and rider, how the rider died?
A: Bingo. I’ve known the answer to this for ages. If the horse has its two front feet off the ground, the soldier died in battle. If the horse has one foot off the ground, the soldier died of wounds received in battle. If all four of the horse’s feet are flat on the ground, the rider died of other causes.
Nobody seems impressed that I have memorized this important bit of historical trivia.
Just for fun, I Googled it and found out from one source that the story is only true of statues of Civil War soldiers; from another source, who refers to dozens of horse-and-rider statues, including some from the Civil War, that it’s not even true of Civil War soldiers. Yet another source claims the whole thing is an urban legend.
Just for the heck of it, I looked for information about a statue of Peter the Great on horseback dubbed The Bronze Horseman, which stands in St. Isaac’s Square in St. Petersburg, Russia (where in a few weeks I’ll get to see it LIVE, IN PERSON.) The statue is a symbol of St. Petersburg, much as the Statue of Liberty is the symbol for New York City. The horse is balanced on its back two feet; its front feet are raised. So -- did PTG die in battle?
I found out that while Peter the Great fought and won many battles – hmmm, was that what made him so Great? – Peter died at the age of 52 of a gangrenous bladder.
From one of my Googled sources:
“In the winter of 1723, Peter, whose overall health was never robust, began having problems with his urinary tract and bladder. In the summer of 1724 a team of doctors performed surgery releasing upwards of four pounds of blocked urine.”
“Peter remained bedridden until late autumn. In the first week of October, restless and certain he was cured, Peter began a lengthy inspection tour of various projects. According to legend, while on the Finnish Gulf to inspect some ironworks, Peter saw a group of soldiers drowning not far from shore and, wading out into near-waist deep water, came to their rescue.
“This icy water rescue is said to have exacerbated
Peter's bladder problems and caused his death.
“The story, however, has been viewed with skepticism by some historians, pointing out that the German chronicler Jacob von Stahlin is the only source for the story and it seems unlikely that no one else would have documented such an act of heroism.
“This, plus the interval of time between these actions and Peter's death seems to preclude any direct link.”
So much for my smarty pants I-know-something-you-don’t-know attitude.
The painting on the top left side of of this blog is by Vasily Ivanovich Surikov. It depicts The Bronze Horseman statue. Catherine the Great commissioned French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet to create the statue, which took more than a dozen years to cast. It was unveiled in 1782, 57 years after Peter’s death.