Ulysses S. Grant’s horse, Jeff Davis, at City Point, Virginia, March 1865. Library of Congress image.
Grant was known from his West Point days as a superb horseman, even though he didn’t cut a very heroic-looking figure when mounted; he was famously described as sitting in the saddle “like a sack of meal.”
Grant’s son Fred described how his father came to value this animal:
In [the Vicksburg] campaign, General Grant had two other horses, both of them very handsome, one of which he gave away and the other he used until. late in the war. During the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, a cavalry raid or scouting party arrived at Joe Davis’ plantation (the brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) and there captured a black pony which was brought to the rear of the city and presented to me. The animal was worn out when it reached headquarters but was a very easy riding horse and I used him once or twice. With care he began to pick up and soon carried himself in fine shape. At that time my father was suffering with a carbuncle and his horse being restless caused him a great deal of pain. It was necessary for General Grant to visit the lines frequently and one day he took this pony for that purpose. The gait of the pony was so delightful that he directed that he be turned over to the quartermaster as a captured horse and a board of officers be convened to appraise the animal. This was done and my father purchased the animal and kept him until he died, which was long after the Civil War. This pony was known as “Jeff Davis.”