View Full Version : Improve western CS cavarly impression? Try Infantry equips!

Ken R KNopp
03-31-2006, 09:02 PM
I am posting this in an effort to promote accurate CS cavalry impressions and I strongly urge and hope to invite discussion on the subject.
After a four year hiatus I recently undertook to return to research and writing about Confederate cavalry. The result is a “soon to be published” article on the “The Confederate Issue Cavalry Carbine Sling” (sometime very soon in the North South Trader) and another I co-wrote with David Jarnigan, an in-depth article on Confederate leather, “Confederate Leather, Black or Brown, How & Where”. Lots of brand new information here. More on these at another time.
As part of this research I once again delved into the Ordnance Inspection Reports. A host of wonderful detail and incredibly enlightening information is found in these reports. Today, I want to share some of this with you. I should point out that at times, these reports tend to create more questions than answer such as whether the items in question are CS or Federal capture however, they are very interesting. There is other very enlightening information concerning the numbers and kinds of long arms, pistols, haversacks and canteens I shall post at a later date.

My Observation: Among many things I found in the course of this research of the Ordnance Inspection Reports was a glaring reality- many western cavalry were equipped a lot like infantry! Obvious you say? Yes? No? Then why do most cavalry reenactors NOT reflect this fact in more detail? Many accoutrements in use were likely simple infantry issue. No mention of pistol boxes, very few “saber belts” are noted (even fewer sabers). Waist belts are noted separately as are cap and cartridge boxes and “cartridge box belts”. This suggests that cartridge boxes were often attached NOT on the waist belt but carried slung over the shoulder via the ”cartridge box belt”....like infantry! The numbers in the field appear to slowly descend as the war progress but there are large numbers as late as early 1864. Interestingly, a few (very few but some) knapsacks and bayonet scabbards are also occasionally noted. I submit four separate reports from 1863 and 1864. Here’s the data:

SOURCE: Inspection reports and related records, Inspection Branch, Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office, Roll #4, M935, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records.

1. Aug 1863, Chalmer’s Cavalry (two Brigades) One of the earliest, most detailed available. Approx. 1,247 effective men.

Cart. Boxes 1245 99%
Cart Box Belts 1141 91%
Cap Boxes 1310 105%
Waist Belts 890 71%
Saber Belts 230 18% (ONLY 24 sabers noted in the entire command!)

2. Dec. 1, 1863, Army of the West Inspection Report, There are approximately 10,280 cavalrymen in total.
This full report includes both the infantry and cavalry commands. As for cavalry, at this time Forrest had been recently sent west again and had very few (about 2,500) men in his immediate command. The gov’t had not yet entirely consolidated the cavalry under Forrest so each of these commands are noted separately in the report including Forrest, Chalmers, Cosby, Ross, Ferguson, Geer, Wirt Adams and Richardson.

Cart. Boxes 8923 87%
Cart Box Belts 5206 51%
Cap Boxes 9366 91%
Waist Belts 8560 83%
Saber Belts Less than 1%

3. May 26, 1864, Forrest Cavalry Corps. Very detailed report. 8,952 effective troopers.
Just prior to Brice’s Crossroads Forrest was inspected again. He was near his peak and had three brigades with a total strength of 8,952 men plus his Escort (about 65 men) and artillery. Shortly after, his command was broken up when Richmond forced him to return a large number of men back to their infantry commands or sent on detached duty. Still, this very complete report provides some interesting information about arms, equipment, etc. Of course, it also raises some big questions.

Cart. Boxes 3936 44%
Cart Box Belts 2425 27%
Cap Boxes 405 45%
Waist Belts 3721 42%
Saber Belts Less than 3%

SIDE BAR NOTE: One can readily see that Forrest's Cavalry was, on the whole, very poorly equipped BEFORE Brice's Crossroads. However, the report shows he did have plenty, (about 9,500) serviceable horses! Forrest has 8,952 "effective men" in his command however arms are not sufficient for this number. As for arms, only 60% could be given long arms and only 22% pistols! Forrest is also extremely deficient in cavalry horse equipments!! The report shows he can fully mount only approximately 3,489 men. The rest did not have saddles, bridles, etc. Historians have long said Forrest had about 4,500 men in battle that memorable June day yet Forrest himself always claimed he could only bring 3,000 or so of his widely scattered men into the battle against Sturgis’ force of 8,000. I believe Forrest was correct. He had more men and plenty of horses but the number of horse equipments suggest he could not transport them into the fight!
(Sorry, to digress....)

