Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

History

Advisor

Daniel E. Sutherland

Committee Member

Patrick Williams

Second Committee Member

James Gigantino

Keywords

Civil War, 1861-1865, Horse Racing, Sports, U.S History

Abstract

Horse racing has a long and uninterrupted history in the United States. The historiography, however, maintains that horse racing went into hiatus during the Civil War. This simply is not true. While it is true that horse racing saw a decline in the beginning of the war, by the time the war ended, the sport had risen to similar heights as seen before the war. During the war, the sport was enjoyed by both soldiers and civilians. In the army, soldiers would often have impromptu camp races. As the war continued on, camp races became frowned upon by officers. The leaders of the army did not want their horses needlessly injured. This does not mean that racing in the army vanished. Generals hosted grand meets for their soldiers, intending to boost the morale of their men. Aside from racing, racehorses were prized cavalry mounts by many officers. Cavalrymen and guerrillas would go out of their way to acquire a horse bred for racing. Among civilians, organized race meets dropped drastically during the first two years of the war. Starting in 1863, horse racing began to rebound. New tracks opened, attendance rose at the tracks, and the price of racehorses rose. The public clamored for the diversion that horse racing provided. The experience shared by both soldiers and civilians during the Civil War brought changes to horse racing and laid the groundwork for what horse racing is today.

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