The Army of the Potomac/ The Army of the Shenandoah - A most unexpected victory. Part Two.

Hussar Yeomanry

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#1
Part Two:

Continued from: https://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/the-army-of-the-potomac-the-army-of-the-shenandoah-–-a-most-unexpected-victory-part-one.154031/


In this part I had intended to look at Confederate cavalry superiority. After all J.E.B Stuart is leading 12 companies of the 1st Virginia Cavalry with the Army of the Shenandoah. Meanwhile the Army of the Potomac has 15 companies as well as 7 formations of less certain strength (frequently though not always 'a troop') split between its brigades. This is a significant improvement on the 7 companies of Regulars available to the Union 'Army of Northeastern Virginia'... at least it is on paper. Unfortunately looking below the surface has muddied the waters.

A lot.

Firstly Stuart at Manassas has c.300 men. This appears to be a hard number from a number of sources... and does not tally with the 12 companies he is supposed to have unless they are very small companies. Sources seem to suggest that one company was left to screen Patterson, so that should mean that 11 companies are with Stuart, though perhaps not for Stuart splits his command in two and initially I thought that perhaps the 300 figure was after he does so. However the following source suggests not:

"The cavalry under Stuart's command in June 1861, numbered only twenty-one officers and three hundred and thirteen men present for duty." The life and campaigns of Major General J. E. B Stuart, commander of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, by H. B. McClellan, A. M, late Major, Assistant Adjutant General, and Chief of Staff of the Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia

Admittedly that is over a month before Manassas but the numbers seem to tally. It also suggests that although Virginia makes preparations for war early (The 1st Virginia mustered in to Confederate service 1st July for 1 year though companies had been mustering in to state service from the 17th April, the last mustering in on the 28th May) getting cavalry in the field so quickly is really difficult as was stated in the companion piece on 'The Army of Northeastern Virginia'.

Looking at the Army of the Potomac's cavalry resources comes to a similar conclusion. On paper the Confederates have a lot of cavalry and indeed do have more than the Union but the reality is nowhere near as clear cut. Perhaps we should be surprised they have as many as they do have but the reality is that despite the 22 colorfully named formations with the AoP few of these seem up to full strength and some may have been on the small side (I must admit given that unit names seem to change over time – name they were raised under/ name they were accepted in to state service/ name they were entered in to Confederate service – I have not been able to make as full an investigation of this as I would like).

These cavalrymen all appear to be from Virginia (except for a 'troop' of mounted rangers from South Carolina who had been mustered in to state service in April, arrive on the day of battle and who may or may not have been mustered in to Confederate service – either 26th June or 31st July).

So, having looked at all this is anyone particularly surprised? The more I think about it the more sense it makes in a way that the official Order of Battle does not especially as the only cavalry that will be particularly engaged at Manassas will be Stuart. The rest, like their Union counterparts, are pretty much invisible. Is this because they have been shackled by being attached to 'all arms' brigades or is it due to the lack of the size of these formations? Both perhaps.

I look forward to seeing what others make of this and if they agree or disagree.
 

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Hussar Yeomanry

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#2
As a follow up, this thread https://civilwartalk.com/threads/no-idea-about-the-cavalry-advice-needed.154208/ has some very interesting information on the formation of the cavalry arm at the start of the Civil War. For example @major bill states:

"In my study of Michigan militia I found it interesting that in the Mexican American War era almost a third of the Michigan Militia was mounted, At the start of the Civil War the Michigan militia had one understrength hussar company. Still, Michigan had large numbers of horses and ended up fielding some fair cavalry regiments."

While this is a northern example it supports the idea that southern militia cavalry companies could well be under strength at the start of the war - as suggested above.

The same thread, though this time @Eric Wittenberg states that there was northern opposition to forming volunteer cavalry regiments (specifically from Scott and McClellan), with the latter using what cavalry there was mainly as messengers and vedettes dispersed in amongst infantry brigades. This seems to mirror what Bureaugard is doing in the AoP at First Bull Run, while Johnston and the AoS specifically do not seem to do this. Are we seeing two completely different ways of doing things?

I should also state for completeness that while I state that all but one 'troop' of southern cavalry do indeed appear to be from Virginia further research suggests cavalry from other states [Maryland, Alabama and Tennessee] are on their way and will be at Manassas within days. [In other words close but not close enough] The numbers involved also appear as per in the OP to be on the lean side of things.

Finally, and something I should have stated in the original pieces, if my calculations are correct and Stuart has 11 companies with him and the 300 figure is for his whole force then that is an average company strength of less than 30! That's not a little understrength, that's way understrength.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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I've been meaning to look through my book of the Black Horse Cavalry to see if there are numbers for men in action at 1st Manassas. I'll try to have a look tonight.
I've actually been doing some more research on this (in preparation for the final 'unifying' article) and have hit an issue. When I state that the 300 number for Stuart at Manassas I now wonder. This is a number seen everywhere but the more I look the more everyone seems to be using the same solitary source for this!

And guess what it is.

It's H. B. McClellan from over a month earlier as quoted above - and while he was there this is a post war recollection - so I have absolutely no idea how accurate this is.

Sigh.

So one of the few constants... may be a variable...
 
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#5
Yeah, that's why I wanted to look at the organization of the Black Horse troop (if it goes into detail). Thirty seems a little low from what I remember (especially early on), but I just don't have the memory to say for sure.

Next time I go to my local library I can potentially look at a couple of regimental series books as well, mostly the 1st Virginia Cavalry.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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If you do manage to come up with something different I would love to know. As I say that 300 figure is used absolutely everywhere and no one that I have seen seems to have questioned it. Now it might well be right but I am not as happy with it as I once was. I can state that (perhaps unsurprisingly) most of the Confederate Cavalry companies seem to have been understrength. I just am not sure how much so and my research is not proving that successful in coming up with hard numbers.

EDIT - Though they seem to be brought up to a better strength later before the numbers begin to decline again.
 
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#7
Looking at the book now (Black Horse Cavalry Defend Our Beloved Country). Not a lot of detail.

On May 8, 1861 at Warrenton, Virginia the Black Horse troop was 75 strong with what looks like another 8 listed as joining them in camp between that point and the day of the battle. The Powhatan Troop had joined them and they were reported as 70 strong. So between the two companies you're looking at 153 from the numbers presented, half of the 300 then. Seems odd. Numbers of early attrition not noted.

The author lists other cavalry units such as the Goochland Dragoons, Governor's Mounted Guard, Hanover Dragoons, Prince William Cavalry, Little Fork Rangers and Chesterfield Light Dragoons listed as gathering in Manassas as well. But it is noted that the cavalry units were in various stages of supply. The Black Horse Troop initially was well equipped.

Later, in the retelling of the battle the author uses the 300 number as well, though.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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#8
Turns out there is a very simple answer to where the 300 figure comes from. Stuart's First Manassas OR! Looks like it is confirmed.

[Oops. Really should have spotted that earlier]
 



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