83 user 35 critic

The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, Romance, War | July 1959 (USA)
1:23 | Trailer
In 1863, a Union outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in Mississippi to destroy enemy railroads but a captive southern belle and the unit's doctor cause frictions within ranks.


John Ford


John Lee Mahin (written for the screen by), Martin Rackin (written for the screen by) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Col. John Marlowe
William Holden ... Maj. Henry Kendall
Constance Towers ... Hannah Hunter
Judson Pratt ... Sgt. Maj. Kirby
Hoot Gibson ... Sgt. Brown
Ken Curtis ... Cpl. Wilkie
Willis Bouchey ... Col. Phil Secord
Bing Russell ... Dunker
O.Z. Whitehead ... Hoppy Hopkins
Hank Worden ... Deacon Clump
Chuck Hayward ... Union Captain
Denver Pyle ... Jackie Jo
Strother Martin ... Virgil
Basil Ruysdael ... Commandant
Carleton Young ... Col. Jonathan Miles


A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply center. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the commander. The secret plan for the mission is overheard by a southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence. The Union officers each have different reasons for wanting to be on the mission. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


John Ford's Thundering Spectacle See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


When John Wayne (Col. Marlowe) first meets William Holden (Maj. Kendall), he accuses him of being out of uniform because he is not wearing his sidearms. In that particular scene, Marlowe is wearing a cavalry sword. However, throughout the rest of the film Marlow does not wear any sidearms. Even when the Confederate forces are charging through the street and one of his junior officers offers him a pistol, he waves it off. See more »


Although the story is set in 1863, all the soldiers are wearing 1872 pattern cavalry uniforms. See more »


Major Kendall: [preparing to fight] What are the rules gonna be, Colonel?
Col. John Marlowe: Make up your own.
Major Kendall: [hits Marlow in the jaw as he is taking off his blouse] You said no rules.
See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: John Wayne (1961) See more »


The Bonnie Blue Flag
Traditional Irish tune
Lyrics by Harry McCarthy
[Sung by the Confederate column marching on the opposite side of the river]
See more »

User Reviews

Historically inaccurate but otherwise excellent
5 January 2005 | by gteatrSee all my reviews

This film has the usual Hollywood-style errors about the Civil War -- men talking about Andersonville Prison months before it was established, minor diversions treated as the pivotal event of a campaign, that sort of thing. The biggest error though was the replacement of the fascinating Colonel Ben Grierson with Wayne's railroad man character. Grierson was a music teacher who was afraid of horses because one kicked him in the head as a child. Joining the Union army to fight slavery (he was a staunch abolitionist) he wanted infantry duty but was assigned to the cavalry by mistake. He turned out to be good at it and stayed in the cavalry after the war, becoming the first Colonel of the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo soldiers). It'd have been nice to see Grierson on screen.

Historical inaccuracy aside though the movie did quite well. The film showed multiple viewpoints and a fair degree of respect for most of them. It showed aspects of the war that were generally ignored in other films of the period -- the bloody horror of battlefield amputations, the desire of people to give up on the whole thing (I can't think of an earlier film that talked about deserters and the way they disrupted the southern home front), and the pain of the sheer physical destruction of the war -- a pain that affected the destroyers as well as the victims, something Gone With the Wind never quite admitted.

Some posters have complained about southern belle Hannah Hunter's overuse of sex appeal to spy on Union soldiers -- while there was no historical Hannah Hunter there were plenty of southern women who did just that, including Belle Boyd, Rose Greenhow and others. Some posters have complained about the way the film trivializes slavery -- this is unfair. It underplays slavery but never trivializes it. It shows conflicts within the Union army about the institution and addresses the issue of personal loyalty between some slaves and masters without glamorizing the institution as a whole. Does the film go far enough by modern standards? No. But it goes much farther than its contemporary and treats the slavery issue more honestly than modern travesties like Gods And Generals.

One poster actually complained about how inaccurate southern snipers were -- this is completely unfair. There was no indication that the "snipers" were specially trained men with Whitworth rifles or anything like that. They looked more like ordinary troopers out skirmishing, or perhaps the even more poorly trained militia. Ordinary soldiers fired more than 100 rounds for every hit they scored, so poor shooting on either side is nothing to be surprised about.

8 out of 10

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Release Date:

July 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Horse Soldiers See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Color by Deluxe)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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