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A Story about an Unmentioned Horse
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A Story about an Unmentioned Horse

During the White House ceremony at which the portrait of President George W. Bush was unveiled, that past president referred to the time when Dolly Madison saved the portrait of George Washington. He failed to mention the fact that without the aid of a horse that portrait could not have been saved. I have read two accounts of what took place, but in both stories, some horse/horses play a significant role.

There is a children's book in which a messenger arrives at the President's residence and tells the First Lady that the British are marching towards the Nation's Capital. Obviously, he did not come on foot; he had relied on a horse's gallop to get him there as fast as possible. I do not know where the author of that children's book got his or her information; however, I found some information on Wikipedia that makes me think that the horse-riding messenger was preceded by two other men.

That website, which does list its references, has said that President Madison and a general arrived first, and told Dolly to prepare for leaving the White House. According to that online version of the story, Dolly's preparations included time spent explaining to a servant the importance of seeing that the only Presidential portrait that was then in hanging the building get protected and saved. As the servants were carrying-out that task, a messenger arrived with word of how close the British forces were to Washington D.C.

I do not know for sure what the real story is. Still, there can be no doubt about the fact that some horse/horses played a role in providing the First Lady with sufficient time for saving that one famous picture. What that horse or horses accomplished should not be overlooked. After all, close to two hundred years later, another George, another former Commander-in-Chief, felt it appropriate to remind the public about the time when the first of the Presidential portraits was saved.

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. In some history books it tells of messengers riding horses. It doesn't mention named horses or anything, but I do remember reading about them in my school books when I was a kid. It can be difficult now days to search for anything of relevance because things get so twisted, taken out of context and are just plain wrong. The one's who could set some history items straight are the elderly folks that lived through the early days, though I'm sure their stories won't go back quite that far. Somehow, somewhere there is an account of horses being used by messengers back then. Considering even the Native American Indians had horses.

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