Originally set aside for the military to use as a parade ground, the meadow eventually became home to a flock of sheep who began grazing there in the mid 1860’s.
Many a proud Sheppard tended the flocks at Sheep Meadow, but none were as proud as Master Sheppard Thaddeus Cornwall. Cornwall was a former soldier who marched with his regiment in the very same meadow years before, and when he retired from the army and took up sheep tending, he instilled the same discipline to his sheep he learned while in the army.
Cornwall’s flock mustered every morning on the meadow and performed precision marching drills that rivaled the best military units in the country. Cornwall often boasted that if the sheep knew how to play instruments, their parade marches would have been spectacular.
With World War 1 raging across Europe, an elderly and slightly senile Cornwall believed the United States should join the fight and stepped up the training of his sheep to include combat drills. In 1918 Cornwall gathered a group of skeptical military advisors at Sheep Meadow to show them how his combat trained sheep could help the U.S. defeat the Kaiser. As the sheep marched across the meadow, the quiet was shattered with explosions from land mines Cornwall had buried in the ground for added effect. Innocent park goers dove for cover under benches as cannon fire set off by Cornwall screamed overhead. The masterfully trained sheep marched through the explosions without missing a step.
When the smoke cleared Thaddeus Cornwall was immediately arrested and sent to prison, never to see his flock again. He would be proud to know his sheep did in fact help with the war effort a short time later, when a New York regiment departing for the front lines of Europe was treated to the finest lamb dinner they ever had.