Tuesday, December 27, 2011

War Horse Hoofcare: Holy Horseshoeing at an Anvil Altar in France, 1918

Today we salute some holy horseshoeing. During the long battle in World War I to take (or defend) the Argonne Forest, American transport horses were stabled inside the ruins of a church in Consenvoye, in northeastern France. A corner of the once-grand church became the smithy where American farriers worked to keep the horses shod. 

Who worked in this makeshift smithy? Sgt 1st Class C.E. Dunn was a US Army horseshoer with the 23rd Engineers, Wagon Company Number 3; you can see him here, with his pipe and cap. A horse is tied to one of the massive pillars of the chruch.

Under the same roof (or what was left of it), the Americans set up an evacuation hospital.

A corner of the once-grand church became the smithy where American horseshoers worked to keep the horses shod. (Photo above courtesy of the New York Public Library digital collection)

Consenvoye is in the northeast corner of France near the Belgian border, in the region of Lorraine. This is where the famous Battle of the Meuse-Argonne was fought. It was the largest frontline commitment of troops by the U.S. Army in World War I, and the final offensive of the war.

Horses and humans alike sought shelter inside the church at Consenvoye. Wounded American soldiers took one side, while the other was used for horses and a smithy. (National Archives of the United States photo)

The trench warfare in this region was legendary. The wet soil couldn't withstand the stress of the war. Roads, bridges, and ramps had to be engineered and built before trucks, guns, wagons, and ambulances could go toward the front or retreat from it. 

Heavy artillery, drawn by horses, couldn't move at all; they were simply bogged down. No matter their size or weight, horses were in danger if they "fell in". The temporary roads laid over the mud couldn't hold their weight. 

Many horses were listed as simply "drowned in mud".

The exterior of the church at Consenvoye, France. American horses were stabled inside. Photo from Illinois in the World War: An Illustrated Record Prepared with the Coöperation and Under the Direction of the Leaders in the State's Military and Civilian Organizations, published in 1920.

The battle is long remembered as one of the costliest ever in US military history: 300,000 soldiers, on both sides, died there, including more than 25,000 Americans. 

Of course the town rebuilt the church, which you can visit today.  A German military cemetery was built nearby. This video shows the restoration of the church, but doesn't mention the horseshoeing:

The church image is in the collection of the New York Public Library. It is courtesy of of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs. The photo of Sergeant Dunn and his next horse is from the National Archives.

Click here to receive the Hoof Blog email alerts.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. Please, no use without permission. Just ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email. 

Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofBlog
Read this blog's headlines on the Hoofcare + Lameness Facebook Page
Enjoy Hoofcare Publishing on Instagram, too
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.