4. July 31, 1864, Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps, Report shows 6,734 effective men. Extremely detailed report.
Cart. Boxes 7233 107%
Cart Box Belts 2411 27% (“Shoulder Straps”)
Cap Boxes 7299 108%
Waist Belts 5052 75% (2070 or 41% had “waist belt plates”. What kind? Were the remainder attached via roller buckles, horse shoe and frame buckles???? Good questions.
Saber Belts 1243 18%

SUMMARY: You want to IMPROVE your “Western Cavalry” impression and be Plain, Everyday Common (PEC) for most periods of the war? Here’s one way for “some” of you, lose the saber and saber belt and buy an infantry cartridge box with shoulder belt! Of course, other details can vary. What do you folks think about this data and its meaning?

Ken R Knopp

03-31-2006, 10:54 PM

This should be a well-received piece of research. I wish someone could do the same "documenatation" with eastern CS cavalry. Although, I'm of the mindset that east and west were not worlds apart and CS cavalry in the east would also be utilizing infantry accouterments, especially items like waist belts vs. saber belts and slung cartridge boxes vs. the ol' belted carbine cartridge box.

It's the "little things" that sometimes make an impression.

Thanks for passing this along.


04-07-2006, 03:22 PM
Not too surprising having infantry equipment. Basil Duke (one of General John H Morgan's men) stated the command usually fought DISMOUNTED like infantry during battles. I'm sure most other Cavalry units did the same. Good research!!
ew taylor

Lee Ragan
04-27-2006, 02:33 PM
I'm in the process of reading "Life of General Nathan Beford Forrest", by John A Wyeth and the author mentions numerous times that Forrest's cavalry often fought dismounted. Being an infantry reenactor, I have often wondered if the cavalry usually fought mounted (as they nearly always do @ reenactments), or if they got off those horses so they could do some accurate shooting. I had long suspected that the often disdained "dismounted" cavalry at reenactments were in fact doing a more accurate portrayal of the mounted arm.

04-27-2006, 03:08 PM
While an alledged "disdain" for 'dismounted cavalry' in modern reenacting events is certainly not in the spirit of cooperation, to suggest that current "dismounted cavalry" portray the mounted arm in a more authentic fashion is inaccurate to say the least.
Careful reasearch will reveal that most cavalry units fought in two ways. 1) They got off thier horses and fought alongside infantry with thier horses behind them (like I do) and 2) They temporarily lost thier horses for what ever reason and were fighting as infantry while awaiting a remount. The quintessensial element here is a HORSE. Dismounted cavalry reenactors never had horses and have no intention of getting them, either. What is cavalry without a horse? Infantry!! Any horse, therefore, in a cavalry setting, would be more accurate than a guy running around in a field with a sharps and all dressed up in farby yellow trim saying he is cavalry and yet never having even been on a horse before!
While the norm for cavalry (and certainly the safest for the horse) was to fight off their horse, many units, particularly irregulars such as Mosby's and Gilmore's often found themselves forced to 'unload the lead' from a saddle.
I regularly reenact with dismounted cavalry units and have found most of them to be great and genuine people, but to suggest a 'dismounted cavalry' reenactor more accurately portrays authentic cavalry is simply not in line with the facts.
Frank Stevanus

Lee Ragan
04-27-2006, 04:18 PM
Maybe I should have said that cavalry fighting dismounted was more accurate than those scenes where mounted troopers ride around in circles and act like they are having a fight with sabers. Of course your way of fighting dismounted, with the 4th man holding horse is the most accurate, but that's not often seen.
Just for the record, no offense was intended to either mounted or dismounted cavalry.

