Cavalry Raids Destroyed the Confederacy. How & Why Did That Happen?

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I was going to make a post about Wheelers raid into East Tennessee during the Atlanta Campaign a week ago, I wonder the outcome of Lovejoy Station if he had been there... Maybe ATL doesn't fall so quickly?

Same thing with Morgan's Ohio excurssion, he should've stayed with Bragg.
If you look at Wheeler's returns from that period, the number of men present, i.e. drawing rations & the effectives, i.e., mounted & equipped is dramatically different. Most of Wheeler's men were on foot, looking for a horse to ride. A horse had to be 5 years old to sustain the rigors of military use. That means that every horse used during the Civil War was the issue of a stallion that stood to a mare before 1859. There was no other source of horses or any way to ramp up production. As Kilpatrick said, cavalry uses up horses like infantry uses up shoes. In my Wilder's Brigade folder I have a section on what they had to do to collect the horses they needed. The great horse country in Middle Tennessee had been all but wiped clean.

Wheeler's raid to break the N&C at LaVergne TN, according to a friend who studies such things, used up something like 12,000 horses. Forrest's pursuit of Straight's mule mounted infantry used up 3/4 of the horses in his command. Morgan's last Gallatin raid left dead & broken down horses strewn all along the line of advance & retreat. The cavalry raids were a profligate waste of a diminishing asset. My friend, who studies such things so don't start asking this ignorant person too many questions, says that a rational use of the men & horses in the Army of Tennessee would have added a corps of infantry & doubled the available horse supply in June 1863 when the Tullahoma Campaign began. The I.G.'s report on the condition of Bragg's supply wagons was sobering. In effect, it had been destroyed making the long hauls to Alabama for forage. All the available forage in Middle Tennessee for 70 miles in all directions had been consumed. The animals were in a pitiful condition. The supplies in the Atlanta depot were exclusively for Lee's army. Bragg could not draw rations from North Georgia.

At that same time, Morgan was riding off with 2,500 picked men & animals. Wheeler, in what strikes me as delusional thinking, had concentrated the remaining cavalry of the AoT at Shelbyville in preparation for a great raid on Rosecrans' supply line in Kentucky. That is where he nearly got captured by Mitny's saber wielding cavalry charge on July 24th. If Rosecrans could have waited a bit longer, Wheeler would have ridden off with most of the AoT's cavalry once again. As it was, Morgan had already denuded Bragg's right flank,
Wheeler was completely out of place to confront & report on Rosecrans' great sweep around Bragg's flank. It was an incredible 48 hours before Bragg knew that a corps had overrun his flank & was threatening to cut him off from Alabama. It was only torrential rains that saved his army. By the time they got to Atlanta, almost all the horses available to the AoT had been consumed & what was left was often of deplorable quality.

You are absolutely correct. The Atlanta Campaign would have been significantly different if Confederate cavalry had some adult supervision. Who that would possibly have been escapes me. Part of the problem of evaluating the effectiveness of Confederate cavalry in the West is all the puffery that surrounds it. Forrest's Murfreesboro raid of July 1862 occurred in my front yard. One of my favorite living history impressions is of the "Bloody 100" as the civilians who were ordered into the ranks to defend Fortress Rosecrans from Wheeler called themselves. Historical markers abound with the heading "Wheeler's Raid Around Rosecrans" or "The Battle of Brentwood" or "Wheeler's Shelbyville Raid" can be seen on my daily get out of the house drive during these lockdown days. The signs are of a triumphant tone; Wheeler & Forrest must have been winning the war single handedly. It is, of course, nothing but puffery.

Wheeler's raids contributed significantly to major Confederate defeats. The Battle of Brentwood was a skirmish between about 500 Union soldiers & 2,500 men under Forrest, i.e., no battle at all. I hear it all the time at the park, what about Wheeler or Forrest, didn't they run rings around the Yankees? Why didn't they put one of them, especially Forrest, in charge of the army instead of Bragg? Wheeler, for one, lived a long, long life in which he inflated his already fabulously inflated reputation. In all candor, when I deflated the gasbag that surrounded Wheeler's reputation I was very disappointed. I had been brought up on a diet of Lost Cause tropes. Discovering what a truly awful commander Wheeler was opened my eyes to a lot of other very uncomfortable realities... a lot of the fun went out of the story at that moment.

