Given President Ulysses S. Grant’s time served in the military, it is perhaps not surprising that he loved horses. He had several over the course of his lifetime, and quite a few were mentioned frequently enough to be recalled by history. One such horse is Cincinnati (sometimes referred to as ‘Cincinnatus’) who “served” with Grant in wartime.
Cincinnati came from a distinguished lineage. His sire was Lexington, who at the time held the record for being the fastest 4 mile thoroughbred. Lexington’s own sire was Boston, who distinguished himself as one of the greatest sires in North America. Some of his progeny include Cincinnati, Duke of Magenta, Kentucky, and Preakness – the namesake of the now-famous race.
According to Frederick Grant, Ulysses’ son, Cincinnati was a gift to the then-General. A man with the name “S.S Grant” had written to Ulysses Grant, asking for Ulysses to pay a call to him at the Lindell Hotel:
“The name excited my father’s curiosity and he called at the hotel to meet the gentleman who told him that he had, he thought, the finest horse in the world, and knowing General Grant’s great liking for horses he had concluded, inasmuch as he would never be able to ride again, that he would like to give his horse to him; that he desired that the horse should have a good home and tender care and that the only condition that he would make in parting with him would be that the person receiving him would see that he was never ill-treated and should never fall into the hands of a person that would ill-treat him. This promise was given and General Grant accepted the horse and called him ‘Cincinnati.’”
Cincinnati was chestnut in color, and stood 17 hands (roughly 68 inches) tall but possessed a “placid” manner, and “seldom bat an eyelid at anything,” according to Denise M. Dowdall in From Cincinnati to the Colorado Ranger: The Horsemanship of Ulysses S. Grant. Cincinnati joined Ulysses in Chattanooga, Tennessee in December of 1863. Quickly, Grant and Cincinnati established themselves as a formidable pair on the battlefield.
Of Cincinnati, Ulysses Grant’s cypher operator Captain Samual H. Beckwith said: “It was not, however, until the Wilderness Campaign, that ‘Cincinnati’ became filled with the martial spirit and frantic to participate in the turmoil of battle. In quietude this famous animal seemed gentle and spiritless, but the battle sounds stirred him with enthusiasm. No artist could paint the beauty of this horse in the midst of action, when the curb was required to hold him back.”
Many casts and statues of Grant depict him riding Cincinnati, and in fact very few others were allowed to even mount the famous horse. The only 2 people ever to ride Cincinnati other than Grant himself were a boyhood friend Admiral Daniel Ammen and President Abraham Lincoln.
After the war, Grant was offered the incredible sum (in those days) of $10,000 for Cincinnati, but would not be parted from his beloved mount. The pair remained together until old age dictated that it was time for Cincinnati to have a good rest, and he was sent to Admiral Daniel Ammen’s farm in Maryland, where he later died of old age.