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A blog of Nineteenth Century history, focusing, but not exclusively, on the American Civil War seen through the prism of personal accounts, newspaper stories, administrative records and global history.
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A Capitol View

A Capitol View
Images of 1861 juxtaposed- Union Square, New York vs. Capitol Square, Richmond

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The excess of cavalry which Government permits to be maintained seriously affects the morale of the soldier"

  In the May 8, 1864, edition of the New York Times . . .

From the Richmond Examiner. April 30.
One of the most serious questions of the war relates to the cavalry. It is absolutely certain that if the present number of horses are indispensable, the productive power of the country will be destroyed. One cavalry man costs as much grain and as much meat, (considering forage in its equivalent of beef.) as six or ten of infantrymen. One good infantryman, after selecting about one in four from the cavalry, is worth a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand, of the remaining horse-militia. A judicious ,selection of about one-fourth from, amongst the present vast herd of Confederate cavalry would secure all that was worth their costly support, and the rest could be reduced to foot, not only without injury, but with positive benefit to the service, even to the cavalry; service itself. One horse could be kept far and capable of any required service on what is now divided among four leap, feeble and inefficient beasts, never fit for service in any emergency. Every farmer knows that it is better to keep one good team than a half-dozen indifferent ones, and the fact is stronger with the cavalry service, for there, we see four idle consumers waiting for their skeleton brutes to get fat.
Some judicious system of reduction has become indispensable, and unless the measure is carried into effect before the next forage and grain crops are harvested, by next February we shall have absolutely no cavalry at all. Half the horses now on the meadows are so enfeebled that they must of necessity die a lingering death in the first part of the Summer, if subjected to any service; and thus they will not only have consumed the hay in the form of grass but the country win have lost half the horses employed, in the senseless policy.
The excess of cavalry which Government permits to be maintained seriously affects the morale of the soldier. They become desperate after forage for their animals in consequence of the scarcity and take, ruthlessly. whatever they can lay their hands on. The horseman, is moreover, required to furnish his own steed; and when a horse is disabled, from starvation or other cause, the rider supplies himself as best he can -- the system of "pressing" forage, very often suggesting the expedient of privately pressing a horse, when the Government can no longer save him the trouble by seizing the last beast at the days of Richmond. To such straits have things come, that a district of country often suffers less from the march through it of a brigade of Yankee, infantry than a battalion of Confederate cavalry.

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