Life was rough for Civil War soldiers.
It was even rougher on their horses.
They broke em younger, they rode em harder and they died younger, re-enactor Mike Edwards said at Bennett Place State Historic Site on Saturday.
The state historic site held Join the Cavalry, a daylong event about the role that horses and mounted soldiers played during the Civil War. Re-enactors held drills, staged horseback shooting and sabre duels and answered visitors questions.
Edwards, from Selma, brought two sons and two horses to the farmstead off U.S. 70 where in April 1865 Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Gen. William T. Sherman signed papers for the largest troop surrender of the war.
Estimates of horse killed during the Civil War vary, with some putting the figure at more than a 1 million -- more than the estimated 620,000 to 750,000 soldiers who died.
Gen. George Armstrong Custer, a cavalry commander best known for his defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, is said to have had 11 horses shot from under him during the Civil War, including two in one day of fighting at Gettysburg.
But the pistols and long guns fired grits instead of powder Saturday.
Michelle Bouchey, astride 6-year-old Mosby, a Tennessee Walker, said shes about the right size for a Civil War soldier, about 130 pounds, just the wrong sex. She pointed her pistol perpendicular to her horse, away from its head, explaining how in fighting, mounted soldiers would try not to shoot over the horses ears.
Early on, she said, Confederate soldiers had an edge as most brought their own horses and knew how to ride.
The federals were a lot of city boys that they recruited into the cavalry, Bouchey said. Eventually differences in manpower and materiel made the differences, she said. By the end, many Southern troops couldnt keep their horses fed.
Owen Edwards, 16, has been riding since he was 5 and his father put him and his brothers and sister on the back of a horse together. They struggled to keep from sliding off.
Theyll take care of you if you know what youre doing; theyll respect your authority, he said. But if youre sitting there and you dont know what youre doing, theyre gonna do what they want.
That, and dont get behind them, he added, or risk a kick.
The Edwards horses, Abe, 17, and Ransom, 23, would never have been cavalry horses at their age.
Horses during the war were worked hard starting at 2 years old, two years earlier than Mike Edwards says horses are typically worked today, and 20 was major ancient for a pampered animal.
You used horses, and you used em up.