01998 - Gen. Grant's horse 'Jeff Davis'; City Point, Virginia; March 1865 [LC-DIG-cwpb-01998]
“In horsemanship, however, he was noted as the most proficient in the Academy. In fact, rider and horse held together like the fabled centaur...” Confederate GEN Longstreet
Grant owned numerous horses during the war. But “Jeff Davis” was one of the few horses that he kept afterwards, including during his White House years. His son Frederick told the story of how the horse was acquired. “During the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, a cavalry raid or scouting party arrived at Joe Davis' plantation (brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) and there captured a black pony which was brought to the rear of the city and presented to me. The animal was worn out when it reached headquarters but was a very easy riding horse and I used him once or twice. With care he began to pick up and soon carried himself in fine shape.
At that time my father was suffering with a carbuncle and his horse being restless caused him a great deal of pain. It was necessary for General Grant to visit the lines frequently and one day he took this pony for that purpose. The gait of the pony was so delightful that he directed that he be turned over to the quartermaster as a captured horse and a board of officers be convened to appraise the animal. This was done and my father purchased the animal and kept him until he died, which was long after the Civil War. This pony was known as Jeff Davis."
Medal of Honor recipient General Horace Porter summed up his feelings of Grant’s horsemanship by saying, “General Grant was a great rider, simply splendid. He could ride 40 or 50 miles and come in perfectly fresh and tire out younger men. He was much attached to a little horse named Jeff Davis because he was secured on Jeff Davis's plantation. General Grant was the only man I ever saw, except one, who could go through a battle without flinching. He never lacked in courage, never dodged. He wouldn't as much wink when bullets went whizzing by. He had iron nerves. He was never hurt by a bullet, despite his exposure...”
His love of horses continued after the war. During his period in the White House he was given a speeding ticket for racing his horse and buggy to fast through the streets of Washington. When the officer realized who Grant was, he offered to take the ticket back. Grant told him that even the President was not above the law and paid the $20 fine.