Horses and Horse racing were a huge part of the 19th Century people. Below is a description of American Eclipse. Initially I thought to just give you a couple of tidbits about a few of the American horses during the 19th Century but after reading the history of these horses I thought some of you might glean some interesting ideas to flavor your historical novels with.
AMERICAN ECLIPSE was bred by Gen. Nathaniel Coles, of Dosoris, L. I., on May 25, 1814. His sire was Duroc, and his dam Miller's Damsel, by imp. Messenger. The colt was weaned on November 10, and not broken until September, at three years old. The following March he was trained and given a trial of two miles, which afforded high satisfaction to his owner. When only a suckling of five months old, General Coles had named him "American Eclipse," on account of the high promise he gave of stride, strength and speed. While a colt he was not confined, but in the winter season he was turned out every fine day; he was first shod in the spring, when three years old. His first race was in May, 1818, when he started for the purse for three-mile heats at Newmarket, L. I., and won it with ease, beating Black-eyed Susan and Sea Gull, then called the best three-mile horse of the day. The following spring American Eclipse was sold to Mr. Van Ranst, who, in June, 1819, started him in the four-mile heat purse at Bath, beating Little John, by Virginia Potomac; Bond's Eclipse, by First Consul; and James Fitz James, by Sir Archy. The following October he again ran and won the four-mile heats purse at Bath, beating Little John. Fearnaught, and Mr. Bond's colt, the two latter being withdrawn the second heat; time, 8:13—8:08. He then made two seasons at the stud on Long Island, in the spring of 1820 and 1821, covering, as a common stallion, at $12 50 the season. It was not contemplated to bring him on the turf again, but the Legislature of the State of New York having remodelled the law respecting racing, and a society being reorganized specially for the improvement of our breed of horsos, Mr. Van Ranst was induced again to put Eclipse in training for the four-mile heat race, to be run over the New Union Course, L. I., in October of that year. For this race four horses started, viz., American Kclipse; Lady Lightfoot, by Sir Archy; Flag of Truce, by Sir Solomon; and Heart of Oak. The betting was two to one on Lady Lightfoot, but Eclipse beat her handily in two straight heats, distancing her in the second heat; Flag of Truce and Heart of Oak being drawn after the first heat; time, 8:04 —8:02. In May, 1822, Eclipse won the purse of $700, four-mile heats, on the Union Course, beating Sir Walter, by Hickory; time, 7:54—8:00. The following October he again won the $1000 purse over the same course, beating. a second time, Sir Walter, Duchess of MarIborough, by Sir Archy, and Slow and Easy, by Duroc; the first heat being run in 7:58, after which the mares were withdrawn, and Sir Wralter being distanced in the second heat, which was not timed. A day or two previous to this race, a challenge had appeared in the New York papers from Mr. James J. Harrison, of Virginia, offering to run Sir Charles against American Eclipse over the Washington Course, four-mile heats, for $5000 or $10,000. Mr. Van Ranst promptly accepted this challenge, and chose the larger stake, so that the object of the contest might correspond with the fame of the horses. The time of running was fixed for November 20, 1822, and at the appointed hour both horses were brought out, and the riders mounted, but instead of running agreeably to the challenge, Mr. Harrison gave notice that, as his horse, Sir Charles, had met with an accident, he would pay forfeit. He at the
same time proposed to run a single dash of four miles, for $1500 a side, which the owner of Eclipse at once agreed to. The horses started, Eclipse, who carried 126 Ibs. against Sir Charles's 120 Ibs., taking the lead. On the fourth mile Sir Charles broke down, and Eclipse won in 8:04. In the evening of the same day, William R. Johnson, Esq., of Petersburgh, Va., the recognized "Napoleon of the Turf," offered to produce a horse, on the last Tuesday in May, 1823, to run a race of four-mile heats against Eclipse, over the Union Course, L. I., according to the rules of that track, for $20,000 a side, $3000 forfeit. The challenge was immediately accepted by Mr. John C. Stephens, in consequence of which Colonel Johnson, on the day mentioned, brought on the course the four-year old chestnut colt Henry, by Sir Archy, dam by Diomed, bred by Mr. Lemuel Long, Halifax, N. C., who, two weeks previous, had beaten Betsy Richards, in the four-mile-heats race, at Petersburgh, in 7:54—7:58. Colonel Johnson, when he made the match, intended to run the bay colt John Richards, by Sir Archy, but becoming lame, while en route for the North, Henry was substituted for him, although in a private trial John Richards had proved his superior. The race is one of the most memorable events in the annals of the American turf, and was productive of the most intense and wide excitement throughout the length and breadth of the continent. It was considered as a match between the North and South, and sectional feeling ran high respecting the issue. More than twenty thousand people assembled to witness it, and the betting on the result was enormously heavy, each section backing its representative racing champion without stint or limit. Henry, carrying 108 Ibs., was ridden by a lad; Eclipse, nine years old, 126 Ibs., was mounted by William Crafts. Henry took the lead in the first heat, and was never headed, winning hy half a length, apparently well in hand, in the fastest heat ever run to that day in America in 7:37}. On the call for the second heat, Mr. Samuel Purdy, then warded as the best amateur horseman in the country, mounted Eclipse. Henry, who was the favorite at odds of three to one, again took the lead, and held it until the last quarter of the third mile, when Mr. Purdy made a push for the lead. Eclipse soon reached his rival and passed him at the commencement of the fourth mile, and beat him the heat in 7:40, by thirty feet. Henry having been pulled up after passing the distance pole, the loss of the heat being evident. Upon being' summoned for the third heat, the great trainer Arthur Taylor mounted Henry, instead of The boy who rode him in the first two heats. At the signal, Eclipse took the lead, which he kept to the finish of the race, beating Henry some three lengths, Henry having been reserved for the last quarter; time, 8:24. The twelve miles were run in 23:50A. This established Eclipse's reputation as a racehorse. ()n the evening of the same day the match was run. Colonel Johnson challenged J. C. Stevens and the friends of Eclipse to run Henry against Eclipse the ensuing Fall over the Washington Course, for any sum from $20,000 to $50,000 a side, $10,000 forfeit. The challenge was declined, and Eclipse never ran again. In his latter days he was sent to Kentucky, and made several seasons there, and died, in SheIby County, Ky., in August, 1847, in the thirty-fourth year of his age.—Spirit of the Times.
Source: Famous Horses of America ©1877