Some 65 years ago on 19 January 1947 from the US Army's Quartermaster - Remount Service came a foal that would become one of the most famed and visible horses that ever came from the service's four decades of operation.
January 19th is the birthday of some really famous people - Robert E. Lee, Confederate General and from which the estate his wife, Mary Custis-Lee owned became Arlington Farms, Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer (earlier Fort Whipple & Fort Cass). Edgar Allen Poe - American writer and poet and an upcoming author "The History Guy" - William S. Connery, native of Baltimore, MD and author of the book 'Civil War Northern Virginia 1861'
But back to "Blackjack" - He was named for one of the famed Generals - John J. Pershing who was in charge of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during WW I ... He got his nickname "Blackjack" from when he commanded a unit of the Buffalo Soldiers. Pershing is one of the two 5-star Generals - known as "General of the Armies" - a distinction awarded him in 1919. (the other was George Washington) It was fitting indeed that the horse which was destined to become one of the most famous caparisioned horses be named after General Pershing.
"Blackjack" came from the US Army Remount Service, one of the most positive influences on the horse industry in the United States of America, if not the world. Three remount depots were the prime provisioning locations Fort Keogh in Montana, Fort Reno in Oklahoma and Front Royal in Virginia (later Fort Robinson in Nebraska would replace Fort Keogh) although after World War I, there were 39 remount depots/sub-depots across the United States providing the horses to keep the US Army moving.
According to all published accounts, Blackjack was the last of the Quartermaster issued horses foaled at the then Remount Depot Fort Reno. He became part of the US Army's 3d Infantry Regiment - The Old Guard - and attached to the Caisson Platoon's fine horses in 1952. Despite all attempts to have him saddled and draw a caisson, his temperment suggested otherwise. A fine looking horse with an air about him, his destiny was to become a caparisoned (riderless) horse - which is an honor reserved for those of officer rank of colonel and above in the US Army and Marine Corps. Those who became his "walker" were constantly challenged by his spirited personality. One attempted to ride him once and it was not a pleasant experience for both the rider and Blackjack.
After participating in over 1,000 final honors, including his appearance in President John F. Kennedy's final honors procession, Blackjack was retired in 1973. When his health deteriorated, it was thought best to put him down, and in 1976 under the careful eye of a US Army military police officer watched the procedure. The horse who gave spirit to the final honors ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery was then cremated and his ashes put in a pine coffin that was ultimately buried on the east side of Summerall Field on Fort Myer.
"Images of America - Fort Myer" with over 200 historical photographs tells the story of one of the most unique US Army Posts with origins during the US Civil War when it was know as Fort Whipple. An autographed copy is available for purchase.
The date 06 APRIL is a significant milestone in Fort Myer history, for it was on that day in 1948 that one of the most historic and oldest infantry regiments within the US Army would be re-activated after World War II and call this historic US Army Post home. The regiment, like many after World War II, was inactivated, however there was a major need for a unit to provide for the defense of the National Capital of Washington DC while also providing ceremonial support. Military District of Washington did have a cermonial company to provide for ceremonial company that did ceremonies. So when the US Army's 3d Infantry Regiment was reactivated, they were included within the regiment.
The 3d Infanry of the US Army, also known as The Old Guard, a name given to them by General Winfield Scott can trace its beginnings to the United States revolution with the date of its origination of JUNE 1784. From the start, the regiment has served and fought valiantly to protect and defend the United States.
Since its beginnings, the 3d has fought in
War of 1812
American Civil War
World War II
So it was 06 APR 1948 when the US Army 3d Infantry Regiment was reactivated on the steps of the US Capitol and then took up home at Fort Myer. Known also as "The Escort to the President" - The Old Guard is the primaryunit within Presidential Inaugurations and state funerals.
The video below, courtesy of the US Army, provides an historic look back in time to about 1955. Accompanied by the US Army Band - "Pershing's Own", it shows the dual mission which the Old Guard continues until today.
Within Arlington National Cemetery, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded day and night all year round by Sentinels who are carefully selected and trained as Tomb Guards from this regiment. Over the years, the regiment has added several distinguished specialty platoons / companies to address the ceremonial needs of the Military District of Washington and the US Army. These include:
A hundred years ago, the US Army moved by horse - The Cavalry were mounted; the field artillery hauled their guns drawn by limbers hitched up to a team of six horses and wagons were pulled by mules. The horse power need was great, so in the early 1900s, the War Department petitioned Congress and as a result the Remount Service was started finally. In addition to horses, the US Army also needed mules and during WW II the need for dogs also increased.
In doing the research for the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" the US Army's Remount Service surfaced ... initially it consisted of three depots:
Smaller sub-depots were established to receive the horses to re-supply major cavalry posts. There was one of these depots for Fort Myer just outside downtown Alexandria City, Virginia. By the end of World War I, the need had grown so great that there were 39 remount depots across the United States, many at existing US Army Camps and Posts. Additionally, the US Army also took over 35 remount stations in France during the war. Domestically, the depot at Fort Robinson, Nebraska would ultimately be the largest and one of the last depots in use.
It would be from remount depot - Fort Reno, Oklahoma that the famous caparisoned horse, Black Jack (named for General of the Armies, John J. "Blackjack" Pershing) was the last Quartermaster issued horse that was branded by the US Army - the brand "US" on his left shoulder and serial number "2V56" on the left side of his neck.
With the anticipation of being drawn into World War II, a decision was made by Chief of Staff of the Army, General George C. Marshall to mechanize the US Army. Thus horses were of little use as the army went from four hooves to four tires or even two tracks. The remaining depots were turned over to the US Department of Agriculture on July 01 1948. They were either turned into other uses, abandoned or as in the case of the depot at Front Royal, VA, the Smithsonian Institution acquired the main parcel of land, with the remainder in use to train dogs by the US Customs Service and the other portion by the 4H clubs of America.
Based on the strict requirements of the US Army for its horses, the horse industry within the United States benefited greatly. When the US Army's Remount Service was dissolved, many of the horses were auctioned off and became breeding stock across America. Another example of how the US Army has contributed immensely to the United States.