Old Sam of Coldwater: Civil War Horse (US)

Old Sam of Coldwater, Civil War Horse Hero. Image: Genealogy Center.
Old Sam of Coldwater, Civil War Horse Hero. Image: Genealogy Center.

Coldwater man chronicles Civil War hero horse

By ROLAND STOY for the Chicago Tribune
Republished with Permission, Washington Times Civil War Blog

Coldwater, Michigan — A horse is a horse, of course.

But as anyone with any knowledge of equines knows, there are, and have been exceptional horses, such as the late, great Old Sam of Coldwater, a hero of the Civil War.

Local author and historian Charles Tucker has put together a new booklet regarding Old Sam, having already covered the noted horse in two previous works on local history, “My Kind of Town” and “Taking a Look Back.”

As Tucker relates, Coldwater in the days before the horseless carriage was nationally and world-renowned for its horses, and as the Civil War set in, the Union turned to this area for draft and cavalry horses crucial to the war effort.

Sam was one of 200 horses supplied to the famous Loomis Battery, sent off to training at Fort Wayne in Detroit, and then went on to be involved in at least 12 battles, according to Tucker, including the exceedingly bloody confrontation at Chickamauga.

“The hardships and fatigue of the marches, the diseases and the lack of foliage in the camps probably took a greater toll on Sam’s comrades than the shock and shell of battle,” wrote Tucker. He said while Sam had been wounded several times, he was a favorite of the troops, who shared rations with the sturdy and dependable horse, probably saving him.

Sam’s job before the war was to pull a streetcar from the train depot to the Southern Michigan Hotel, and when he was mustered out in 1865, he arrived at the depot in Coldwater to find hundreds of citizens there to greet him, and an informal parade took place.

“According to newspaper accounts, Sam’s ears perked up as he seemed to recognize his surroundings… . As he approached Chicago and Division streets, the old war veteran was turned loose to test his memory . . . He cantered leisurely up the street until he came opposite of the hotel . . . whirled on his heels, whisked down the street and down the alley to the old barn and his old stall.

“Old Sam was home, and he knew it.”

Tucker said Sam was the only one of the 200 Loomis Battery horses to>survive and return home, and due to his standing in the community, lived out a leisurely life in the pasture by the Fisk stables, behind where the house still stands on the west side of Coldwater.

When Sam, 27, died on Nov. 8, 1876, his old battery mates were dismayed they could not bury him with his former mates in the Oak Grove Cemetery.

“The sexton of the cemetery told them this, however, he conveniently let it drop that he would be out of town for a while,” wrote Tucker.

With Sheriff William Culp also out of town, “volunteers created a diversion by letting farmer Brown’s cows out,” and completed the burial, covering the site with autumn leaves and giving him full honors, including taps.

A monument, along with artifacts of the Loomis Battery, now stands at the Four Corners Park downtown, and Sam now has a marker at the cemetery.

“It’s a fantastic story,” said Tucker, who is looking forward to his work being in school libraries so children can learn of it, and is also looking forward to honoring not only Sam but all the horses and mules that died in the Civil War this coming Memorial Day in the parade, with some modern Belgian or Percheron to pull a caisson currently being worked on by Amish craftsmen.

Tucker receives no monetary reward for his work, and does it, he said, out of a love for his community and history.

“I just do these things because they need to be done,” he said.