04-27-2006, 04:44 PM
<Dismounted cavalry reenactors never had horses and have no intention of getting them, either. >

I'll take umbrage with that comment. I don't know who Frank has been hanging out with or for how long, but I know more than a hand-full of dismounted guys who'd give a leg to be able to have a horse (me, included). I'd challenge anyone to find yellow cloth of any type in our unit, too. I'm probably being a tad sensitive of the dismounted cavalry stereotype, but we all shouldn't be painted with the same brush. It is a sad fact, though, that there are dismounted units out there that further that stereotype, and it tends to rub off on all of us. Truth be told, if more mounted guys would be willing to get off the mount and do it right, we'd be out of a job. So there!! :-)

Is it "authentic"? The arguements suggest not. But in the "typical" reenactment that is not moving, but at a stationary area of ground, dismounted cavalry using the manuals and tactics of the day can add to the "illusion" of a/the battle. That's an arguement for another thread, though.

Back to the suggestion of cavalry using infantry equipments, oh heck yes!
The records tend to speak for themselves.


04-28-2006, 12:02 AM
those scenes where mounted troopers ride around in circles and act like they are having a fight with sabers

We jokingly would refer to such battles as the dance of the saber fairies. One of my pet peeves in this hobby is the manner that many, but not all, reenactors portray cavalry and the poor integration of cavalry into the scripted and unscripted battles especially at the mainstream events.

04-28-2006, 09:28 AM
This is similar to the infantry's inability to reenact the effects of long range shell fire......and most infantry's inability to take a hit at 200 yards or have whole Ranks go down due an enemy volly/canister fire.

Since there are over 1,000 saber clashes documented during the American Civil War (100+ by Minty's fencer's alone), how would you suggest reenacting this?

I've wanted to mount up 100+ authentics at a moment's notice and trot them out as mounted rifles.....even most city slicker's could ride in 1860....am wondering if our infantry even know's how to lead a horse to water.....

Just me personally.....but I don't see much difference between getting out of a car a mile away, marching in, and fighting.......and getting off of a pretend horse a mile awy, marching in, and fighting. You didn't dismount often in plain LOS, LOF of the enemy....that's a clear invitation to let the slaughter begin. At the physical scale most ACW reenactments are fought at......it's not hard to pretend that the cavalry dismounted on the other side of the spectators, parking lot, funnel cake vendor, whatever. I sure as heck don't think the hard core infantry took a steam train to somewhere near the battle or have been marching for the last month to get to the event site (they don't look it neither).

I also don't think 11 mounted troopers makes a company....

Our dismounts ride once in awhile....participate in both drills and battle....they also participate in stable call, watering call, and help unload the critters. Owning or renting reenactment trained steeds is very expensive for most of us suburban family working class stiffs..... we simply can't afford to mount up x00 cavalry reenactors.....or infantry reenactors (plenty of mounted infantry in the ACW).

We've gotten rid of multiple revolvers, cylinders, and even pistols themselves (at some events)......and are basically fighting dismounted as skirmishers using correct period Cavalry tactics by the bugle. We aren't fighting like Infantry, PERIOD.

Next discussion: how the lack of reenacting Infantry numbers looks silly in light of the contemporary written accounts of American Civil War battles. And why all field grade officer's and much more of their staff will be mounted at reenactments.

Pretty hard to simulate the twinkling lights of 10,000+ campfires.

bob 125th nysvi
05-03-2006, 09:18 PM
Actually RJ very few city slickers could rid in the 1860s, even a lot of country boys couldn't actually ride (as opposed to getting on the back of a horse and not falling off).

Now lets be real, everything we do is compromise because of the restrictions we operate under many times we include mounted cavalry at reenactments where there were no cavalry in order to accomdate everybody.

The real question should be how do we accurately portray what was going on in a specific scenario. Of course cavalry ground tactics are going to be significantly different than infantry tactics in the same situation, weapons alone are going to dictate that.