To top it all off, my wife's g-g-great cousin was awarded the Metal of Honor for fighting off Wheeler's attack on Sherman's ammunition wagons at Merietta. Gen John Sprague made a stand with a greatly outnumbered force that sent Wheeler high tailing it. If Sprague had not fought such a determined fight, Wheeler could have destroyed all of Sherman's reserve ammunition. The Atlanta Campaign would have had a very different course, very different indeed. Sprague was one of those exceptionally able commanders who came from nowhere & rose to two stars while learning his trade on the job.
 
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Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
@Rhea Cole In your post #30 above you mention that Wheeler 's cavalry is armed only with pistols. I found that surprising but I know from nothin about western civil war stuff. Was Confederate cavalry in the West normally this poorly equipped, do you know?

John
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
@leftyhunter First off I posted this message to you on the wrong place. I am very sorry for that!

A small thing you might find interesting, General George Patton's Grandfather was mortally wounded while attempting to rally his troops against the Union cavalry attack at Winchester.

John
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
@Rhea Cole In your post #30 above you mention that Wheeler 's cavalry is armed only with pistols. I found that surprising but I know from nothin about western civil war stuff. Was Confederate cavalry in the West normally this poorly equipped, do you know?

John
It is very hard to nail down what Western cavalry was armed with. No crossbows or matchlocks, beyond that who knows? Shotguns actually made a lot of sense. Most people can’t hit a barn door from 20 yards with a pistol. Add to that being jangled around by a horse & the circle of error is the side of a barn.
Generally, at least one pistol was standard equipment. Officers carried sabers, but typically, the men did not. (This is where the boo birds will chime in with exceptions,) Since Forrest & others fought dismounted, a saber was just something to trip over.
Long guns in Western Confederate were what my mom would call what-ya-got. Whatever the long gun was, it wasn’t something to use during a cavalry v cavalry fight. I have seen perfectly rational Southern gentlemen get red in the face & pound the table shouting about the pistol v saber thing. I am agnostic. I will say that the circular error of my .36 navy is too embarrassing to publish.
Rosecrans cavalry was pathetic when he took command of the 14th Army Corps some units had no weapons of any kind. Starting from scratch, he put a crusty veteran cavalry man in charge. Endless saber drill followed. By the spring of 1863, the hapless Cumberlanders had shed their cocoon & become real cavalrymen. They were armed with a carbine, pistol & saber.
That is what makes the clash between Wheeler & Minty at Shelbyville so interesting. The Army of Tennessee cavalry pretty much had it their own way from day one. I should write a thread on this. The clash in Shelbyville was definitely a new game for the horse soldiers on both sides. It was a mounted melee of pistol v saber. In that case, Wheeler was fortunate to escape with his life.
This is my home territory. I tour the opening phase of the Tullahoma Campaign on my get out of the house social distancing drive with my wife. We followed the route of the advance through Liberty Gap To Brll Buckle a couple of days ago. Freemantle wrote a vivid description of a revue of Hardee’s Corps there.
There are people who have made a very deep dive into what individual units were armed with & hopefully they will chime in here with a details.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
I was going to make a post about Wheelers raid into East Tennessee during the Atlanta Campaign a week ago, I wonder the outcome of Lovejoy Station if he had been there... Maybe ATL doesn't fall so quickly?
If you look at Wheeler's returns from that period, the number of men present, i.e. drawing rations & the effectives, i.e., mounted & equipped is dramatically different. Most of Wheeler's men were on foot, looking for a horse to ride. A horse had to be 5 years old to sustain the rigors of military use. That means that every horse used during the Civil War was the issue of a stallion that stood to a mare before 1859. There was no other source of horses or any way to ramp up production. As Kilpatrick said, cavalry uses up horses like infantry uses up shoes. In my Wilder's Brigade folder I have a section on what they had to do to collect the horses they needed. The great horse country in Middle Tennessee had been all but wiped clean.

