Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Getting Started

One of my particular joys when starting a new project is in the hunt that is researching a topic -- finding existing sources, figuring out how to find those sources, gathering material and putting the picture together, etc. While this site won't be restricted to just one topic, I'll be focusing on the Regular cavalry regiments and the Reserve Brigade initially.

While one would think this an easy search compared to other Civil War units, that isn't necessarily the case. Regimental histories for volunteer regiments from the war abound, and in many cases provide excellent looks at what campaigning was like. The Regulars don't appear to have done this. One reason is likely that their mission didn't end when the war did. Following the Civil War, they were shifted back to the west where their attention quickly turned to the Indian Wars. I've been able to locate few memoirs to date. Fortunately, officers of the Regulars appear to have generally reported frequently and in detail where I've come across them thus far in my search of the OR.

One resource I discovered that should shed a bit of light on the subject is at the National Archives. Amongst their many resources are consolidated strength returns of cavalry units from 1863 to 1865. They're arranged alphabetically by state, then regiment, so they should be user-friendly. The search results description was "this series contains a statistical summary of information relating to cavalry units, inlcuding the name of the department or corps, location, number of officers and enlisted men present and absent, number of serviceable and unserviceable horses, and kind of arms by number of carbines and pistols." It won't be of much help with anecdotes and such, but it's a start.

1 comment:

Eric Wittenberg said...


There was a publication called The Journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association that contained a lot of useful material. You will find a series by a Regular officer named Moses Harris titled "With the Reserve Brigade" that covers that last year or so of the war. I think you will find it to be invaluable; I've often considered doing something with it.

I have some other ideas when the time comes. Just ask.