Confederate States of America. Army. Cavalry



The term cavalry referred to horse-mounted soldiers. Although cavalry was a fundamental part of Civil War armies, by the American Civil War, weapons and tactics limited the role cavalry soldiers played on the battlefield. Disciplined infantry soldiers in tight ranks with muskets and bayonets could repel cavalry charges. Therefore, Civil War armies typically used the speed and mobility of cavalry troops for scouting and raiding behind enemy lines. Additionally, cavalry soldiers could fight on foot in loose, or skirmish, formations to harass enemy positions or delay enemy attacks. Overall, because cavalry units required greater logistical support in order to feed and care for their horses, and due to their relatively limited role in open battle, cavalry units made up a much smaller part of the army than their infantry counterparts.

Confederate cavalrymen enjoyed a reputation of superiority over their Union counterparts during the first half of the Civil War. One popular explanation for this is that Confederate cavalry soldiers often had to provide their own horses (something less common in the Union army) and therefore were more experienced and comfortable with their steeds. Two other theories are that Southern aristocratic culture placed higher value on horsemanship than northern communities, and that men who grew up in the South’s largely agricultural society were more familiar with horses than those from the industrial North. All of these explanations may have some merit, but exaggerate the differences between North and South, and cannot account for any great disparity in cavalry actions within the Civil War.

More important reasons for Confederate cavalry’s positive reputation included some high-profile leaders and notable early war victories. J.E.B. Stuart’s battlefield success in the Eastern Theater during the first two years, coupled with his flamboyant style, made him and his horse soldiers celebrities in the South, while other cavalry commanders, like John Hunt Morgan, John Singleton Mosby, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, used aggressive and rapid cavalry raids to disrupt northern supply lines, defeat isolated federal troops, and generally tie up exponentially larger Union forces. Despite these early and famous Confederate successes, Union cavalry forces improved in quality and quantity during the course of the war, culminating in a fight to a draw at Brandy Station—the largest cavalry battle in North America—in June 1863. During the last two years of the war, Confederate cavalry did not enjoy its reputation of dominance, although it still managed to play a large role in scouting, raiding, and resisting Union forces. (Wikipedia)

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