Wheeler's raid to break the N&C at LaVergne TN, according to a friend who studies such things, used up something like 12,000 horses. Forrest's pursuit of Straight's mule mounted infantry used up 3/4 of the horses in his command. Morgan's last Gallatin raid left dead & broken down horses strewn all along the line of advance & retreat. The cavalry raids were a profligate waste of a diminishing asset. My friend, who studies such things so don't start asking this ignorant person too many questions, says that a rational use of the men & horses in the Army of Tennessee would have added a corps of infantry & doubled the available horse supply in June 1863 when the Tullahoma Campaign began. The I.G.'s report on the condition of Bragg's supply wagons was sobering. In effect, it had been destroyed making the long hauls to Alabama for forage. All the available forage in Middle Tennessee for 70 miles in all directions had been consumed. The animals were in a pitiful condition. The supplies in the Atlanta depot were exclusively for Lee's army. Bragg could not draw rations from North Georgia.

At that same time, Morgan was riding off with 2,500 picked men & animals. Wheeler, in what strikes me as delusional thinking, had concentrated the remaining cavalry of the AoT at Shelbyville in preparation for a great raid on Rosecrans' supply line in Kentucky. That is where he nearly got captured by Mitny's saber wielding cavalry charge on July 24th. If Rosecrans could have waited a bit longer, Wheeler would have ridden off with most of the AoT's cavalry once again. As it was, Morgan had already denuded Bragg's right flank,
Wheeler was completely out of place to confront & report on Rosecrans' great sweep around Bragg's flank. It was an incredible 48 hours before Bragg knew that a corps had overrun his flank & was threatening to cut him off from Alabama. It was only torrential rains that saved his army. By the time they got to Atlanta, almost all the horses available to the AoT had been consumed & what was left was often of deplorable quality.

You are absolutely correct. The Atlanta Campaign would have been significantly different if Confederate cavalry had some adult supervision. Who that would possibly have been escapes me. Part of the problem of evaluating the effectiveness of Confederate cavalry in the West is all the puffery that surrounds it. Forrest's Murfreesboro raid of July 1862 occurred in my front yard. One of my favorite living history impressions is of the "Bloody 100" as the civilians who were ordered into the ranks to defend Fortress Rosecrans from Wheeler called themselves. Historical markers abound with the heading "Wheeler's Raid Around Rosecrans" or "The Battle of Brentwood" or "Wheeler's Shelbyville Raid" can be seen on my daily get out of the house drive during these lockdown days. The signs are of a triumphant tone; Wheeler & Forrest must have been winning the war single handedly. It is, of course, nothing but puffery.

Wheeler's raids contributed significantly to major Confederate defeats. The Battle of Brentwood was a skirmish between about 500 Union soldiers & 2,500 men under Forrest, i.e., no battle at all. I hear it all the time at the park, what about Wheeler or Forrest, didn't they run rings around the Yankees? Why didn't they put one of them, especially Forrest, in charge of the army instead of Bragg? Wheeler, for one, lived a long, long life in which he inflated his already fabulously inflated reputation. In all candor, when I deflated the gasbag that surrounded Wheeler's reputation I was very disappointed. I had been brought up on a diet of Lost Cause tropes. Discovering what a truly awful commander Wheeler was opened my eyes to a lot of other very uncomfortable realities... a lot of the fun went out of the story at that moment.

To top it all off, my wife's g-g-great cousin was awarded the Metal of Honor for fighting off Wheeler's attack on Sherman's ammunition wagons at Merietta. Gen John Sprague made a stand with a greatly outnumbered force that sent Wheeler high tailing it. If Sprague had not fought such a determined fight, Wheeler could have destroyed all of Sherman's reserve ammunition. The Atlanta Campaign would have had a very different course, very different indeed. Sprague was one of those exceptionally able commanders who came from nowhere & rose to two stars while learning his trade on the job.
This brings me to another topic that interests me, when these raids had infantry attached to them, did they pick the best and fastest marchers for the job? I remember the Stonewall brigade being called "foot cavalry." During the Napoleonic Wars I think they called they "light infantry." I imagine they had lighter weapons, lighter loads, and maybe better shoes for long walks, lol.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This brings me to another topic that interests me, when these raids had infantry attached to them, did they pick the best and fastest marchers for the job? I remember the Stonewall brigade being called "foot cavalry." During the Napoleonic Wars I think they called they "light infantry." I imagine they had lighter weapons, lighter loads, and maybe better shoes for long walks, lol.
Human beings can walk horses to death. Unless great care is taken, horses will breakdown. As we know, a human can run over 20 miles, a horse can only go 20 miles in a day without breaking down.
Light infantry was trained in skirmish tactics. They had a number of tasks & distinctions that differentiates them from the line regiments. Light Infantry officers in the British Army carried a curved Malmuke Egyptian sword. Riflemen were assigned to light infantry. Unless you take a dive into Napoleonic era tactics, a lot of this is of the to shepherds sheep are different variety. Their duty was on the flanks or skirmish line during battle.
 
