Downey, Fairfax

About the author

Fairfax Downey (1894–1990) was a biographer and military historian. His father was a United States army officer stationed in Cuba, where Fairfax Downey rode on a “white-maned buckskin pony”. During World War I Downey was a sergeant in the Yale Batteries, as well as serving in the 12th Field Artillery and 31st Field Artillery, all of which were horse-drawn. He won a Silver Star citation at Belleau Wood, which took place in June 1918 near the Marne River in France. The Silver Star is the third highest decoration in the Armed Services, and is awarded for gallantry in action. Downey also served in World War II, and was stationed in North Africa. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He worked as a journalist on the Kansas City Star, The New York Tribune, the Herald Tribune and the New York Sun, becoming a full time writer. His biographical subjects included Sir Richard Burton and Charles Dana Gibson, and he wrote several horse books. His military background was brought into play for his book War Horse. The equine hero is Barbara, based on Downey’s own mount. She served through five major battles, and had five battle stars and a wound chevron. Despite her wound, she had some success jumping, winning events in the Army of Occupation horse show. A few of his horse books seem to be part of non-horse series: i.e. Horses of Destiny had as counterparts Dogs of Destiny (1949) and Cats of Destiny (1950), both illustrated by Paul Brown.

Finding the books
War Horse can be pricey, the Paul Brown factor pushing up its value. Army Mule and Cavalry Mount are expensive; Free and Easy and A Horse for General Lee are generally cheap and easy to find; The Shining Filly, Races to the Swift and My Kingdom for a Horse are a little more expensive.

Sources and links
Author biographies from War Horse and Free and Easy
Obituary, New York Times
A review of Army Mule from the Pittsburgh Express, December 20, 1945, Harry Hansen (via Google news)
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau and Lisa Catz for all their help with this section.

Bibliography (horse books only)

War Horse

Dodd, Mead, New York, 1943, illus Paul Brown
Reprinted several times.

“At the beginning of the War most of the German artillery was horse-drawn, not motorized. The gallant mare “Barbara” was named for St. Barbara, patron of the artillery. Between the mare and Sergeant Jim Thomas grew that bond of deep affection which every man, woman and child fond of horses will understand. It carried them through the battlefields of France and beyond. Theirs is
a tale of stirring adventure, unbeatable humour and undying loyalty.”

Army Mule

Dodd Mead, New York, 1946, illus Paul Brown

Fray Luis picks up a from a Mexican mule train. He finds out that the mule Proverbio is an intelligent and willing animal, and together they fight with the American Army against the American Indians.

Cavalry Mount

Dodd Mead, New York, 1946, illus Paul Brown

Free and Easy

Scribners, New York, 1951, illus Frederick Chapman
The Junior Literary Guild, 1951

Stella found a horse swimming in from the sea: a Narragansett Pacer filly. She named the filly Free and Easy – and she trains and races the horse, and struggles to win her for herself. There is also a romance, and more drama as Stella’s father wants to sell the filly for gambling money.

a Horse for General Lee

Scribner, New York, 1953, illus Frederick Chapman

Jim and Garry were orderlies to Robert E Lee, there to care for the Confederate General’s

The Shining Filly

Scribner, New York, 1954

Elena and Isabel vie for the ownership of La Dorada, a wild palomino filly. However, it’s a
visitor, Robert Winfield, who captures the filly and one of the girl’s hearts.

My Kingdom for a Horse

Doubleday, New York, 1960, illus Matthew Kalmenoff

A collection of horse stories, including a chapter from Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur.

Races to the Swift: Great Stories of the Turf [Edited]

Doubleday, New York, 1967, illus Don Stivers

This is a collection of stories about racing.


Horses of Destiny 1949
illustrated by Paul Brown

This looks to be part of a non-horse series:  there is also Dogs of Destiny (1949) and  Cats of Destiny (1950).

Famous Horses of the Civil War 1959
illustrated by Frederick Chapman