I think what we need to remember is that while there were saber charges during the CW more often cavalry did act as scouts or mounted infantry and units should be willing to accurately portray that.

HOWEVER the infantry can clean up its act too. A couple of small examples, when repelling cavalry the bayonet is at your eye level not the riders, officers shouldn't be trying to form up and count off when the situation calls for cutting and running or woring abouty 'contro;;ed fire' when the enemy is standing 10 yards away.

So lets take what we see and others say and use them to improve our scenarios.

And I fall in as infantry because I want too not for lack of horses. I currently have 40 including 6 foals less than a month old so I understand the 'affliction'.

Bob Sandusky
125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

05-04-2006, 11:44 AM
"Actually RJ very few city slickers could rid in the 1860s, even a lot of country boys couldn't actually ride (as opposed to getting on the back of a horse and not falling off). "

I'll debate you on this point.

1. Gustave Schurmann was an 11 year old drummer from Manhattan, Downtown New York City. That would be a City Slicker if there ever was one. 40th NY Mozarter's. he was detailed as an orderly to Phil Kearny.....and was mounted up on a horse. Phil was an equestrian's equestrian, and they were soon galloping around the countryside. Phil espied a 'gorge' and they jumped it at the gallop. Gustave stayed the course and was promoted to mounted Brigade Bugler (his picture is on p. 241 top, Echoes of Glory US)....eventually he became Sickle's III Corps bugler. Mounted. So much for city slicker's not being able to ride.

2. 4th Wisconsin Infantry captured so many horse in Louisiana that they petitioned the military to become cavalry.....which they were so granted.....4th Wisconsin Cavalry. They got rid of their Field Music's and used buglers.

3. 9th Illinois (German) Infantry mounted up on MULES in 1863. No problem finding buglers in this oompahpah band Schneider crowd.

4. Wilder's BRIGADE was composed of mounted infantrymen who simply exchanged their rifled muskets for Sharp's rifles (eventually) and mounted up.

5. Would you like a few Dozen more examples (Regimental strength or higher)?

yes there were male soldiers in 1861 that couldn't ride a horse....or didn't know how to hitch a 1 up or 2 up team to the family buggy for going to Sunday Services. Probably the same percentage in 1942 that couldn't drive a Jeep or ride a bicycle.

Do you have an example of an infantry regiment / company refusing to mount because they didn't know how to ride?

Again, I'd love to test our authentic's knowledge of basic horse care and riding skills. They did it, we should be able too.

My sister raises Paints in Montana.....mother raises Quarters from King Ranch stock down in central Texas..... and I'm an Infantry bugler that 'rides'......

We need more horses, wagons, and mules in the hobby....nothing like 4 artillery pieces going 'In Battery' at NSA Raymond 2001 at the Trot....

05-09-2006, 10:01 AM
As part of this research I once again delved into the Ordnance Inspection Reports.

Where can one research the Ordanance Inspection Reports. Are they online or do you have to visit the National Archives ?

Speaking of horses. I have read or have been told (can't remember) that if you use a paint or a quarter horse for reenacting, then you aren't being authentic. Most horses during that time period were gaited horses.

05-09-2006, 10:20 AM
Ken has some of them available for a small fee on his web site www.confederatesaddles.com. He's got a smattering of both east and western units, mostly late war reports. Unfortunately, most CS reports didn't make it through the war.


05-09-2006, 10:35 AM
"Speaking of horses. I have read or have been told (can't remember) that if you use a paint or a quarter horse for reenacting, then you aren't being authentic. Most horses during that time period were gaited horses."

That would be correct..... probably why I've never borrowed from Mom or Sis' for ACW events....

Plenty of quarter horses in ACW reenacting.....a few paints....

Morgan's, Canadian's, Standardbreds, ThoroughBreds, Arabians, Duns, et al...anyway there's plenty of discussion on this on the cavalry forums.

RJ Samp

05-10-2006, 12:31 PM
Thanks RJ.

I'm new to the forum and haven't looked through everything yet. I always wondered if that was true.