Soon after General Lee came to Richmond in the spring of 1861, some of his admirers presented him with a bay stallion, whom he named Richmond. This was the mount Lee used when he made his inspections of the camps and fortifications around the capital city before going to western Virginia.1 Richmond had strong peculiarities. "He is a troublesome fellow," Lee wrote of him, "and dislikes to associate with strange horses. He expresses it more in words than acts, and if firmly treated becomes quiet at last." When with horses he did not know Richmond was prone to squeal.2 Lee carried Richmond to western Virginia, and as he needed more than one mount there he bought another whom he called simply The Roan or Brown-Roan.
While Lee was engaged in the operations on Sewell Mountain, he saw a young soldier, J. W. Johnston, riding a fine, gray four-year‑old. The horse seemed to possess such excellent qualities that Lee inquired about him. He found the horse had been raised by Andrew Johnston near Blue Sulphur Springs and had been given by him to his son, the rider Lee had seen. Originally named Jeff Davis, the horse had won two first prizes at the Greenbrier County fair. Johnston had promised to sell him to Captain Joseph M. Broun, who wanted him for his brother, Major Thomas L. Broun, but he offered to get him for Lee if the general desired him.3 The horse was delivered to Captain Broun when Johnston, who belonged to the infantry and had been serving on detail, returned to his command. Captain Broun duly turned the horse over to Major Broun, but both brothers used him around Sewell Mountain. Lee saw the animal often, and in asking the Brouns about him, always referred to him as "my colt," saying he would need him later in the war.4
When Lee went back to Richmond, he took Richmond and The Roan with him, and when he started to South Carolina, he carried The Roan. Not long after he arrived there, Captain Broun's command arrived and Broun was riding Jeff Davis, who by this time may have been called Greenbrier, for it was by the latter name that Lee referred to him on December 29, 1861.5 Lee mentioned again the purchase of p645 the animal, whereupon Broun offered to present the horse to the general. Lee declined the gift, of course, but said that if Broun would willingly sell him, he would gladly try him. Broun promptly sent the horse to Lee, who rode him with much pleasure, but ere long sent him back, saying that he could not use so valuable a horse at such a time unless he owned him. Broun therefore wrote his brother, Major Broun, who was sick in western Virginia. Major Broun replied that if Lee wanted the horse, and would not accept him as a gift, Lee could have him for what Broun had paid for him, $175 in gold. Lee then purchased him for $200, making allowance for the depreciation of the currency.6 The horse was somewhat nervous, had a fast, springy walk, but preferred a "short, high trot," which was hard on riders who had a less good seat than Lee.7 He never required whips or spur. The general soon dubbed him Traveller and became devoted to him. After the war he wrote this description of his favorite for Markie Williams, who proposed to make a painting of the animal:
"If I were an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller; representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate eyes, quick eye, small feet and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, and the dangers and sufferings through which he passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-Marches and days of battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist Markie, and can therefore only say he is a Confederate grey. I purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the Fall of 1861,8 and he has been my patient follower ever since, to Georgia, the Carolinas and back to Virginia. He carried me through the seven days battle around Richmond, the Second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, the last day at Chancellorsville, to Penna, at Gettysburg, and back to the Rappahannock. From the commencement of the campaign in 1864 at Orange, till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbour, and across the James river. He was almost in daily requisition in the winter of 1864-'65 on the long line of defences from the Chickahominy north p646 of Richmond, to Hatcher's run south of the Appomattox, •35 miles in length; and in 1865 bore me to the final days at Appomattox Ct. House. You know the comfort he is to me in my present retirement. He is well supplied with equipments — two sets have been sent to him from England, one by the Ladies in Baltimore and one was made for him in Richmond; but I think his favourite is the American saddle from St. Louis. . . ."9
During the Seven Days, when the demands on Lee's mounts were very great, The Roan began to go blind and had to be placed with a farmer who promised to care for him. Richmond died after Malvern Hill.10 Apparently Lee had no other regular mount than Traveller from that time until after he was thrown to the earth during the Second Manassas campaign, when Traveller became frightened while Lee was standing on the ground, holding the bridle-rein. Stuart then procured for Lee from Stephen Dandridge of "The Bower" a low, quiet, and manageable mare named Lucy Long. About the same time, some friends in southwest Virginia sent the general a fine sorrel horse, whom Lee called Ajax. This horse, however, was too tall for the general, who seldom rode him.
