View single post by Widow
 Posted: Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 06:38 pm
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Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
Posts: 321

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Confederates who rode horses (officers in all arms, and cavalrymen of any rank) were expected to provide their own horses.  At the beginning, each horse was appraised at a certain value.  If the horse was killed in battle, the owner was to be compensated.  If the horse was killed or died from any other cause, no compensation.  And of course, the appraised value meant nothing as inflation worsened.

Union riders were provided horses purchased from private contractors.  The quality of those animals ranged from bad to impossible, until the War Department and the US Quartermaster got a handle on the graft and corruption.

Horses have to be fed, watered, and groomed.  Their hooves have to be checked and the shoes kept in good condition.

I've read only a few mentions of the difficulties in caring for the horses.
  • Lee's Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of Northern Virginia, by Edward G. Longacre (2002), mentions that at times as many as a quarter of Stuart's cavalrymen were absent from duty.  Some of them had to go home to get another horse -- and Alabama is a long ride from Virginia.  More frequently, they spent a lot of time searching for feed such as hay and corn, sometimes at considerable distance from the camp.
  • Longacre's companion volume (2000), Lincoln's Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of the Potomac discusses the difficulties in training the men how to take care of their horses.  Finding remounts and forage wasn't quite as serious a problem on the Union side, but still, horses got worn out and hungry, no matter the color of the riders' uniforms.
  • In Narrative of Military Operations during the Civil War (1874), Gen. Joseph E. Johnston mentioned how the shortage of horses hindered his battle plans.  During the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, his army captured several Union guns.  There the guns sat, ready to be hauled away to Richmond.  But he didn't have the horsepower, and had to abandon the guns.  So they spiked the guns anyway, making them useless to the Yankees.
  • In John Jakes' trilogy North and South (etc.), the character Charles Main was a Confederate cavalryman.  Jakes gave several interesting descriptions of how Charles took care of his horse Sport.  Such as finding some flat boards to lay in the mud, so Sport's hooves wouldn't go soft with hoof rot; and fighting the men who tried to steal the boards for firewood.  Grooming was a special pleasure, both he and Sport got to know and trust each other as dedicated companions.
  • In Gettysburg there is a scene in which Buford reported to Hancock after the hard fighting on Day 1.  Buford said "We have to get refitted."  That's the most I've ever seen in any Civil War movie about the need to take care of the horses.
When in the world did the men have time to take care of their horses?  Did the officers have grooms to do that?  Yeah, I know.  That's what privates are for.

What about artillery horses?  Who took care of them?  Did the artillery units have their own farriers and portable forges?


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