was made. Originally, the horse had been bought for $175 in gold, but due to the depreciating Confederate currency, Lee paid $200 for him.
Some complained of Traveller’s rough gait, but Lee thought him to be “gentle, easy, comfortable.” It was Traveller’s stamina and endurance of battlefield conditions that earned his master’s love. It was not all pleasant for the man and his horse, however. Traveller bolted during the Second Battle of Manassas, knocking General Lee down on a stump—both of Lee’s hands were broken as a result.
The old song says, “You fought all the way, Johnny Reb, Johnny Reb.” The same could be said for Traveller. Lee rode him to Appomattox when he surrendered to General Grant, and then he rode him home to Richmond. Later, Lee rode him 110 miles to Washington University in Lexington when he assumed the presidency there. Until Lee’s death in 1870, he continued riding Traveller. Some years later, when Traveller died, he was buried on the grounds of the renamed Washington and Lee University.
Far less known is another horse that Lee had during the war. This was a sorrel mare by the name of Lucy Long. She was a gift to General Lee from General J. E. B. Stuart. She appears to have been a calmer, smaller, and more manageable horse than Traveller, but she lacked his stamina. While Lee was recovering from his broken hands, he rode Lucy Long, having an aide leading her on horseback in front.
Somewhere near the end of the war, Lucy Long was mustered out of military service. Some say that she was broken down from the war, but it has also been rumored that she was sent away because she was with foal. At one point, she was captured by Union troops, while later she showed up at a riding academy.
After the war, Lee’s son located her, bought her from the current owner, and brought her to Lexington to join with her comrades from the war, General Lee and Traveller. She lived on until around 1891 when she died at the age of thirty-four.
As noted earlier, Traveller is often depicted in paintings of General Lee. There is even a book, a fictional account of the war from his perspective, by Richard Adams, titled Traveller. The more quiet, obscure life of Lucy Long is often forgotten. However, in the movie Gettysburg, there is a scene where General Lee, played by Martin Sheen, steps up to the horse pen early in the morning. “Good morning, Traveller. Good morning, Miss Lucy,” he says.
One brief cameo appearance for Lucy Long. Perhaps there is still a story of this mare and Confederate veteran waiting to be told.