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 Posted: Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 05:38 pm
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Widow
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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?

Patty



 Posted: Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 06:36 pm
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ole
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Miss Patty:

The war may well have been harder on the animals than the men. Later in the war, when the value of the animals was realized, Union Cavalry, at least, did not eat until their mounts were cooled, fed and curried. Artillery units did carry their own farrier and forge. (I'll have to get back to you on whether a single battery had its own.)

Cavalry also carried a farrier and forge. (Again, I'll have to get back to you on the size of the units with regulations applying.)

Lincoln is said to have remarked, when a Confederate raid netted 200 mules and a brigadier general: "I can make a brigadier this afternoon, but those mules cost $200 apiece."

Early in the war, "horse savvy" was hard to find (but probably more prevalent in the gray than the blue). Aside from learning to ride, the recruits had to be taught how to take care of their mounts.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 01:33 am
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CleburneFan
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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.



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 05:16 am
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ole
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Miss Patty:

Located the document about farriers and was chagrined to note that what I had thought to be the regulation staffing for a battery didn't include a farrier, which makes my staffing list useless.

I did find, however, that the regulation Cavalry company included 79 mounted men: 56 privates, assorted NCO's and officers, and 2 farriers. Of course, a farrier is useless without a forge.

What doesn't make sense with my list is that a battery (4 to 6 guns) included as many or more horses than did a Cavalry Company -- each gun (gun, limber and caisson) might include 14 horses and/or mules. And guns and carriages had a lot of metal parts as well.

Sorry about that.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 05:54 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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Regarding horses in the service of the Artillery, http://www.cwartillery.org/artequip.html suggests the following:

"...a battery of six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery."

"As their lives and guns so often depended upon their horses, artillerymen were disposed to accept without excessive grumbling the regulations for their care. The bugler would sound stable call after reveille and roll, and water call after breakfast. The same routine for the horses would be repeated late in the afternoon. Morning and afternoon drill also meant a workout for the horses, after which they needed to be walked to cool down, curried, and probably watered again. There were always sick horses requiring care, and those who died requiring burial. (This last was described by John Billings, with the humor that can only be the product of a long passage of time, in his Hardtack and Coffee.)"

This website http://ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/features/regimental/artillery.cfm states the following regarding artillery forges, etc:

"A battery (the ideal battery consisted of 6 guns, but it was not uncommon to find batteries consisting of only 4 guns) was also accompanied by a forge, a wagon carrying the tents and supplies, and generally six additional caissons with reserve ammunition."

".... five artificers...."....these were the farriers, etc.....

 

Hope this helps!!

 

Albert Sailhorst, Cannoneer, Scott's TN Battery



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 07:16 pm
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younglobo
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Widow

I know I have read in cav. books in the CSA Cav. a special unit was designated as a remount unit this group were made up of men that had lost thier mounts in battle ect. and had went out to aquire a new mount and had so many days if not they were assigned to another dismounted unit.



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 07:25 pm
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CleburneFan
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Ms Widow, here are some additional facts that may be of interest to you in the matter of horses in the Civil War. These are taken from "Rush's Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War', Eric Wittenberg,  page 5. 

"...Each company had a blacksmith and a farrier who was tasked with caring for the horses' equipment.  Each man had to have a horse and each horse required a saddle, a bridle, stirrups, reins, and a balnket. Each man also required a full complement of weapons: a saber, a pistol, and a carbine.

It could cost as much as $500,000 to raise and mount a regiment of cavalry in 1861; a typical regiment of infantry cost only about $100,000.

Many of these men knew nothing about horses, and knew nothing of their care and upkeep. The cavalry would have a lot to learn before they could expect to take the field as an effective force."

Another interesting passage from the book is on page 24.

"Like the men in the ranks, the horses  also required constant drill. 'We are busy training our horses to stand  fire,' noted one Lancer. 'Some of them, mine in the number, were pretty fiery themselves at first and several men were thrown or severely hurt. When we were making a charge some days ago we fired a volley from our pistols when two men were thrown broke their lances, one is in the hospital.' The same discipline that governed the men applied to their mounts as well.  That discipline paid off later."

Wittenberg's books and others I have read mention that the Civil War specualtive trade in horses for military use was often subject to the corruption of those who bought or sold horses. It was not uncommon for horse dealers to sell at extravangant prices  inferior horses that were sickly, disabled or otherwise unsuited to miltary use.

Last edited on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 09:38 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 10:22 pm
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Widow
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To all of you who answered, thanks so much!  Indeed I'll check the sources you cited, and add the books to my list.

The quotes from Eric Wittenberg's book are exactly the kind of info I was wondering about.

Patty



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 10:56 pm
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CleburneFan
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Patty, what I particularly like about Wittenberg's writings is that when he discusses cavalry operations, he very much includes the horses and mules in the story. He brings the suffering and hardship of the mounted troops to life, but also describes what their horses face. 

Frankly I had never given much thought to the horses' plight, but Wittenberg woke me up. I guess I had the romantic idea one gets from movies...valiant cavaliers and their sturdy horses working together in unison. This author makes the life of a cavalry man and his mounts come to life in a vivid way and shows the reader what price was paid for the "glory." Actually there wasn't a lot of glory.

I know I couldn't have done it. One cruel night of standing to horse in knee deep mud and freezing sleet with no food or fire for warmth and I would be finished.

Last edited on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 10:57 pm by CleburneFan



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