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Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
@Rhea Cole I appreciate very much your getting back to me. I have become interested in the whole Minty's sabre brigade thing. I look forward to reading further on these fascinating, to me any way, events. The libraries here are closed, so I will be forced to restrain my enthusiasm for the present, ****!

Thanks, John
 

1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Human beings can walk horses to death. Unless great care is taken, horses will breakdown. As we know, a human can run over 20 miles, a horse can only go 20 miles in a day without breaking down.

There are many exceptions, but this is a good general statement.

Mounted forces that cover great distances, like the Mongols, have normally used multiple mounts per man and changed horses several times throughout the day. Remember that it took about six to eight ponies per cowboy to get a trail herd from south Texas to the rail head in Abilene in the 1870s; ride three or four one day and ride three or four different ones the next day, etc.

But what works on the Asian steppe or the North American great plains is probably not feasible logistically or practically for places like Tennessee and Virginia.
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
@W. Caldwell-37thNC A simple answer: I believe the distinction between light and line infantry as delineated in European armies was not the normal practise in the American Civil War. There would be no lighter loads, different shoes, different weapons, etc.

It has been my impression that the term "foot cavalry" was just a nick name due to the fact that they had a somewhat better march discipline than other formations. Of course they had Stonewall for a boss, so there's that.

There were units designated as sharp shooters that were better shots and in some cases armed differently than most regular infantry units, but that is not the same thing.

I hope that is somewhat helpfull. I am by no means an expert.

John
 

1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
@W. Caldwell-37thNC A simple answer: I believe the distinction between light and line infantry as delineated in European armies was not the normal practise in the American Civil War. There would be no lighter loads, different shoes, different weapons, etc.

I believe you are correct for the most part. Each side had sharpshooter units for skirmishing and those units performed what would be the light infantry role in European armies. But as far as "foot cavalry" goes, I've not seen anything saying sharpshooters were ever used as a foot mobile long range reconnaissance and raiding force the same way that Roger's Rangers were in the 1750s.
 

1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
The Atlanta Campaign would have been significantly different if Confederate cavalry had some adult supervision. Who that would possibly have been escapes me.

It's one of those "whataboutisms." What if there had been a Lee and a Jackson in the AoT? There just wasn't.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It's one of those "whataboutisms." What if there had been a Lee and a Jackson in the AoT? There just wasn't.
It’s is vexing. They had wonderful human potential & terrain with all manner of possibilities. Of course, whoever was put in charge was going to have to deal with the strategic distortion that holding Richmond inflicted on everything they did. From Richmond’s point of view, the Army of Tennessee was tasked with guarding Lee ‘s supply depot in Atlanta & the rail lines that brought the rations to Virginia. During the winter & spring of 1863, Bragg’s army was starving while the Atlanta depot was shipping hundreds of tons of meat to Lee. I don’t think any commander could have overcome that handicap
The other problem was that the Army of the Cumberland was the silicone valley of the Civil war. For example, by the time Rosecrans took Chattanooga, the AoC topographic unit had issued 21,000 maps at the same time Bragg was still making maps by drawing on tracing paper. Advantages like that add up.
As to the difference Lee & Jackson might have made... there was no McClellan out West. As I pointed out in a recent thread, the starting position of the Tullahoma Campaign was about the same size as the entire Gettysburg Campaign. It was an entirely different war.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
@leftyhunter First off I posted this message to you on the wrong place. I am very sorry for that!

