In the mid-19th century
, variations on the phrase
"I have seen the elephant
" were common. The phrase referred to facing and overcoming adversity
It was based on the story of a farmer
who was bringing his produce to market
. While on the road, he encountered a traveling circus
. Traveling with the circus
was an elephant
. The farmer’s horse
. It reared, upset the cart, and bolted. The farmer's produce
was destroyed. Despite this disaster, the farmer proclaimed "I don't care, for I have seen the elephant.
During the American Civil War
to have "seen the elephant" meant to have been tested in battle.