The Role of the Cavalry

Through the cavalry, horses have been involved in the two major confrontations that took place in the United States. Even though mounted soldiers were far more suitable for covering the vast distances of the North American continent, the cavalry played only a secondary role in the Revolutionary War. As a civilian George Washington thoroughly enjoyed horses, but in the military, he was a dedicated believer in the infantry. Mounted soldiers were used primarily as couriers, and horses were used mainly when large numbers of troops needed to change positions.

When the Civil War broke out, the heyday of the cavalry was already passed in Europe. As a result, many highly placed military men and politicians in the United States wanted to make drastic reductions in the cavalry, utilizing it only for reconnaissance missions. Nevertheless, 272 cavalry regiments were deployed by the North and 137 by the South.

The cavalry played a major role in more than one thousand skirmishes during the Civil War. The United States Cavalry rode horses of the most varied origins and even tamed mustangs from the West became popular. The American Saddle Horse which had developed in Kentucky and Virginia soon proved superior to all other breeds, and by the onset of the War Between the States, there were enough of these horses available to superbly mount the Southern cavalry. The majority of the North's horses were Morgans, small horses known for their speed and their stamina.

All mobile factors, of course, have an impact on any war. It is safe to say that the horses employed by the military have had a far reaching effect on our country's history. Many historians firmly believe that the speed and stamina of the Morgan horse was a decisive factor in the eventual victory of the Union troops.