Civil War Wiki
The Horse Soldiers
1959 movie poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by John Lee Mahin
Martin Rackin
Written by John Lee Mahin (screenplay)
Martin Rackin (screenplay)
Harold Sinclair (novel)
Starring John Wayne
William Holden
Constance Towers
Althea Gibson
Music by David Buttolph
Cinematography William H. Clothier
Editing by Jack Murray
Studio The Mirisch Company
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) June 12, 1959
Running time 115 min.
Country USA
Language English
Horse Soldiers (2009) is also a book written by Doug Stanton

The Horse Soldiers is a 1959 DeLuxe Color war film, set in the American Civil War, directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne, William Holden and Constance Towers. The film was based on Harold Sinclair's novel of the same name.

The team of John Lee Mahin and Martin Rackin both wrote the screenplay and produced the movie.

The movie is based on the true story of Grierson's Raid and the climactic Battle of Newton's Station, led by Colonel Benjamin Grierson who, along with 1700 men, set out from northern Mississippi and rode several hundred miles behind enemy lines in April 1863 to cut the railroad between Newton's Station and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grierson's raid was part of the Union campaign, culminating in the Battle of Vicksburg. The raid was as successful as it was daring, and remarkably bloodless. By attacking the Confederate-controlled railroad it upset the plans and troop deployments of Confederate General John C. Pemberton.

Plot summary[]

A Union cavalry brigade, led by Colonel John Marlowe (John Wayne), is sent on a raid behind Confederate lines to destroy a railroad and supply depot at Newton Station. Ironically, before the war, Marlowe had been a railroad building engineer. With the troop is a new regimental surgeon, Major Henry Kendall (William Holden) who seems to be constantly at odds with his commander. Kendall is torn between the duty and the horror of war.

Complicating matters, while the unit rests at Greenbriar Plantation, Miss Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers), the plantation's mistress, and her slave Lukey (Althea Gibson) eavesdrop on a staff meeting wherein Marlowe discusses his plans. To protect the mission, Marlowe is forced to take the two women with him. Initially hostile to her Yankee captor, Miss Hunter gradually warms to him.

Several battles later, with Confederate forces in pursuit, Dr. Kendall is forced to choose between remaining behind with some badly wounded men (and being captured with them), or leaving the men without medical care until the Confederates arrive. Marlowe and the remainder of his troop escape back to Northern lines.


  • John Wayne as Colonel John Marlowe
  • William Holden as Major Henry 'Hank' Kendall
  • Constance Towers as Miss Hannah Hunter of Greenbriar
  • Althea Gibson as Lukey, Miss Hunter's fiercely loyal black maid
  • Ron Hagerthy as the Bugler
  • Judson Pratt as Sergeant Major Kirby
  • Ken Curtis as Cpl. Wilkie
  • Willis Bouchey as Col. Phil Secord
  • Bing Russell as Dunker, Yankee Soldier Amputee
  • O.Z. Whitehead as Otis 'Hoppy' Hopkins (medical assistant)
  • Hank Worden as Deacon Clump
  • Chuck Hayward as Union captain
  • Denver Pyle as Jackie Jo (rebel deserter)
  • Strother Martin as Virgil (rebel deserter)
  • Basil Ruysdael as The Reverend (Jefferson Military Academy)
  • Carleton Young as Col. Jonathan Miles, CSA
  • William Leslie as Maj. Richard Gray
  • William Henry as Confederate lieutenant
  • Walter Reed as Union officer
  • Anna Lee as Mrs. Buford
  • William Forrest as Gen. Steve Hurlburt
  • Ron Hagerthy as Bugler
  • Russell Simpson as Acting Sheriff Henry Goodbody
  • Althea Gibson as Lukey - Hannah Hunter's maid


The Horse Soldiers was filmed on location in Natchitoches Parish Louisiana along the banks of Cane River Lake and in and around Natchez, Mississippi. John Ford cut the film's climactic battle scene short when Fred Kennedy, a veteran stuntman and bit player, was killed in a horse fall. Ford was so upset he closed the set and had to film the rest of the scene later in the San Fernando Valley. The scene with the fatal fall remains in the film.[1]


External links[]

Template:John Ford

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