Traveller and Lucy Long served him most of the time until close to the end of the war, when Lucy Long was sent to the rear. The story of her loss and recovery is set forth in the text.11 Ajax, Traveller, and Lucy Long went with the general to Lexington. Ajax killed himself by running into the iron prong of a gate-latch before the general's death. Traveller and Lucy Long both outlived him. Traveller died of lockjaw after the demise of the general, to the great distress of the Lee household, and was buried on the property of Washington and Lee.12 Lucy Long injured one of her hind legs and was retired, but lived until 1891.13 Traveller's bones were disinterred in 1907 and were placed in the museum of Washington and Lee University, where the skeleton now stands.a Having shared so much of the fame of the general, his ancestry has been studied. He was variously said by different authorities to be of the Grey Eagle stock and of the stock of an unidentified and perhaps apocryphal imp. Arab. It is thought possible by so eminent an authority as Fairfax Harrison that he was descended from the great Diomed.14
The horse furnishings of Traveller are in the Confederate museum p647 in Richmond. When Lee rode him, he rarely carried any arms except a pistol, which was in his left holster, where it would be within instant reach when the General was dismounted. Ammunition was kept in the right holster. When the quiet days at Lexington came, this same pistol hung over Lee's bed. After his death, when it was discharged, not a barrel missed fire.15
Lee was always exceedingly careful in looking after his horses, in peace as in war. He gave particular attention to their shoeing.16 The girthing, the throat-band, and the folding of the blanket received Lee's personal attention. When Lee was in open campaigning, he dismounted as often as he could, in order to rest his steed.b
1 19 S. H. S. P., 333.
2 Jones, L. and L., 161.
3 Statement of J. W. Johnston to Governor D. C. Hayward of South Carolina, originally printed in The Columbia State and republished in Fairfax Harrison: The Equine F. F. V.'s, 173.
4 La Bree, 307 ff.; Thomas L. Broun in 35 S. H. S. P., 100.
5 Jones, L. and L., 157.
6 La Bree, loc. cit.
7 35 S. H. S. P., 99; cf. R. E. Lee, Jr., 84.
8 Lee, as already explained, was mistaken in this: the purchase was made in South Carolina.
9 Markie Letters, 73‑74; incorrectly printed in R. E. Lee, Jr., 83‑84.
Thayer's Note: Correspondent Susan Rhoads (of the Elfinspell site, which includes several letters of Lee to his daughters) — to whom thanks for the heads‑up — points out that this is an odd excerpt. All that seems to be missing, except presumably for a signature, is
Of all his companions in toil, "Richmond," "Brown Roan," "Ajax," and quiet "Lucy Long," he is the only one that retained his vigour. The first two expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed. You can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait.
The Library of Southern Literature, Vol. V, p3168,
Martin & Hoyt Company (New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta) 1909;
in turn from Recollections and Letters of General Lee,
Doubleday, Page and Company.
10 19 S. H. S. P., 334.
11 Volume IV.
12 See the account of Mrs. Margaret Letcher Showell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 28, 1929.
13 18 S. H. S. P., 39; 19 S. H. S. P., 33‑35.
14 Fairfax Harrison, op. cit., 173.
15 Fitz Lee, 313.
16 Long, 38; Lee to Major Duffey, MS., May 30, 1863; copy of which was given the writer by Mrs. T. P. Bryan.
a Since Freeman wrote, someone appears to have thought better of it. According to the official site of the Lee Chapel and Museum at Washington and Lee University, the remains of this good horse now lie buried in a plot just outside the museum.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
for the heads-up on Traveller's reburial.
Robert E. Lee
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 26 Dec 14