View single post by CleburneFan
 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 02:33 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021

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Eric J Wittenberg, who specializes in books about cavalry officers and cavalry battles, has written some compelling vignettes about the care of cavalry horses and lack thereof. I have just finished reading his latest book, "Rush's Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War." 

It has numerous stories through out the book about the hardship these horses and mules, too, suffered on long campaigns, freezing cold weather, sleet and snow, driving rain and thunderstorms, mud so deep the horses were up to their bellies, dangerous fords thorough flooded rivers and streams and and starvation and thrist plus the dreaded "Mud Fever." Also horses that were ridden days and nights at a time without ever having had their saddles removed developed sores on their backs.

The horses were often ridden until they fell from exhaustion. If it looked as if the horse might recover later, it might be shot to keep the enemy from using the horse. Both men and horses could freeze to death during night time picketts in sub-freezing weather. Often the horses had no shelter from the cold--the men didn't either, of course. Horses and their riders would drown on dangerous river crossings.

Finding fodder, water and feed for the horses presented a constant challenge as did finding enough horses to replace the killed, disabled and diseased ones. The Cavalry Bureau was set up in the Union to keep the cavalry suppied with remounts through a system of camps for the purpose of training, rehabiliating and refitting remounts , but the Confederacy had no such mechanism which became an impediment to Confederate cavalry operations.

The horses suffered autrocities in the Civil War too. Wittenberg related one particularly egregious episode in his book "The Battle of Monroe's Cross Roads and the Civil War's Final Campaign."  Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's men accompanied Sherman on his "march" and Kilpatrick's men had gone out to round up  whatever loot they could from the countryside. They returned with dozens of horses but for what ever reason Kilpatrick decided they weren't needed. He proceded to have his men ruthlessly kill all these horses so that Southern cavalry men would not be able to use them.

For more interesting facts about the heroic and mistreated cavalry horses, read any of Wittenberg's books.  Another one here I did not mention is "Plenty of Blame to Go Around" by Wittenberg and danial Petruzzi about J.E.B. Stuart's controversial trip around the Army of the Potomac as it headed to Pennsylvania searching for Lee.

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