the Artillery Horse “Rodney”

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Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:43 pm

Happened to see the film “Keep ‘Em Rolling” yesterday on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Below is a synopsis of the film and other information. Also I found some information on the Artillery Horse “Rodney” which I’ve included. Some disconnects between the movie and the FA Journal (WWI in the movie vs. SP-AM War in FA Journal) but loyalty and honoring years of duty and recognition of the heroic deeds of accomplishment is the theme of both. The movie has nice shots of the horse artillery and Fort Myer.
In 1915, after instigating a drunken tavern brawl, Sergeant Benny Walsh of Fort Myer, Virginia, is reprimanded and demoted by his commanding officer, Captain Deane. Demoted to private in the horse battery, Benny takes on the job of breaking in a beautiful but fiesty stallion, whom Marjorie Deane, the captain's young daughter, names Rodney. Although his zeal for Rodney costs him the affection of his sweetheart Julie, Benny works with the horse until he has transformed him into the ideal companion. To Benny's surprise, however, Deane, who has re-instated Benny as a sergeant, re-assigns Rodney to a lieutenant. Depressed by Deane's actions, Benny goes on a "ten-month bender" and stops only after Deane agrees to give Rodney back to him. Just after Benny and Rodney are reunited, the United States enters World War I, and Benny's regiment is shipped overseas. During a fierce battle, Tom Randall, Benny's best friend, is killed while driving a cannon cart with Benny and Rodney. Because of Benny's heroism and the dedication of Rodney, the cart is delivered in time to win the battle. However, when Benny's commanding officer sees that Rodney is wounded, he orders the horse to be shot. Although injured himself, Benny brazenly threatens to kill anyone who touches Rodney, and Rodney is spared. After recuperating in a French hosptial, Benny returns to Fort Myer with Rodney, who also has recovered from his injuries. Sixteen years later, an aging Rodney is threatened with expulsion, but Benny persuades his superiors to transfer the horse to an easier assignment and accepts a demotion in order to stay with him. Eventually, however, Rodney is ordered by Major James Parker, an efficiency expert and the fiancé of Marjorie Deane, to be sold at auction. Benny steals Rodney with the intention of shooting him, but, unable to pull the trigger, goes AWOL instead. Spurned by Marjorie for his callousness and lack of loyalty, James has a change of heart and asks the War Department to retire Rodney with honors and give Benny, who has been captured by the military police, a special assignment to care for his friend until his own retirement.
The working title of this film was Rodney. In an onscreen foreword, the producers thank the War Department for permission to shoot the film at Fort Myer, Virginia. RKO borrowed Walter Huston from M-G-M. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, cameraman William Casel was killed and an assistant cameraman was seriously injured when a cannon they were following up a hill suddenly slipped backward.
• A heartfelt film
o Tom Zelenik
o 4/6/15
This is a good movie that focuses on love loyalty and honoring years of duty and recognition of the heroic deeds of accomplishment because of a strong bond between A man and an animal in this case a horse. I'm sure many a veteran can identify with this Movie.
• Historically important film!
o Lucy
o 3/11/08
America was about to go to war. Within 7 years after this movie came out the US Army would forever be changed. The scenes depicting horse drawn caissons and Ft. Myer as it was are, therefore, historically important. I would personally appreciate having a copy of this movie in DVD because I am a history buff and a horse owner.
Based on the short story "Rodney" by Leonard Nason in The Saturday Evening Post (21 Jan 1933).
Where Rodney retired and a tribute to the US Army Remount Service was made with the movie “Keep ‘Em Rolling” – The first commercial movie filmed on Fort Myer, including the first instance of “caisson drag racing” on the drill field. ... /#comments
In the 21 January 1933 issue of the Saturday Evening Post appeared a short story written by Leonard Hastings Nason entitled “Rodney” a retired horse from the Spanish American War that would spend the last of his days on Fort Myer in the care of the Soldier who took him into battle.
Nason, who would later retire as a Colonel in the US Army, had written the WW I book “Three Lights From a Match,” Better fortune would come of his story about a Soldier and the love he had for his horse, when the film crew came to Fort Myer later that year and filmed “Keep ‘Em Rolling.” Walter Huston was the lead actor and it also included the men of the 16th Field Artillery, who along with the 3d Cavalry were stationed at Fort Myer. The movie, unknown to most is the first full length picture show filmed on the Historic US Army Post. Featured in the movie was “The Caisson Song” originally written by field artillery First Lieutenant [later Brigadier General] Edmund L. Gruber, while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. The music would be later joined by different lyrics and become “The Army Song.” ... DITION.pdf

