Memorial Day is celebrated every year in the United States on the last Monday in May. The national holiday honors the men, women, and all brave souls who fought and died for their country.
Decoration Day, as it was originally called, began shortly after the end of the American Civil War. According to The History Chanel, “The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
“By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.”
It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Over 600,000 soldiers died in the civil war, but war horses and mules suffered the largest casualty. 3 million equines bravely went into battle with the soldiers and half lost their lives.
1.5 million horses and mules died during the war. The courageous animals were the main form of transportation for both armies and were used by the calvary, artillery, and to carry the wounded and supplies.
National Park Service shared, “Artillery could not function without horses. Most six-gun batteries had 120 horses to pull the heavy cannons, caissons, and limbers.” Each calvary needed an additional 1200 horses and mules were used to pull wagons filled with supplies.
As you can imagine, soldiers formed close bonds with the equines and were heartbroken when their horse was injured or killed. Many wrote about their beloved companions in their journals.
A Georgia officer wrote the following after losing his beloved horse. “He had done no one any harm, but his faithful work for man was now to be rewarded with a grape shot from a cannon’s cruel math. His fate breathes a reproach and cries out against this inhuman war.”
To ensure these war horses will never be forgotten, The Civil War Calvary Horse bronze statue was created in 1997. Animal sculptor Tessa Pullan was commissioned by philanthropist and horse breeder, Paul Mellon, to create the statue. It proudly stands at National Sporting Library and Museum in Virginia.
The inscription on the statue reads: “In memory of the one and one-half million horses and mules of the Confederate and Union armies who were killed, were wounded, or died from disease in the Civil War.”
The unsung heroes will never be forgotten.
Memorial Day now honors all who have served (two and four-legged) and made the ultimate sacrifice. Parades are held in their honor and flags and flowers are placed on gravesites. As you pause to remember the fallen soldiers, don’t forget the horses, dogs, and cats who bravely served our country.
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