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Photo added by Donald Greyfield


  • Birth 19 Jan 1947
  • Death 6 Feb 1976
  • Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
  • Plot Parade Grounds
  • Memorial ID 3776

Ceremonial Horse. The horse has always played an important part in American government. He pulled the carriages of Presidents, delivered the mail and served in the military as a warhorse with distinction. After the acceptance and widespread use of the automobile, the equine's role was reduced mainly to a ceremonial function. The 3rd U.S. Infantry, "The Old Guard" which is the Army's oldest active infantry regiment, predates the Constitution, tracing its origin to 1784. The unit was designated the official ceremonial troop of the Army shortly after World War II, by President Truman, and is stationed at Fort Myers, Virginia. A stable of horses is maintained for pulling caisson's ladened with a casket or for special duty as a caparisoned horse (riderless horse). A full compliment of Army volunteers handle the animals and are responsible for military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon and national memorials, in addition to maintaining the 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The riderless horse program is especially interesting, the boots are reversed in the stirrups and the horse stays close to the casket of high government officials and dignitaries during the funeral procession. This procedure symbolizes a warrior who will ride no more and is a tradition traced to ancient times. History relates that the last rites for Genghis Khan had a riderless horse. Blackjack became famous during the funeral of President Kennedy in 1963, the first major state funeral to be televised nationally. The beautiful black horse with the white star on his forehead was quickly noticed because of his spirited antics viewed by millions. The breeding of this most famous of all the horses at Fort Myers is unknown. The unit was looking for a handsome black horse for the caisson platoon and a likely candidate was located at Fort Reno, Oklahoma. When the standard Quartermaster procured horse arrived at Fort Myer, the six year old gelding didn't like being ridden or pulling a load. After thought thinking resulted in a quick debut at a funeral in the role as a caparison horse. The animal was spirited and virtually uncontrollable. An apology was extended to the family. However, they were enamored with the horse, comparing his spirit to the personality of their departed. The unwilling recruit found a place which led to a career of some 24 years of service. The mixed Morgan-Quarter horse was saddled with the moniker of General John J. (Black Jack) Perishing, Supreme Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I and was called "Blackjack." His major appearances as a riderless horse...the state funerals of President Kennedy, former Presidents Hoover, Johnson and General MacArthur. His extended service was at thousands of ordinary Veteran funeral processions at Arlington National Cemetery. Blackjack was always the riderless horse. A Caparisoned horse and its dismounted soldier represent the highest of Army honors. On the riderless horse, the scabbard, ammunition pouch and riding boots are reversed on the saddle, to symbolize that a fallen comrade will never ride again. Blackjack began showing signs of old age and was semi-retired in 1973. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 29 and was cremated. The ashes were placed in an urn, then conveyed by a funeral procession and with full military honors, the receptacle was buried near the flag pole at Summerall Field. Today, the grave is graced by an attractive monument. Legacy...Blackjack had the dubious honor to be the last horse procured and issued by the Army Quartermaster and to prove this claim, he worn the last "U.S. brand ever placed on an army issue horse. A replacement horse named "Sgt.York" now carries on this tradition. Visitors today can tour the century-old stable that houses the horses and caissons of the Old Guard Caisson Platoon and see where Blackjack lived. The caissons were constructed in 1918 to haul 75mm cannons and ammunition and are used today to transport flag-draped caskets during full-honor funerals. An average of six a day are held at Arlington Cemetery. Six horses are hitched in pairs, the horse on the left side is ridden by a soldier. A person can walk about on his own or ask for a soldier to provide a guided tour. In a bit of trivia...Summerall Field, the burial place of Blackjack, was the site used in 1908 by Orville Wright to test the first military aircraft.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Nov 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3776
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Blackjack (19 Jan 1947–6 Feb 1976), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3776, citing Fort Myers Army Base, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .