George Washington’s War Horses

By John Koopman III

George Washington rode many horses during the war, but there are two that received the most mention. Before the war Blueskin was his favorite fox hunting horse.

The general usually rode in the chase a horse called Blueskin, of a dark iron-gray color, approaching to blue,” according to papers compiled by Mary V. Thompson in “Horses and Horsemanship at Mount Vernon.” 1 This was fine but fiery animal, and of great endurance in a long run. Will, the huntsman, better known in Revolutionary lore as Billy, rode a horse called Chinkling, a surprising leaper, and made very much like its rider, low, but sturdy, and of great bone and muscle. Will had but one order, which was to keep with the hounds; and, mounted on Chinkling, a French horn at his back, throwing himself almost at length on the animal, with his spur in flank, this fearless horseman would rush, at full speed, through brake or tangled wood, in a style at which modern huntsmen would stand aghast.”

The horse used in the documentary is named Silver,a Quarter Horse Appendix (half Quarter Horse and half Thoroughbred). He is portraying Blueskin. Historical accounts have Washington on a white horse during the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Later in the war the General acquired the horse who became known as Nelson. My own horse named Abishai, also a Quarter Horse Appendix,portrays Nelson for me in my various appearances as the General.

Described as a “splendid charger,” the animal stood sixteen hands high, and was a light sorrel or chestnut (reddish-brown) in color, with white face and legs. The horse who would be known as Nelson was born about 1763 and would have been a mature 15 years old, at the time he and George Washington met. He came to Washington in 1778, after Thomas Nelson (1738-1789) of Virginia, hearing that the General was having trouble finding a replacement for a horse he had been riding, sent the handsome animal to him in New York as a gift. Washington, in turn, then named the horse for his very generous friend.”2

It was on Nelson that Washington received the surrender of British at Yorktown. Neither Blueskinnor Nelsonwere wounded during the war. Washington brought them home with him to Mount Vernon after the war and retired them. Many a visitor found delight in seeing the Generals war horses.

It is said that, as George Washington would walk around the grounds of the estate, he would stop at Nelson’s paddock, “when the old war-horse would run, neighing, to the fence, proud to be caressed by the great master’s hands.”3

1. From Mary V. Thompson, “Horses and Horsemanship at Mount Vernon” 2009-2011, p. 54. All of the quotations used here were taken from original, period sources compiled by Thompson at Mount Vernon.

2. Ibid, Page 58

3. Ibid, Page 59

 

Midnight Crossing Poem

Just a fun poem I created based on the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.

Listen my children and you shall hear

the alarm bells ring like Paul Revere.

Our history’s in danger – it’s perfectly clear.

No city, nor village, or hamlet be spared,

The enemy is near – we must be prepared!

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
through all our history, to the last,
in the hour of darkness and peril and need,

One man accomplished a GLORIOUS deed,

that created a nation and a people FREED!

The enemy is ignorance, want and neglect

of our history which ALL must protect!

RISE up, fight back, the hour is here,

like the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Show your support – let your voice be HEARD!

Make the CROSSING a sacred word.

Shout from rooftops; I will not FORGET and

I will STAND, for future generations must

REMEMBER this man and the GLORIOUS
DEED which saved this land!

Washington: A Life

Washington: A LifeOn my way to Los Angeles last week for a casting session during a layover in Cincinnati I came across Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life. I confess I had not seen the book before but it was almost glowing on the shelf – as if to say, “you will find what you are looking for in here.” And I have to say I most definitely did. As I approach all the films I do, I try to read as much research as I can to get the main players right. I did this with my Canadian film, Dominion Day and WWI General, Sir Arthur Currie. I did not know a thing about him but ironically in many circles he is considered the “father of that country”. Currie like Washington was a complex man and a natural leader of men.

With this book by Chernow I was looking for answers in how to portary the nuances of Washington in our film and I discovered that although Washington attempted to hide his true feelings inside, he was a deeply passionate man. And for the first time I truly understood why he had his infamous volcanic temper. His emotions had to get out somehow. Once he blew off steam legend has it that he was quick to make amends. But I believe this was more patching up the embarrassment to himself than anything else.

Our main actor, John Koopman, who is portraying our Washington gives many first person presentations as our first President but now reading this book I can enhance Koopman’s performance for our film a great deal. Washington in person was stiff and rarely let people “in” but knowing he had this underlying passion I can nuance scenes that contain conflict with an eye towards our, “Washington” becoming more more dimensional that how he is typically portrayed. He faced many obstacles, especially during the Crossing. The problems sort of built upon one another and I am certain that Washington’s rage did as well. And portraying some who is under taht sort of strain is not easy but I believe it will be the key to our audience identifying with Washington. Who hasn’t had a bad day at work where you continually have to bite your tongue – that is the type of atmosphere we will create and it mirrors the conditions Washington was operating under.

Robert Child