Rusty Williams
Share on linkedin
Share on email

More About “Old Sorrell”

The story of “Old Sorrell”, Stonewall Jackson’s warhorse who was eventually stuffed and mounted and displayed in the dining hall of the Virginia soldiers’ home, becomes stranger and stranger (even as it veers further and further off-topic).

Here’s the rest of the story:

Taxidermist F. S. Webster was called to Old Sorrell’s deathbed (deathstall?) soon enough to do thorough measurements of the horse’s body. He chose a taxidermy process commonly used with large animals: removing the animal’s flesh and bone, then tanning the skin while stretching it over a life-size plaster framework. (That was the item that was displayed at the Camp Lee Soldiers’ Home dining hall.)

For some reason, Taxidermist Webster was allowed to retain the skeleton as partial payment for his services, and in 1903, the bones, now mounted into an articulated skeleton, were sold to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. They were displayed there with no indication that the bones had come from a beloved Confederate warhorse.

Years pass, the soldiers’ home closes, and the Old Sorrell is donated to the Richmond Museum, where generations of touring schoolchildren assume the historic horse’s bones are (naturally) inside the hide where they belong.

In the 1930s, a curator at the Carnegie Museum decides to clean house. Looking over old records, he determines that the mounted bones of equus caballus might be of interest to the people of Richmond. (“They’ve given the old battle flags back to the South,” the curator said. “Why shouldn’t we give then General Jackson’s horse’s skeleton?”)

It wasn’t until 1949, however, when Old Sorrell’s bones and hide were reunited at Virginia Military Institute. The plaster and hide horse remained on public display there; the skeleton spent its time in a biology classroom or storage area.

The Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1997 took charge of what was possibly the last burial of a Confederate veteran when they arranged for Old Sorrell’s bones to be interred on the grounds of VMI. A walnut coffin containing the bones of Old Sorrell was lowered into the red clay on July 20, 1997, 111 years after his death.

The hair-and-plaster version of Old Sorrell remains on display at VMI.

Contact me

I’m available for book signings and speaking engagements, or if you just want to connect.


I hate spam as much as you do and will never sell your information. What I will do is send news about upcoming events, and book release dates to your inbox.  You can unsubscribe at any time. 

Latest Posts

Find Your Way

To help me explain the importance of Texas and Oklahoma toll bridges in the Red River Bridge War, I had to explain the development of

Read More »

A Fraught Month

For many Americans, 1931 marked the depth of the Great Depression, with high unemployment, bank failures, evictions, and little help from Washington. State governors did

Read More »

It’s the Pits

Before backyard pools, municipal swimming pools, and water parks, many Dallasites went for summer dips in the water-filled gravel pits surrounding town. The pits had

Read More »

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in touch!

Sign up to receive my latest blog posts and hear about new release dates and speaking engagements.