Billy Sherman, The Confederate Horse From Wilson
The Civil War had a major impact on the lives of citizens of Niagara County. In November 1861, a local regiment was raised in Lockport. Battery M was part of the 1st Regiment New York Light Artillery and was mustered out of Rochester and sent to Washington to defend the Capitol. The Chief Bugler for this regiment was Pvt. Lorenzo Pratt of Wilson. Pratt served in the War three and a half years and lived to tell about it. He and Battery M saw action in almost every major battle including Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Peach Tree Creek, the March to the Sea, and the campaigns of the Carolinas. During the Battle of Chattanooga in November 1863, Pratt was able to capture a Confederate horse whom he named “Billy Sherman” after the famous general who had marched to the sea. Billy was a dark bay and stood 15 hands high. Pratt rode his new horse for the duration of the war and proudly brought him back to Wilson in June 1865.
Lorenzo Pratt returned to his life as a farmer on the Wilson-Burt Road. Billy became his chief workhorse as well as a much-loved friend. Every year on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) and other patriotic holidays, Billy would be decked out in equestrian military regalia and join in the local parades. He was a favorite attraction with children and with the aging members of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic). Age caught up with Billy too, but he was still working three days before he died on September 1, 1887. It was estimated that Billy was at least thirty years old when he passed away. An Army blanket was placed over his body and an American flag over his head. A poem about Billy was read aloud and then he was buried on the farm of his beloved master, Lorenzo Pratt. For many years, the Pratt family maintained Billy’s grave and the GAR placed a flag there every Decoration Day. Gradually however, those guardians either moved or passed away. Billy’s grave was almost lost to history, until, on September 1, 1973, 86 years after his death, the Wilson Historical Society placed a boulder with a historic marker on the side of the road not far from his final resting place. The marker is located on north side of Wilson-Burt Road about a mile east of the village of Wilson. It also includes three flags, the American, the Confederate and the Tennessee state flag.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094