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.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.
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.