Battery "D," 3rd Field Artillery
Fort Myer, Virginia, March 27, 191
FROM: C. O. Battery "D," 3rd Field Artillery.
TO: The Adjutant General, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.
(Through Military Channels)
SUBJECT: Feeding and Stabling of Horse "Rodney."
1. In August, 1910, while the Battery was absent in the field there was left behind at Fort Myer an old horse, name, "Rodney," who had faithfully done his work in the organization for many years, and who through age and other infirmities was unable to further pull his bit. Through ignorance of a man left behind in charge of quarters he showed the horse to an Inspector, who came to the post, and as a result the horse was inspected, condemned and ordered sold. The men of the battery heard of the matter just in time to have a representative present at the sale and bid the horse in, as they could not bear to see the old fellow sold outside the service. He brought something like $120, which was subscribed and paid by the men of the organization.
2. Since that time this horse has remained a pet and an inspiration to the men of the battery and a favorite among officers, and has been fed, groomed and cared for by the battery. He is reputed to be thirty years old. His D/L was probably sent in to the Q.M.G.O., when he was sold, as it cannot be located.
3. This horse is an inspiration and though unable to accompany the battery in the field, should be cared for at the post, as has been done in the case of other "retired" animals (old "Putnam" and old "Foxhall," both of the 3rd Field Artillery).
4. It is requested that authority be granted to stable, forage and care for this animal wherever he may be for the balance of his life.
This letter with its nineteen subsequent indorsements caused the issuance of orders necessary to insure proper care and forage for this horse during the remainder of his life. The following history was prepared in 1916 from all information obtainable at that time.
The horse known as "Rodney" was transferred to Light Battery A, 2nd Artillery, on November 2, 1896, at Fort Riley, Kansas, from Light Battery E, 1st Artillery, with the rest of the horses of the latter battery. His previous history is not known. At that time, he was about eight years old, 15.3 hands high, and his weight was

about 1250 pounds. His color was dark bay with black points, and he was an unusually handsome animal. In breeding, he was an excellent type of the graded thoroughbred of probably the second generation. He had the fine features, the courage, activity and endurance of the thoroughbred, and the size, conformation, power and serene disposition of draft stock. The long fetlocks and the thick coat of hair in winter, together with the characteristic conformation of the Clydesdale, left little doubt that he came from this strain.
He soon attracted attention in Battery A by his intelligence, his power, and his willingness. At rapid drills or when the draft was difficult, his broken harness was an evidence of his superior efforts. During the succeeding fourteen years, till the day of his sale, he was literally a "wheel horse." He was never sick, and he was never known to refuse a feed or a task. He was petted by the men who looked after him with genuine affection and with a confidence that was born of experience in many difficult situations.
When Light Battery A went to Cuba as "Grimes' Battery," with the 5th Army Corps in 1898, it was at once ordered to El Poso. The road had been churned into deep mud and was well-nigh impassable for the heavy artillery carriages. To meet this situation, Captain Grimes took his two most powerful horses, which were "Rodney" and his mate, "Shaw," and pulled the carriages out of the mud holes and ditches whenever they became stalled. It was a remarkable and an exhausting service, but it was rendered with a fidelity that secured the prompt passage of the battery to its position for action. The significance of this performance not only to the battery, but to other troops, was far-reaching in stress of events then taking place.
When the battery changed position, it marched in rear of Battery K, 1st Artillery. One of the carriages of the leading battery became bogged, so that the column could not proceed. Captain Grimes sent for "Rodney" and "Shaw." When they arrived, the driver, seeing the exhausted condition of the stalled team, had these horses unhitched, and with his single pair, drew the carriage from its unfortunate position. It was no doubt distasteful to Battery K, to have their carriage rescued by horses from another battery, but they soon realized that such animals as "Rodney" and his mate were rarely found, and their resentment soon gave place to a generous admiration. Thus, all during the trying days before Santiago, "Rodney" served his country by putting guns where they were wanted, in the face of great obstacles, and he earned a place in the nation's gratitude no less than the men who served the guns after they were in position. Without his service, the story of Grimes' battery might easily have been shadowed by delays that would have deprived the Army of its fire when needed.
After the Santiago Campaign, "Rodney" again served with his

