Traffic Accidents Of Our Ancestors, And The Horse They Rode In On

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
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We love images from the past, horse and buggies, carriages with four good 'uns moving across the page in nostalgic cooperation, heck, stagecoaches, six determined horse apparently willing to be pointed forward by the scrap of humanity perched precariously behind is iconic. It frequently all went horribly wrong.

Not sure this thread should be in a forum on four footed friends of the war, said friends in this thread had 4 legs but behaved in a way you'd object to in an enemy. Had a look at this before, worth revisiting- was unaware how frequent were these accidents.

Before cars guaranteed the accidents inevitable when rocketing down a road , en mass at speed , horse transportation was our means of getting most places. Alternatives were taking a train or walking, train derailments and collisions made the news. Must have been a little rare seeing anyone come to serious harm, walking. You bump into someone, say excuse me and no one contacts the insurance company.

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From an era magazine, her accident was barely reported- Lee was on his way to Gettysburg.

Mary Todd Lincoln's serious injuries when thrown from her carriage after the horse bolted on DC streets went almost unreported. Lee's invasion riveted public interest in summer, 1863. What's a concussed President's wife compared to an army's invasion? Hers was not singular nor as serious as many. Drivers, passengers and unlucky pedestrians joined Mary as accident victims and she joined a long, long list that must have begun when 5 minutes after some bright spark first got on a horse. You just know this unrecorded event did not go well.

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The irresistible force paradox is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object ? For one thing, horses don't like it..... Between Hathitrust, NYPL and newspapers, we have reports and images from those Good Old Days when horses were the main source of transportation.

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Washington, DC 1862

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PA, 1861. Why the author assumed anyone just let go of the reins is a mystery.

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Maine, 1862


Never drove a horse much less a pair. Horses are unpredictable when choosing what they object to or feel to be dragons ready to pounce. I'd rather be literally on top of the action, not dependent on arguing the point from behind through two, long leather strings. Our ancestors do not attract enough credit for sheer intrepidness- nearly all of them drove or at least got into a horse powered conveyance. It still did not always go well.

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Ohio, 1863

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Like the child apparently run over in this image, fatalities sure were not uncommon.

Various inventions, contrivances and measures were suggested- unclear if any worked. Patent, mid century, solution being to leave passengers behind.
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This is just one, patent from National Archives in the days you could find them there. Nearly all horse training manuals had a favorite, with more popping up in newspapers. No idea which, if any, worked.

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Runaways in Hyde Park headed straight for the Hudson River, scene depicting efforts to catch the team- had to have slowed them down.

We've read of various horses bolting during battle ( who could blame them ), Meade for instance having a tussle with his, bolting for Confederate lines at Gettysburg. There must be tales of artillery teams not loving the noise- even with postilions up, that'd be a lot of horseflesh to stop. If our the big, kooky dears bolted on the streets and lanes of our ancestors, the noise, terror and blood of a battlefield must have resulted in regular mayhem.

A ton more articles, have not posted some of the more gory and tragic. We get the idea.
 

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Stiles/Akin

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150 yrs. ago today, October 10, 1868: Today’s “Constitution” has this wild story: “This morning, about 10 o’clock, a pair of fractious black horses attached to a new hack, took a running start on Whitehall street; the right reign snapped and the whole concern was dashed against the embankment lying between the railroad and Dr. Wilson’s drugstore, the negro driver alighting without injury. The vehicle was turned bottom upwards and the now maddened steeds, whirling the unoccupied pole along the track, struck diagonally across the open space between Alabama street and the passenger depot, tripped and fell, one upon the other, arose, more maddened by the fall, and rushed frantically for the front entrance of the American Hotel, jostled one of the iron columns surrounding the plaza, turned and struck a bee line over the pavement, just grazing Johnnie Hughes variety shebang, tore down Lloyd street east, and at last accounts, were still on the go….Strange to say, the vehicle escaped destruction, and stranger still, it was in the house of Wm. N. Williams & Co., the other day when the walls collapsed and, also survived that catastrophe unharmed…”………………

Two- horse hack, this one used as a school bus
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diane

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I'm not sure things occurring in the war were traffic accidents - cavalry generally had a lot more room to roam than a narrow street full of people. But during Chickamauga, an Illinois battery's horses were spooked and ran like the wind, hauling the cannon and caissons right through the Ohio infantry! Killed or injured over 40 soldiers. Same battle - the poetic and immortalized charge of the mule brigade. Two hundred Union mules stampeded straight through Longstreet's boys and he was right in the middle of delivering one of his smashing flank maneuvers...which ceased immediately and dissolved. Grant is said to have brevetted them horses in appreciation! Individual crashes - at Sacramento Forrest's horse was involved in a high speed collision with two other horses and he was thrown ashcan over tea kettle for 20 feet. Davis, the Union major, was one of the other horsemen and was sitting on the ground staring as the rebel commander came sailing past!
 
