J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

New Review for Horses in Gray

My husband just received the latest edition of his SCV magazine, the Confederate Veteran, and a review of my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, was included. Here is the review. Thank you, Confederate Veteran, for you wonderful review!

Horses in Gray Cover

Horses in Gray – Famous Confederate Warhorses

This book should be on the required reading list for all Southerners, or anyone interested in the South.

All the classic horses and riders are presented; Lee and Traveller, Stonewall and Little Sorrel, etc. Many new and interesting characters dot the pages of this book.

Chapter 1 details the typical story of Confederate horses, and more humble mules, who served their handlers well, but left no name written in history. Horses suffered the same dangers and trials experienced by our Confederate soldiers. Both died of wounds received during the battles, but also died from lack of adequate housing and food. The author relates one episode during the cold Romney Campaign of 1862 where “from one horse’s knees there were icicles of blood which reached nearly to the ground.” With horrible conditions, the average life of a war horse was only six months.

Of course, a chapter is devoted to Lee’s Traveller, sired by the great racehorse Grey Eagle. The nature of Traveller is shown not only by his courage in battle, but also by a little-known event in which a stray hen adopted General Lee’s tent during the Battle of Fredericksburg., laid eggs each day for the General and found comfortable roost on Traveller’s back. Trusted Traveller survived the War and could be found on the campus of Washington and Lee College. When Lee died, the saddle and bridle of his favorite horse was draped with black crepe, and the General’s boots were placed backwards in the stirrups. Lee also owned other horses; Richmond, Brown Roan, Lucy long, and Ajax. Author Hawkins states, “Lee’s undying love of horses was just as profound as his love for Virginia, and he proved it in every aspect of his life.”

Hero “Stonewall” Jackson owned a horse called “Little Sorrel,” but this work also provides the story of an earlier, unruly Jackson horse called “Big Sorrel.” The unusual character of “Little Sorrel” is covered well by the author and demonstrated by the following: “Little Sorrel amused his master by lying on the ground like a dog when he slept. He would also roll over and lie on his back with his feet up in the air.”


Less is known about the favorite steed of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Roderick. In a chapter entitled “The Thirty Horses of Forrest,” Roderick’s history is given along with many other horses who came in contact with the famous cavalry officer. The reader should be prepared to hear of tragic, and moving stories involving these war horses. Forrest’s Highlander during a chase “…was shot in the neck. The animal’s carotid artery had been severed, and blood spurted from it like a fountain, spraying Forrest with a crimson mist. Forrest stuck his index finger into the wound, plugged the hole, and spurred Highlander into a gallop. Finally halting beneath a large tree on a high knoll overlooking the Tennessee River, he removed his finger from the wound and dismounted. The faithful steel slumped and without ceremony, dropped dead.”

Other chapters cover war horses of J.E.B. Stuart, John Mosby, Turner Ashby, Lt. Colonel Blackford, John Hunt Morgan, Confederate spy Belle Boyd, and many others. Also covered is the unusual story of Confederate camels.

These stories are interesting and well written. Details are thorough and bring out facts confirming a long held belief that the South was horse country. Many Southerners grew up with horses, and the affection felt between the soldier and his horse was strong.

To close this review, a great example is included, written by Hawkins, of the closeness between man and horse. This is about Forrest and his mount Roderick.

During a frontal attack, “The devoted steed was hit three times by enemy fire, but despite his suffering he valiantly struggled forward. Realizing the severity of Roderick’s wounds, Forrest rode to the rear. He handed Roderick over to Willie before returning to the front on a fresh mount.

Roderick was attracted to the sounds of the battle. He broke away and galloped across the battlefield in search of Forrest. The brave warhorse leapt three fences on his way. Just before reaching Forrest, he received his fourth and fatal wound. He died at Forrest’s side.”

If you only read one book this year, Horses in Gray should be at the top of your list. This reviewer will certainly look at the statues of our mounted Confederate heroes with new understanding and respect. J.D.R. Hawkins has done honor to these animals.

Author: J.D.R. Hawkins

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company

Gretna, Louisiana



Paperback $27.95

Reviewed by Gary Lee Hall


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