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Historical Highlights

Moscow, the Civil War Horse

Walking through the Sand Lake Union cemetery in the fall is a pleasure for the eyes. A riot of colors -- reds, yellows and oranges span the artist palette of every shade. Framed by evergreens, maples, oaks and beeches, splashes of colors greet every visitor.

I found a little piece of Sand Lake history many years ago while looking though clippings on Sand Lake in a library. Edger S. Vanolinda in his "Around the Town" column in the Times Union wrote "Averill's Horse Lies in State" about a horse named Moscow who belonged to James K. Averill. When I got home, I called then-town historian Madolyn Carpenter, who started laughing; she had heard the story when she was a child.

This year, after I became Sand Lake Town Historian, I received a letter from Evelyn Howard from Rhode Island, who was interested in the Averill family. The family wanted to mark Jennie Averill's grave. Many letters and visits later, Evelyn called to inform me that a stone would be erected for Jennie Averill in spring 2001. The big news was that the family decide to mark Moscow's grave as well.

Just who was Moscow? We'll let Edgar Vanolinda tell the story:

"Moscow" was a familiar sight in and about the environs of Averill Park. With his master, the Colonel, astride, he pranced proudly at the head of every Decoration Day parade. When his first owner past away, the son took over the care of the animal and rode the spirited steed at all subsequent celebrations.

Then came the time when the pet, put out to pasture, was too old to play his accustomed role. When the next Decoration Day came around "Moscow" was standing in his favorite spot, back of the barn. His ears came to attention when he heard the band playing its familiar numbers. Kicking up his heels, and neighing joyfully, he started to race to the road on which the parade was taking place. Suddenly, he came to an abrupt stop, slumped to the ground and when those in the parade reached his side, they found him dead.

It was then that his owner, carrying the expressed wish of his father, had the beloved pet interred in the family cemetery plot, at the feet of his former master and friend. However, a horse takes a lot of territory. So, an orchid to Col. Averill for his foresight in seeing to it that the beloved "Moscow" now rests in peace, rather than to become an essential ingredient in the manufacture of glue.

I am one of the volunteers from the Fort Crailo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] who mark graves of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. This spring, when I gathered my American flags to mark the graves of these soldiers, I placed a flag near the stone of Moscow, the Civil War Horse. To view this monument, enter the Sand Lake Union Cemetery. To your left you will see a flagpole that marks the Averill plot. In the back area of that lot, you will see the small flag near the stone that marks his grave with the inscription Moscow; Civil War Horse.
Friends have helped in researching for details about Moscow. One found an Averill who had served under General Custer in the Civil War. Certain facts are known, yet we do not have the whole story. We do know that during a battle, Moscow's owner was wounded. The horse carried his master to safety. Later the horse was presented to James Averill. Averill's affection and love for this special horse became evident when he purchased the burial lot for his family. The lot was large: Moscow was to be buried near his owner. James K Averill died May 21, 1881.-- by Judy Rowe, from the Winter 2002 issue of Historical Highlights

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Created 1/31/2002; revised 8/16/2003 -- asm