A small thing you might find interesting, General George Patton's Grandfather was mortally wounded while attempting to rally his troops against the Union cavalry attack at Winchester.

John
General George Patton was an interesting fellow. I read but didn't find a source that Patton admired General Sherman. George Patton's father was at one time the District Attroney for Los Angeles County. Patton is from Pasadena, California .
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
@W. Caldwell-37thNC A simple answer: I believe the distinction between light and line infantry as delineated in European armies was not the normal practise in the American Civil War. There would be no lighter loads, different shoes, different weapons, etc.

It has been my impression that the term "foot cavalry" was just a nick name due to the fact that they had a somewhat better march discipline than other formations. Of course they had Stonewall for a boss, so there's that.

There were units designated as sharp shooters that were better shots and in some cases armed differently than most regular infantry units, but that is not the same thing.

I hope that is somewhat helpfull. I am by no means an expert.

John
Were there ever any units of infantry that were specifically dedicated to be fast marchers though? Wouldn't it make sense? Units specifically to get to the battle first and harass the enemy?
 

1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Were there ever any units of infantry that were specifically dedicated to be fast marchers though? Wouldn't it make sense? Units specifically to get to the battle first and harass the enemy?

I don't know the answer. But if there is an answer out there perhaps it could be found here: http://www.cfspress.com/sharpshooters/

I'm not sure if the sharpshooter battalions were dedicated to be fast marchers. Their role, as I understand it, was to skirmish ahead of the main force. So would there be any point to getting there too far ahead of the main force? Maybe they did but I haven't read enough about them to say.

I think of units like Roger's Rangers from the French and Indian War as a true "foot cavalry" of sorts.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I don't know the answer. But if there is an answer out there perhaps it could be found here: http://www.cfspress.com/sharpshooters/

I'm not sure if the sharpshooter battalions were dedicated to be fast marchers. Their role, as I understand it, was to skirmish ahead of the main force. So would there be any point to getting there too far ahead of the main force? Maybe they did but I haven't read enough about them to say.

I think of units like Roger's Rangers from the French and Indian War as a true "foot cavalry" of sorts.
I would argue Rogers Rangers was more of a very elite infantry raiding unit . The standards just to join Rogers Rangers were very high in terms of physical fitness and marksmanship plus additional training. The current US Army Rangers would be a direct desendeant of Roger's Rangers and other militaries have copied Roger's concept as well .
I can't think of a ACW unit on either side that was equivalent to Roger's Rangers.
Interestingly enough Roger from what I read was denied a commission to fight for the British Army in the ARW then was denied a commission from George Washington to fight for the Colonial Rebels.
I don't have sources I will have to look them up.
Rogers was definitely an interesting figure of the French-Indian War.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I don't know the answer. But if there is an answer out there perhaps it could be found here: http://www.cfspress.com/sharpshooters/

I'm not sure if the sharpshooter battalions were dedicated to be fast marchers. Their role, as I understand it, was to skirmish ahead of the main force. So would there be any point to getting there too far ahead of the main force? Maybe they did but I haven't read enough about them to say.

I think of units like Roger's Rangers from the French and Indian War as a true "foot cavalry" of sorts.
Robert Rogers was a very interesting man. Rogers was born in Massachusetts and militarily was ahead of his time. Rogers did want to fight for the Continental Rebels and received a commission from the Continental Congress but George Washington hated him.
Rogers did briefly fight for the British and formed the"Queens Rangers".
Rogers had a horrible life overall and was jailed on separate occasions by the British and Americans. Rogers died in London in obscurity and poverty.
A real American tragedy.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I would argue Rogers Rangers was more of a very elite infantry raiding unit . The standards just to join Rogers Rangers were very high in terms of physical fitness and marksmanship plus additional training. The current US Army Rangers would be a direct desendeant of Roger's Rangers and other militaries have copied Roger's concept as well .
I can't think of a ACW unit on either side that was equivalent to Roger's Rangers.
Interestingly enough Roger from what I read was denied a commission to fight for the British Army in the ARW then was denied a commission from George Washington to fight for the Colonial Rebels.
I don't have sources I will have to look them up.
Rogers was definitely an interesting figure of the French-Indian War.
Leftyhunter
 
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