battery in Cuba from January, 1899, to April, 1902. In 1903, he accompanied the battery on a march of 700 miles from Chickamauga Park, Georgia, to Fort Myer, Virginia. Throughout this long, continuous march, averaging 21 miles a day, he did not lose a day from his place in the "wheel," and he reached Fort Myer in as good condition as when he started. In the succeeding years, he marched thousands of miles and participated in maneuvers in various parts of the country. He outlasted all of his fellows. Few animals have rendered as much service and many came and went while he was still doing duty. Thus, for the investment in his purchase and maintenance, he proved an unusual economy for the government.
The battery became successively, the 3rd Battery, Field Artillery, and Battery D,* 3rd Field Artillery, and the equipment experienced radical differences in model. In all changes of name, matériel and personnel, "Rodney" stood out as one of the elements that foster pride of arm and about which the affections of soldiers cling. At length it became evident that the long marches and the strain of heavy draft were too great a tax on his willing but waning strength. Age and years of faithful service had brought declining vitality and a merciful consideration made his relief a necessity. There was never any thought, however, that he should go to a huckster's cart or spend his last days in a dray or a dump wagon, with scant food and perhaps brutal treatment. Human nature will assert itself and with soldiers, the human element must be reckoned with. When he was condemned and sold, the men in the battery contributed from their small pay the price of $107, to which a zealous dealer forced them, and bought him for the battery. No contribution was ever made more generously, and the spirit which they manifested was a tribute, not only to their old friend, but to the loyalty that made them one of our most efficient fighting units. Men who will not forsake a faithful horse may be depended upon to defend their flag and to maintain the best traditions of a battery whose history is rich in the service of its country.
For a long time, he was given the task of hoisting the grain and hay into the forage loft and so well did he know his duties, that he required no control but the voice. During the years since his retirement, he has subsisted largely on grazing, so that the value of the food consumed has been small. He has richly deserved whatever of kindness and gratitude his masters may show, and the formal recognition of his retirement and maintenance during the few remaining years of his life would not only be appropriate, but it would show to the world that our government is great enough to recognize and reward true merit wherever it is found.
* Battery D, 3rd Field Artillery, referred to above, later became Battery A, 16th Field Artillery. "Rodney" died at Fort Myer, Va., at an age of 30 years.
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Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:27 pm

I watched that movie too and was quite impressed by the detail shown of the post WWI field artillery. I did not realize it was loosely based on a true story..very interesting and thanks.

I have attached an article on the retirement of a PA National Guard cavalry horse in 1938.
Horse retires from 104 cav.-1.jpg
Horse retires from 104 cav.-1.jpg (278.56 KiB) Viewed 1755 times
Horse retires from 104 cav.-2.jpg
Horse retires from 104 cav.-2.jpg (256.49 KiB) Viewed 1755 times
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