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Around 1920 my father was driving one of his family's horses with a small buckboard and she bolted for no reason. His family had a number of horses and loved them. This horse had been given to them in a very neglected condition by and elderly couple and she had appeared to be well-trained but it came out as she fattened up and felt better that she had one very bad habit - bolting. This was her first bolt. She bolted and threw my father out onto a stone wall and knocked him out cold. He was 8. Back then children were expected to do a lot more adult style work than they do now (in the USA). A neighboring farm saw the horse and buckboard go by without a driver so they headed down the road to see where the driver was and found my father and got him off the wall and he slowly came too. Then he brought my father to where my father lived and found everyone in consternation because they didn't know where Henry was. The horse needed complete retraining and she got it, but only a very skilled driver could use her because she was never trusty.
 

Mrs. V

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#8
We have a couple of horses in the barn I ride out of that will bolt if they see a plastic bag on the ground. I was once on a horse that bolted because he saw a bunch of birdhouses left on the side of the trail! That’s when I learned the value of a relaxed seat.
 

zburkett

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A good horse is a thing of wonder. I have had them save me a few times because their judgment was better than mine. BUT, you must remember they are living, thinking creatures with feelings and personalities. They also out weigh you by about a thousand pounds. Forget that and you can get into trouble in one help of a hurry.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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It's why I've never been interested in driving. You can ( almost always, have some ribs that yell at me in damp weather from the single time it failed. It was a notable fail. )generally stop a bolting horse, being on top of the action. Talk about helpless, if one takes it into their head say, a street cleaner is a horse eating dragon.
 

Tom Elmore

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(C. D. Grace, Confederate Veteran magazine; at Gettysburg) [Brig.] Gen. [George] Doles was riding a very powerful sorrel horse, and before he could realize it the horse had seized the bit between his teeth and made straight for the Federal line as a bullet, and going at full speed. We thought the General was gone, but when in about fifty yards of the line he fell off in the wheat. The Federals, being in a wavering condition, did not seem to pay any attention to him. The horse ran up apparently to within ten or fifteen feet of the Federal line, wheeled, and came back around our brigade; and, strange to state, he had no sign of a wound about him.
 
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diane

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Horses do indeed have a mind of their own - Little Sorrel almost delivered Jackson to the Union more than once! And some stay trained. Forrest's horse took Mrs Forrest and her gal pals on one hairy, scary, screeching, wild ride through the streets and over the sidewalks of downtown Memphis...he'd seen Yankees! She decided she'd never use her husband's war horse for a carriage horse again... :x3:
 

diane

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And horses will remember if they got away with bad behaviour with you too!
Bud was one ornery old fellow who would be very sweet and placid, plod along the creek path nice as you please...until he reached the nettles. Then he'd dump you! He did it with us kids all the time and had a whole bag of tricks, but he stopped them when Dad got tired of us getting bruised up and full of welts...and showed him who was boss - whether he was around or not. Bud decided it wasn't enough fun to pay for later!
 

Mrs. V

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Bud was one ornery old fellow who would be very sweet and placid, plod along the creek path nice as you please...until he reached the nettles. Then he'd dump you! He did it with us kids all the time and had a whole bag of tricks, but he stopped them when Dad got tired of us getting bruised up and full of welts...and showed him who was boss - whether he was around or not. Bud decided it wasn't enough fun to pay for later!
Yeah, this mare is a hot mess. It has taken all summer to get her to stand while I am mounting! I do have her moving forward as requested, and the other week she dropped her head while we were trotting...now if she would only get over this, ‘I’m going to bolt while you bridle me”....part of that is her teeth. Still waiting for her owner to contact the equine dentist...I don’t care if she is 26 y.o. That horse has an issue!
 
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This one was famous:
https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/4217
Quoted in part:
"On an early April day in 1865, Secretary of State William Seward decided to take a ride with his family throughout the countryside around his home. During the ride, one of the horses became a bit too excited, and Secretary Seward was thrown from the carriage. In the accident, Seward suffered a number of severe injuries, including a broken jaw, which required an extensive metal splint. His injuries forced him to bed for a number of weeks, which proved to be quite unlucky in the days to come.

About a week later, on the evening of April 15th, a man arrived at the home of Secretary Seward and claimed to be sent from the pharmacy with medicine he must deliver to the patient himself. After being let in by the butler, the man made his way upstairs and forced himself into Mr. Seward's sick chamber, wounding both the Secretary's son Frederick and his nurse along the way. He then forced himself upon Seward and stabbed him three times in the throat and twice in the face. It is believed that the metal jaw brace being worn by the Secretary saved him from death, blocking a fatal blow to the head."

p.s. I think the reference incorrectly locates the accident in New York, whereas it was in Washington.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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On an early April day in 1865, Secretary of State William Seward decided to take a ride with his family throughout the countryside around his home. During the ride, one of the horses became a bit too excited, and Secretary Seward was thrown from the carriage. In the accident, Seward suffered a number of severe injuries, including a broken jaw, which required an extensive metal splint. His injuries forced him to bed for a number of weeks, which proved to be quite unlucky in the days to come.

Forgot about Seward's accident, thank you!
 

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