Undated description of Winchester signed by General Sheridan (transcription)
"Winchester was of Black-hawk blood, and was foaled at or near Grand Rapids, Michigan, late in the fall of 1859, according to the best of my information. He was brought into the service by an officer of the Second Michigan Cavalry, to which regiment I was appointed Colonel, on the 25th day of May, 1862. Shortly afterwards, and while the regiment was stationed at the little town of Rienzi in the State of Mississippi, he was presented to me by Captain Campbell in the name of the officers of the regiment, and from that date until the close of the war, he was ridden by me in nearly every engagement in which I took part.
"At the time he was given me, he was rising three years old, so that he must have been in his 20th year when he died, on October 2nd, 1878. He was an animal of great intelligence and of immense strength and endurance. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the idea that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was not so, for I could at any time control him by a firm hand a few words, and he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my old soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden by any one.
"I append herewith a list of the engagements with the enemy during the late war in which I rode him.
P.H. Sheridan [signature]
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army "
"Sheridan's Ride" by Thomas Buchanan Read, 1864
Up from the South at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste, to the chieftain's door,
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.
And wider still those billows of war
Thundered along the horizon's bar;
And louder yet into Winchester rolled
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
With Sheridan twenty miles away.
But there is a road from Winchester town,
A good, broad highway leading down;
And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed;
Hills rose and fell; but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.
Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering South,
The dust, like smoke from the cannon's mouth;
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster,
The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
Impatient to be where the battlefield calls;
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
With Sheridan only ten miles away.
Under his spurning feet the road
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind
Like an ocean flying before the wind,
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,
Swept on, with his wild eye full of fire.
But lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,
With Sheridan only five miles away.
The first that the general saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops;
What was done? What to do? A glance told him both,
Then, striking his spurs, with a terrible oath,
He dashed down the line 'mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course
The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and the red nostril's play,
He seemed to the whole great army to say,
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day!:"
Hurrah! Hurrah for Sheridan!
Hurrah! Hurrah for horse and man!
And when their statues are placed on high,
Under the dome of the Union sky,
The American soldier's Temple of Fame;
There with the glorious general's name,
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright,
"Here is the steed that saved the day,
By carrying Sheridan into the fight,
From Winchester, twenty miles away!"
--Thomas Buchanan Read, 1864
[From The World's Best Loved Poems, compiled by James Gilchrist Lawson, Harper & Row, 1955.]
General Sheridan's Saddle
This saddle has many components duplicated in the richly adorned saddles used by gentlemen riders of Mexico after 1850. The exaggerated shape of the horn; exposed frame; single forward rigging; stirrup leathers of wide, decorated bands; and metal-covered, box-shaped stirrups with leather foot pads are elements frequently repeated in written descriptions and artistic renderings of the late 1800s. Characteristic of that era is the assemblage of the splendid efforts of the woodworker, silversmith, and leather carver in the construction of Mexican equestrian equipment demonstrated by this saddle.