President John Tyler was William Henry Harrison’s Vice-President – for the 1 month that Harrison was President, that is. Upon Harrison’s unexpected death, Tyler assumed office. Tyler loved horses, and one of his lifetime favorites was a horse named “The General.” In fact, Tyler owned the horse for the entirety of the horse’s life, all 21 years.
It has been erroneously stated that The General carried Tyler during the Civil War, but this is incorrect. The Civil War happened long after this horse’s death. In fact, John Tyler himself died just one year after the Civil War started, at the age of 71. It’s fairly unlikely that the 71-year-old former President was mounting up on the battlefield.
What is true is that The General was so dear to John Tyler that upon the horse’s death, Tyler had him buried on his plantation, named Sherwood Forest, and placed a marker saluting the horse’s 21 years of faithful service. The epitaph reads:
“Here lies the body of my good horse, ‘The General’. For 20 years he bore me around the circuit of my practice, and in all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same!”
Interestingly, a book in 2012 casts some doubt on the location of The General’s grave. In Presidential Parallels: What They Our Presidents Had in Common, and Didn’t, author Wayne Samuel Kurzeja discusses what happened when the Tyler family – specifically his great-grandson and her wife – repurchased the Sherwood Forest plantation 27 Presidents later:
“Strangely, the remains of the horse were never found. That is certain. What is uncertain is just what the Tyler family did find. According to family legend, many valuables were dug up, including silver, china, linens, and the like.”
However, an unnamed family member is quoted in the book as offering this explanation:
“Most of the Tyler valuables were sold by the President’s wife to help finance the war effort. Out of necessity however, the family did retain a small amount of silver and other utensils. Those items were found buried under a magnolia tree…As for the President’s horse, we think we found the grave, but we’re hesitant to start digging up the grounds just to be sure.”
That The General existed and was a favorite of Tyler’s there is no doubt, as he is remarked upon by others during Tyler’s time. But simple examination of dates shows that the faithful equine passed on long before the Civil War erupted, and as to his final resting place? It remains a mystery.