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Differences between Union and Confederate Cavalry - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Sep 10th, 2008 11:44 pm
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pamc153PA
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I was talking to some of my Civil War club kids today, and realized (not for the first time) that I am woefully lacking in information about the cavalry--mainly, differences between the Union and Confederate calvalry, in their organization, their style, their effectiveness. I'm in real need of a lesson on any/all of that! Any cavalry buffs willing to help?

Pam



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 12:00 am
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The Iron Duke
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Confederates had to provide their own horses. That is why Lee wanted to get that concession from Grant at Appomattox.



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 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 01:10 am
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Eric Wittenberg
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pamc153PA wrote: I was talking to some of my Civil War club kids today, and realized (not for the first time) that I am woefully lacking in information about the cavalry--mainly, differences between the Union and Confederate calvalry, in their organization, their style, their effectiveness. I'm in real need of a lesson on any/all of that! Any cavalry buffs willing to help?

Pam
Pam,

Greetings from a native Berks Countian, although I haven't lived there since 1983.  I grew up in Wyomissing, and my parents still live there.

My area of expertise is cavalry ops.  What would you like to know?

Eric



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 01:29 am
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CleburneFan
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Pam, one of the BEST just offered to answer your questions about the differences in Union and Confederate cavalry. Mr. Wittenberg with J. David Petruzzi wrote the superb Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. (Wittenberg has written many other superb books on the Civil War too.)

So be sure to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn from an expert.



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 01:30 am
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Eric Wittenberg
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Thanks for the compliment, CleburneFan. Much obliged.

Eric



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 04:06 am
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Johan Steele
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I'll second that, if Mr Wittenburg says it on Cav... it's Golden.



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 07:24 am
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susansweet
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To jump on the band wagon I will third that about Eric and the Cav , Pam you have a great source opened to you.

Susan



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 03:43 pm
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David White
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Confederate cavalry rode the horses with their butts facing south. Union cavlry rode the horses with the butts facing north but on many an occassion their horses butts faced south too ;).



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 04:49 pm
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BerryF
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Anything by Horace Mewborn is very good concerning Southern cavalry ...eastern theater



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 05:08 pm
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ole
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Finally! Someone kicks it off. (David, there is definitely something in your water.)

We will eventually get into tactical differences,  but I'd like to hear about what I consider mythological: Your everyday southern boy could ride a horse better than your ordinary northern boy.

Very likely, the northern boy had access to draft animals as did the southern boy. The boys who could ride were those whose families were wealthy enough to possess horses dedicated to riding. Were there more wealthy boys in the south than in the north? Did the northern boys drive carriages and surries rather than leaping hedgerows in pursuit of a fox?

We see many amusing stories about northern farm boys having to learn (clumsily) how to ride while the southern boys simply leapt into the saddle and rode off into the sunset. How close to fact was that?

Now Eric can proceed with his dissertation. In my understanding, the CSA and the USA cavalries started with very different assignments. Was that, if true, due to Stuart, or Jackson, or Johnston, or Lee? Or McClellan and the hidebound desk generals in Washington?

Let the learning begin!

ole

Last edited on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 05:11 pm by ole



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 08:04 pm
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pamc153PA
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Thanks, ole! Here I was, wanting to make the most of the golden opportunity to pick Eric's brain about cavalry, thrilled to have the chance and by a fellow Berks Countian on top of it, and was not sure where to start! The "horses' butts North and South" was entertaining, but I wasn't sure where to go with that. Ole, you kind of gave me a direction!

I have to be honest, Eric, what I know about the cavalry on both sides is bits and pieces, mostly associated with the battles I know and love. My focus has mostly been infantry, but the cavalry has always held a fascination for me. I suspect that what I know of the Southern cavalry is mostly romanticized--better horsemen, bigger-than-life men like JEB Stuart, bigger risk-takers--is that so? And that until around the time of Gettysburg, the Union cav was absolutely no match for them--but why, exactly, I'm not sure. I have a soft spot for Gen. John Buford, I'm not sure why, but he fascinates me, from Thorofare Gap and Gettysburg--maybe because he only lives until that fall, and it seems like he could have gone on to better things. Was it true that he changed things about the way the Union cav fought, which improved their record against the South, or did I just think I read that somewhere? And I did like Ole's question about the CSA and Union cavs starting out with different assignments.

