Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Regular Cavalry in the West

There was a good deal of discussion on Rantings of a Civil War Historian last week about cavalry in the Western Theater. While the majority of the Regular regiments served in the Eastern Theater, there was a good bit of Regular action in the west as well, particularly involving the 3rd and 4th US Cavalry. Elements of several regiments were involved in early battles such as Wilson's Creek and Valverde, as companies tried to return to their consolidating regiments.

The 3rd Cavalry served in New Mexico the first two years of the war, then spent 1863 fighting in Tennessee and Alabama. They fought in Arkansas in 1864, then the Chattanooga campaign.

Split between theaters in the early stages of the war, the 4th Cavalry eventually consolidated in the Western Theater and fought the remainder of the war there. Major battles that they participated in (not in order) include: Wilson's Creek, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

So the Western Theater will definitely be addressed here, I'm just not sure when.


Eric Wittenberg said...


For much of the war, the 4th US was part of the finest brigage of Western Cavalry, that of Bvt. Brig. Gen. Robert H. G. Minty. Minty's brigade--which has an excellent brigade history--was definitely the cream of the western crop. You definitely would not be doing the Regulars justice if you didn't address the role of the 4th US in the successes of Minty's brigade.


DW@CWBA said...

I don't think I've seen any OB for Wilson's Creek that mentions the 4th US Cav. There were companies of the 1st US Cav at the battle itself (and 2 left behind at Springfield to bolster the home guards there). A company from the 2nd US Dragoons was also attached to Sigel's wing.


Don said...

I apologize for causing the confusion. It's part of the lovely naming conundrum that affected the cavalry until August 1861. In the act of Congress that renamed the mounted regiments on August 3rd, issued by the War Department in orders on August 10th (the same day as the battle), the 1st Cavalry became the 4th Cavalry. The 1st Dragoons, being the senior regiment, became the 1st Cavalry.

Given that both events happened the same day, I'm not sure if they're the 1st or the 4th, but we're speaking of the same companies. Company D under Lt Canfield in 1st Brigade (commanded by Sturgis, another 1st/4th cav officer) was with Lyon's column. Company I and Company C of the 2d Dragoons, commanded by Company I's Capt Carr, fought with 2nd Brigade under Colonel Sigel. Companies B and C remained in reserve in Springfield.

Piston and Hatcher's Wilson's Creek has an excellent order of battle section that even lists strengths and casualties for many of the above listed cavalry companies. I'm still in information gathering vs analysis mode on the battle, so I can't as yet comment on the content.

The Regulars during this battle are an entry or several of their own, I simply listed the above to clarify who was involved.

Speaking of who's who, the same Samuel Sturgis listed above was the commander of the brigade of Grierson's cavalry that had such a lovely time with Forrest at Brice's Crossroads.

Again, my apologies for causing the confusion. Until reading your comment, I hadn't put two and two together on the relevance of the dates. Life gets so much simpler dealing with these regiments after 1861....

Don said...

Thanks for the tip, I hadn't made the connection to Minty's brigade. One of the reasons that I'm spending so much time on 1861 is to get the stage set for later posts. I'm looking deeper and gathering info, but I think the project will work better once I can get the regiments assembled and in place.
It's definitely a learning process. I know the 2nd well, but not much about the other regiments. And I've sadly neglected my studies of the western theater.

DW@CWBA said...

Hi Don,
Yes, Plummer and the regular infantry at Wilson's Creek is the real story for that battle!

I knew there was a reorganization of the regular cavalry at some time (that's funny that it was the same day) and kinda regretted my post as soon as I sent it. Should've figured you'd know best!

The Piston/Hatcher OB is a good one, although it is much the same as Bearss' from his research decades earlier. I love it when books include regimental strengths and gun types. Always gets me on its good side right off the bat!

Don said...

Not at all, comment away. I certainly don't know everything on the subject. Three weeks ago the only company that I knew was there was the dragoon company (commanded by an infantry officer during the battle, incidentally).
Best case, I double-check and am right. Worst case, you catch me out and we both learn something new.