This is one from the archives.
Way back when I was in eighth grade, we went on a class trip to Washington D.C. I remember a tour guide telling us that military statues of men mounted on horses were symbolic of the ways in which they died. All you had to do was look at the number of feet the horse had on the ground to tell how they met their fates. This bit of information was given to me several times over the years in various high school and college history classes.
I recently had the occasion to research the validity of this bit of folk wisdom when I was going through some pictures from a trip to Gettysburg. After doing a quick Google search, I landed on a site I use often, www.snopes.com. As you may know, this site is dedicated to addressing urban legends and rumors, giving each story a rating of true, false or unconfirmed. According to the site, this rule for statues is sometimes, though not always, true. However, an exception is the statues in Gettysburg, which seem to fit the rule with a known exception of a single statue—that of James Longstreet (last photo).. He did not die in battle, but passed away from pneumonia later in life.
The code is generally as follows:
- One hoof raised: The rider was wounded in battle and may have died from his injuries with some exception
- Two hooves raised: The rider perished in battle
- All hooves on ground: The rider came out of battle unscathed
While Snopes calls the code false, it offers many examples of statues that follow the rule. My theory is that it started somewhere but became loose after time or we simply apply the code to memorials that were not thought out in this manner.