So you see, Eric, if you decide to enlighten me, you have your work cut out for you. Maybe you can start wherever you want to start--I'd appreciate it none the less!

As Ole said, let the learning begin!

Thanks,

Pam



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 10:15 pm
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mikenoirot
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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned it yet.  One of the most important differences was in their weapons.  While the Confederate cavalry used carbines, some of which were breech loading, the Federals, more often than not, used repeating rifles.  This gave them a significant advantage over their Confederate counterparts, especially in the last two years of the war.



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 10:46 pm
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martymtg
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Yeah, Pam,

I have those same perceptions, not sure if they're accurate or something I just came to believe accurate. I have this image of the southern cavalry units rolling the dice for glory and plunder, and the union units being just an extension of the army. A gross simplification, to be sure.

As for Buford, you could argue that he did for Reynolds exactly what Jeb stuart did NOT do for Lee. Buford's actions may have saved the AoP, or at the least made the victory at Gettysburg possible. Stuart's disappearance may have led to Lee's decisions at Gettysburg, which proved disastrous.

The point about the carbines vs repeating rifles is right on, but I  think there are actual functional differences more at the heart of your question. I look forward to learning more on this also. 

Marty



 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 10:58 pm
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izzy
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Just curious pam153PA, have you asked the kids in the club to come up with a list of questions that they want answered?



 Posted: Fri Sep 12th, 2008 12:03 am
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pamc153PA
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Good question, izzy. And yes, this all came about from a couple of really simple questions I asked them: what do you like about the Civil War, and what do you want to know more about the Civil War? Most of the kids are at the, "I don't know--maybe the guns--the uniforms--I just like it" stage, which is not meant as a derrogatory thing. One of the kids mentioned Jeb Stuart, and that's where we started on the calvary topic, and many of the kids were interested, but not with any specific questions--just interested. It's sometimes tough to pull questions out of junior high school boys, even on topics they like!

Pam



 Posted: Fri Sep 12th, 2008 12:46 pm
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Johan Steele
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A Russian friend once told me: "The US Cavalry were always good fighting men, by the end of your Civil War they were excellent soldiers. Perhaps the finest light cavalry in the world." Aleks was an enthusiastic fan of Upton and Wilson... before I had a clue who they were.



 Posted: Fri Sep 12th, 2008 02:26 pm
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mikenoirot
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JS,
Wonder why your friend was so enthusiastic about James Wilson. He performed well during the last months of the war, but his performance during Hood's TN campaign, in November 1864 was at best, weak.



 Posted: Fri Sep 12th, 2008 05:39 pm
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Johan Steele
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Never knew, he died before I got into CW studies. I do know he was a huge fan of Forrest, Wilson, Stuart, Greirson & Upton. He thought American Cav of the period was the best in the world. I remember asking him how US Cav compared to the French & Brit of the time and he just laughed. This was a graduate of one of the Suvorov schools and Ryazan



 Posted: Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 06:57 pm
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Don
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Mike,

I will of course defer to the master when Eric posts, but in the meantime your weaponry comment was a little off. Union cavalry had repeating rifles/ carbines by the end of the war, but this was not true initially. Most Union cavalry initially had pistols and sabers, with most fielding carbines by the end of 1861. It took that long for weapons production to catch up with all of the troops being raised. I'm not an expert on southern cavalry, but initially (First Bull Run up to almost the Peninsula Campaign, perhaps longer in the western theater) cavalry units were armed with whatever was readiest to hand. This often included shotguns and muzzleloading muskets until more appropriate arms were provided or captured.



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