What does a Cavalry battle look like?

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infomanpa

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On this anniversary of the largest American cavalry engagement at Brandy Station, Virginia, I thought that this would be a good day to ask this question: what does a cavalry battle look like?

I mean, do you simply ride at full speed towards the enemy cavalry with guns blazing? How would you aim your rifle as you move and bounce? How do you keep the horses from going crazy at the noise or even colliding? Are their lines of battle? Formations? What are the tactics? I admit that I have a hard time imagining this since I have never seen cavalry battle re-enactments. Maybe, there are some good realistic videos to watch? I'm guessing that Hollywood scenes would not be accurate.
 

redbob

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At a battle such as Brandy Station, I would say that it was organized chaos; both sides would be riding full speed at each other with swords drawn; not bothering at long range with firearms since the chances of hitting anything I would think was about nil. When they crashed together it may have looked and sounded like a trainwreck with horses crashing together and with men and horses going down and being crushed by other horses. Once the initial impacts subsided then the hacking away with the swords and the firing of pistols would commence with great gusto until one side (or both) had had enough and withdrew. If the opposing sides ardor was still up, then they might do it all over again until one group or the other had had enough and withdrew for good.
 
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rpkennedy

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At a battle such as Brandy Station, I would say that it was organized chaos; both sides would be riding full speed at each other with swords drawn; not bothering at long range with firearms since the chances of hitting anything I would think was about nil. When they crashed together it may have looked and sounded like a trainwreck with horses crashing together and with men and horses going down and being crushed by other horses. Once the initial impacts subsided then the hacking away with the swords and the firing of pistols would commence with great gusto until one side (or both) had had enough and withdrew. If the opposing sides ardor was still up, then they might do it all over again until one group or the other had had enough and withdrew for good.
That's how I envision it as well but I wouldn't rely on my knowledge of cavalry tactics for accuracy.

Ryan
 

diane

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That must have been a sight to see from a high place. Usually, though, people just see their little corner of the thing and it's like piecing together a crazy quilt. Here is the Confederate left, with Rooney Lee making sure nobody asks him a second time if he's surrendering!

Brandy+Station+Painting.jpg
 
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Specster

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If they were facing infantry I think it could be described as near murder.

Cavalry v Calvary in 1862 hands down South victory, by early 1864 the North had address many of their shortcomings and shortly thereafter, any short comings the North had were more than made up by their having Spencer rifles....even though the South had a long legacy of "Hunting Horsemen" whereas the North's horses were mainly draft animals - eventually the North caught on culminating in the likes of Sheridan - who is frequently despised in the South because he did his job well......sometimes I question his tactics in that day and age but Grant told him to wreak havoc.....infrastructure havoc not private property havoc....but sometimes I would imagine soldiers on their own would not know the difference
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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"A cavalry charge is a terrible thing. Almost before you can think, the shock of horse against horse, the clash of steel against steel, crack of pistols, yells of some poor lost one, as he lost his seat and went down under those iron shod hoofs, that knew no mercy, or the shriek of some horse overturned and cut to pieces by his own kind," wrote Pvt. William Henry Ware of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry, regarding the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly's Ford. "It is hell while it lasts, but when man meets his fellow man, face to face, foot to foot, knee to knee, and looks him in the eye, the rich red blood flows through his veins like liquid lightning. There is blood in his eye, hell in his heart, and he is a different man from what he is in the time of peace."

"It was like the coming together of two mighty railroad trains at full speed. The yelling of men, the clashing of sabers, a few empty saddles, a few wounded and dying, and the charge is over. One side or the other is victorious, perhaps only for a few minutes, and then the contest is renewed," observed Sgt. George Reeve of the 6th Ohio Cavalry, also describing the Battle of Kelly's Ford. "A charge of this kind is over almost before one has time to think of the danger he is in."

These are the two best descriptions of mounted combat in the Civil War that I have yet found.
 
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damYankee

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My great grandfather George W. Davis was a farrier in the 4th Iowa Cav.
I found a book written by one of its officers in which he discribes battles very well.
Many times they were in the saddle for 24 or more hours,.
G. Grandfather Davis was wounded 3 times, survived to return to farming and blacksmithing and wagon building.
 
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