Illinois National Guard

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Caparisoned Horse
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The practice of having the charge of a deceased military officer led in the funeral procession is a survival of an ancient custom of sacrificing a horse at the burial of a warrior. Generally the horse was hooded, sheathed in a cloth or armored covering and bore a saddle with the stirrups inverted and a sword through them. This further symbolized the fact that the deceased had fallen as a warrior and would ride no more. During the period of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, the Mongols and Tartars believed that the spirit of a sacrificed horse went through "the gate of the sky" to serve its master in the after-world. According to European folk belief, the dead horse would find its dead master if permitted to follow him into the hereafter. Otherwise, the dead master's spirit would have to walk. When Gen. Kasimer was buried at Treves as late as 1781, his horse was killed and placed in the grave with the dead general. Some of the Plains Indians in America adopted the custom after they came into possession of horses. Horses are no longer sacrificed in such cases, but sometimes a riderless horse is still led in the funeral procession as a symbol of a fallen warrior. In about 1800, Blackbird, an Omaha chief, was buried sitting on his favorite horse. According to historical records, Abraham Lincoln was the first President of the United States honored by the inclusion of the caparisoned horse in his funeral cortege. When his body was taken from the White House to lie in the state Capital rotunda, the casket was followed by the dead president's horse with its master's boots backwards in the stirrups. In order for the caparisoned horse to be used, the person it is honoring must have at one time been an Army or Marine Corps colonel or above. Since the president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he is entitled to the use of the horse.

The most famous caparisoned horse was Black Jack. He was foaled Jan. 19, 1947, and was the last of the Quartermaster-issue horses branded with the Army's "US" brand. He was named after General of the Armies John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. He participated in the funerals of presidents John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and thousands of other funerals during his 24 years of service with The Old Guard. Upon his death, Feb. 6, 1976, he was buried on the parade field at Fort Myer. (Right Photo)