Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rienzi, Another Civil War Horse

He was the steed of General Philip Sheridan. Rienzi (later renamed Winchester) was a big gelding selected by then Col Sheridan and brought from Ohio as he began his service during the civil war. He was named Rienzi after the Mississippi town where Sheridan's troops had been encamped. He rode him over the next three years through 45 engagements including 19 pitched battles and two cavalry raids. The huge black charger taller then Sheridan, was shot many times in battle always recovering and the animal seemed indestructible. In October, 1864, the horse and his rider gained legendary status. Sheridan while spending the night in Winchester, Virginia was awakened by the sound of artillery fire from the direction of Cedar Creek, about 15 miles to the south where his troops were camped. Confederate Jubal A. Early had surprised the sleeping soldiers and overwhelmed them. Reinzi, with Sheridan aboard raced to the area finding his troops in full retreat. The general enticed his men to rally and follow him back to Cedar Creek and where Early's stunning victory earlier turned into a dismal defeat.
After the war Rienzi was put to pasture for a well deserved retirement. When he died in 1878, he was mounted and sent to the Museum of Military Service Institution of the United States on Governor's Island in New York. Later he was transferred to the Smithsonian Institute where he remains to this date.

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