Living directly across from the site of the former Front Royal Remount Depot, I have been researching the history of the decommissioned military post for several years. Such investigations have fed two obsessions: history and horses. With that, it was with great delight that I read Ms. Martha Wolfe’s captivating article, “War Horses Remembered” in the July edition of Middleburg Life.
Sincerest thanks to Ms. Wolfe for authoring the fascinating feature. Thanks, as well, to the National Sporting Library and Museum for hosting the April 28 lecture focusing on the Front Royal Remount Depot. It was a genuinely delightful and informative evening.
It truly is encouraging to see the remount system—as critical as the innovation proved to be—finally receiving its just due in the modern historical narrative. It’s especially gratifying to see so much emphasis on and interest in Virginia’s gift to that remarkable system, the Front Royal Remount Depot.
An individual who is aware of my remount research asked if I had anything to contribute to the topic. As more about the remount system is unearthed in often obscure, century-old records, additional data relative to its organization, mission, and personnel is slowly revealing itself. With that evolution in mind, I humbly offer the following thoughts.
In addition to the three depots cited in the article—Fort Reno (OK), Fort Keogh (MT), and Front Royal— there were at least two other permanent remount installations in the US. They were: Camp (Later Fort) Jackson, SC – remount established in July 1917, three months after the US entry into WWI, https://bit.ly/2NF4xEO. Fort Robinson, NE—remount established in 1919, one year after World War I had ended. Fort Robinson eventually became the largest such facility in the world. https://bit.ly/2yhqtkz.
Determining the actual number of remounts can be a challenging and confusing odyssey. So far, I’ve managed to document these five. The research is fairly solid, but who knows what else might come to light in another long-forgotten box of dusty, Quartermaster Corps files.
Then there’s the truly mushy business of trying to quantify the number and locale of the numerous temporary or auxiliary depots that sprung up during the remount era. An integral part of the remount system, their ad hoc nature reflected and addressed the military’s equine needs as the situation—and resources—warranted.
As an aside, I would offer here that the Front Royal Remount Depot was the ONLY such facility expressly organized as a remount depot. The other four installations were established at or as part of existing military posts. Hence, the “fort” part of the name equation.
Regarding “Gordon Russell” and his Number One offspring, “Jenny Camp,” I don’t believe they are buried on former remount property, now home to either the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center or the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. That includes the venerable horse cemetery on the SCBI tract known as Race Track Hill. As far as I can determine, “Gordon Russell” eventually ended up, standing at Fort Robinson. If he returned to Front Royal following his very productive time in Nebraska, I can find no record of it.
“Jenny Camp,” his internationally famous daughter, was foaled at the Front Royal Remount Depot in 1926. She, like her father, ended up out west—California, to be exact, living a post-Olympic career as a broodmare. There is no record that I’ve been able to uncover suggesting she was shipped back to the East Coast for her golden years and eventual burial at the place of her birth.
“Old Tom,” the military mule, is buried on SCBI property, although not in the actual cemetery on Race Track Hill. A knowing individual confirmed several years ago that the animal rests in an unmarked grave in an open field, just beyond the campus’ core area.
In closing, I have to add how much I enjoy your magazine. I grew up in what is now referred to as Old Sterling, with many visits to friends in Middleburg a highlight throughout those formative years. The training track, the point-to-point races, and, of course, the Christmas parade, were a very special part of my youth and young adulthood. Thank you for bringing those fond memories to the fore with your assortment of fascinating articles about the Village.
With best wishes from the historic Shenandoah Valley,
I am Sincerely yours,
Front Royal, Virginia