I Don’t Get It

Stonewall Jackson’s horse has returned home.  Little Sorrel has returned to VMI’s museum after getting a makeover. Last month conservators gave Little Sorrel a bath and repaired his hide.  It was the first time he’d received a bath in 140 years.

Little Sorrel belonged to Stonewall Jackson.  The horse died in 1886, but his hide was preserved.  The Virginia Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy organized the fundraising for the restoration. The group raised about $16,000 by selling Little Sorrel toys across the state.

Sorry, but I say BURY THE DAMN THING!

17 comments… add one
  • Philip A Oct 17, 2007 @ 5:52

    If it forms part of an exhibit about the war I don’t think it cheapens a display too much. It’s like a display of clothing or such like: ephemera that adds colour to the past.

    Frankly, what I did consider to be sickening and undignified was the memorial to ‘Animals in War’ I passed in London the other day (but that’s another rant)

  • Phil LeDuc Oct 16, 2007 @ 19:20

    I agree that the whole thing is strange; it is, after all, just his hide over a form which is presumably correct as to dimensions and proportions. How many visitors would notice if the hide was replaced by a reproduction?
    That said, I still have a fond place in my heart for Little Sorrel. He was the “hook” by which my two daughters, then 11 and 8, got interested in the Civil War. We were making a road trip through Virginia and I was trying to explain the War to them when I realized that their love of horses could be used to advantage. It worked, and six years later they still retain their curiosity about and interest in the Civil War. (Tim is right.)

  • Tim Lacy Oct 16, 2007 @ 15:13

    I think I’m understanding Kevin’s animosity, or repulsion, as being towards stuffed/preserved animal relics in general. In this way my comment here relates to Jenny’s above.

    I don’t like taxidermy. When I go to Chicago’s Field Museum, I don’t like the preserved animals on display there. What I have to remember is that this kind of history is not for adults, or even teenagers, but elementary school kids. As with Mannie’s post above, it’s about proportion. They can relate to the size of the beast in front of them.

    But my uncle’s a taxidermist, and another uncle LOVES to have the latest, greatest fish he has caught on display for all. To each their own, but I’m no fan of preserved, realistic-looking beasts—tame or otherwise. – TL

  • Jenny Oct 16, 2007 @ 13:27

    The Smithsonian has a list of mounted horses: http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/famehors.htm

    I think mounting and stuffing horses is now considered undignified. Probably partly reflects a change in how we view horses today as opposed to the 19th century.

    Taxidermy was apparently very popular in the late 19th to early 20th century. Our Natural History museum in Cleveland has an entire large room-filled with mounted animals from polar bears to moose to a bull elephant to small birds. A lot like walking through a roomful of hunting trophies. Always found it a bit disturbing and antiquated. But obviously it was once considered very popular as a way to display animals.

    With horses anyway, traditionally, you only buried the horse’s head, hooves, and heart. Many famous racehorses are buried in tact, however (examples include Man O’War, Ruffian, most recently John Henry). The most famous horse in recent memory, Barbaro, was cremated. I can’t think of a famous horse in recent memory who was mounted and put on display.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 16, 2007 @ 11:12

    Ken, — The last thing I want to do is to “deprive your inner child.” My deepest apologies. (LOL)

    Chris, — Sounds like this woman is seriously disturbed. I actually have someone in mind that I think she should meet.

  • Chris Paysinger Oct 16, 2007 @ 11:07

    Last year I attended a local historical society meeting. In a small town they really struggle to get people to speak. (They have even desperate enough to get me!!!) My “favorite” speaker’s program was on “the Horses’s of the Confederacy.” When speaking of Traveller and Little Sorrel, she openly wept. I mean really blumbered. It is the most uncomfortable I have ever been with history and people’s fascination with it. You might be surprised to know she was a chapter president in the UDC…..

  • Ken Noe Oct 16, 2007 @ 9:13

    In fourth grade, we all got on the bus and went to Lexington for our big end of the year trip. All I really remember about it are Lee Chapel, the bloody hole in Jackson’s coat, and Little Sorrel. Don’t deprive my inner child.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 16, 2007 @ 5:52

    Rob, — Thanks for the reference.
    PHW, — Congratulations for picking up on my “animosity” for all things Confederate.
    Clio, — There is definitely some kind of connection there. Good luck.
    Mannie, — You are absolutely spot on. Hope you are feeling better.
    Michael, — You said: “Little Sorrel earned it. IMO this horse’s memory is worth more than a lot of the humans that I’ve come across today.” Very strange comment indeed, but I guess anything that supported Jackson’s testicles is worth preserving.
    Larry, — I want you to get right on that post.
    Mark, — Unfortunately my parents taught me to be anti-American at a very early age so there is not much I can do to shake it.
    Brooks, — Thanks for the references, but I simply chose not to include them.

  • Brooks Simpson Oct 16, 2007 @ 1:28

    Clearly you forget Rienzi/Winchester, Sheridan’s horse, at the Smithsonian; the head of Old Baldy, Meade’s horse, in Philly; or the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse at the Royal Army Museum in London.

  • Mark Grimsley Oct 16, 2007 @ 0:01


    Why do you hate America?

  • Larry Cebula Oct 15, 2007 @ 23:44

    I challenge everyone here to make a post about famous stuffed horses. We have Little Sorrel, we have Roy Roger’s horse Trigger, and . . .

  • Michael Aubrecht Oct 15, 2007 @ 21:58

    Simply put Kevin… Little Sorrel earned it. IMO this horse’s memory is worth more than a lot of the humans that I’ve come across today. (I’m not a pet owner or an ‘animal person’, but I respect the heck out of this horse and have written a few pieces on him over the years.)

  • manuel Gentile Oct 15, 2007 @ 20:41


    I think that this stuffed horse has more value above ground than below. If the original taxidermists did their job well and if the proportions of the animal are nearly correct, then we have a fine connection to the rider – “Stonewall” Jackson.

    This is the beast that bolted toward the Uninon lines as the wounded Jackson was lowered from the saddle. I think its a good touchstone to that historic moment. There’s nothing sacred or holy here, simply a nice measure of context, and that’s always a worthwhile thing to have around.

    Though the UDC may have spent its dollars on something more meaningful (which beggars the imagination) , at least they’ve kept the cooties away from the hide of this paritcular piece of history.

    Little Sorrel was a significant piece of southern chattel property that helps us to understand the larger picture.


  • Clio Bluestocking Oct 15, 2007 @ 19:26

    There is some connection between this and the toys, I’m just not yet making it.

  • PHW Oct 15, 2007 @ 19:00

    Why bury a perfectly good piece of American History? We get your animosity for anything related to the Confederacy, but there’s no need for getting rid of a relic.

  • Marc Ferguson Oct 15, 2007 @ 18:41

    Oh boy, you’d better duck now, Kevin, because the outraged posts and emails from the true believers should start arriving any minute. ;^)

  • Rob Wick Oct 15, 2007 @ 18:39

    Years after Luther Byron Baker slipped into obscurity after being on the manhunt that captured John Wilkes Booth, he brought his horse “Buckskin” along on lectures he would give. Eventually, Buckskin died and Baker had him stuffed. He would be on stage with Baker while Baker was lecturing. Also, on a playbill’s reverse side was a story of the capture of Booth, told by Buckskin.


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