Monday, October 1, 2007

Regular Cavalry in the Civil War, A Partial Bibliography

Larry left a comment a few days ago asking about sources on the Civil War history of the Regular cavalry regiments. Although this is generally more in the parameter of some of the excellent blogs listed to the left, such a specific list is definitely applicable to this blog.

For general information on all the regiments, I highly recommend Stephen Z. Starr’s three volume The Union Cavalry in the Civil War. This remains in my mind the definitive comprehensive work on the subject, allowing other authors to focus on specific battles, campaigns, regiments, etc. It has just been released in a new paperback edition and is now readily available. Edward Longacre’s Lincoln’s Cavalrymen also provides general information on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th Cavalry regiments in passing. Eric Wittenberg’s excellent The Union Cavalry Comes of Age provides much more information on these regiments specifically focused on the first half of 1863. For the western theater, David Evans’ outstanding Sherman’s Horsemen provides information on the 4th Cavalry during the Atlanta campaign.

The list that follows is far from comprehensive, and seeks only to provide a few titles to introduce the reader to the experiences of a particular regiment. Magazine articles and letters are not listed in the interest of time and space. Except as noted, these titles are available through Amazon, Alibris and other sites.

1st Cavalry

Sanford, George B. Fighting Rebels and Redskins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. Offers good first person account of the first half of the war from the perspective of a company level officer. Sanford was often a staff officer during the second half of the war, and his insights there are educational as well.

Viola, Herman J., ed. The Memoirs of Charles Henry Veil. New York: Orion Books, 1993. Veil’s primary claim to fame was as the person who saved General John Reynolds’ body from capture during the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. He was subsequently appointed a lieutenant in the 1st US Cavalry at the family’s request to the Secretary of War, and joined the regiment in April 1864. His memoirs provide some insight into Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign and the Appomattox campaign, both from the perspective of a regimental line officer and a brigade staff officer. Veil appears somewhat prone to embellishment, and some statements should be taken with a grain or three of salt.

2nd Cavalry

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade To Canyon With The Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Rodenbough was an officer of the regiment during the war, and even commanded it in a few engagements as a captain. The section of the book on the Civil War contains chapters by several different authors who served in the regiment during the war. Among them are Rodenbough, Leoser, Harrison and Wesley Merritt. An excellent picture of the regiment’s service from several different viewpoints. Even the service of the companies separated from the regiment during the first half of the war in the western theater are covered.

Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With The Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999. This work was commissioned by the regimental commander on the regiment’s 100 year anniversary in 1936. Lambert was then a major in the regiment, and it was compiled by him with the assistance of the Fort Riley librarian, who he married shortly after the manuscript’s completion. Of necessity a secondary source, Lambert did have access to all of the regimental records, and the work contains information I haven’t seen elsewhere. An appendix lists every officer assigned to the regiment during the period, listed by rank held and period of service. The second printing in 1999 was authorized and edited by the author’s three children. This may be a difficult work to find, I purchased my copy at the regimental museum shortly after its publication.

3rd Cavalry

I have yet to find a work covering this regiment specifically during the Civil War period.

4th Cavalry

Larson, James. Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935. An excellent and unvarnished account of the regiment’s service in the western theater during the war from a common soldier’s viewpoint. It was published by his daughter shortly before his death in a very limited run of 300 numbered copies. It will probably be necessary to order this work through InterLibrary Loan, as the copies I have seen for sale cost hundreds of dollars. It is well worth the effort to find a copy, however.

5th Cavalry

Arnold, James R. Jeff Davis’s Own. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000. The majority of the book focuses on the period between the regiment’s organization in 1855 and the outbreak of the Civil War, but Arnold does an excellent job of covering the regiment’s abrupt departure from Texas following the state’s secession and General Twiggs’ surrender.

Hunt, H. Draper, ed. Dearest Father, The Civil War Letters of Lt. Frank Dickerson, A Son of Belfast, Maine. Unity, Maine: North Country Press, 1992. Hunt is a University of Southern Maine professor who did a masterful job editing the 77 letters from a young lieutenant to his father during the war. Dickerson received his appointment in 1862, and served with the regiment through most of the war.

Price, George F. Across The Continent With The Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press, 1959. Another good regimental history, somewhat biased since it is written by an officer of the regiment. Price didn’t serve in the regiment during the war, but it’s apparent that he gathered a large amount of his information from veterans’ accounts following the war. The book has very good biographical sketches following the narrative history that encompass all of the officers assigned to the regiment in varying detail.

6th Cavalry

Carter, William H. From Yorktown To Santiago With The Sixth U.S. Cavalry. Austin: State House Press, 1989. Carter provides a very readable and entertaining history from the regiment’s creation at the outbreak of the Civil War through the Spanish American War. From a researcher’s standpoint, the book is very frustrating, as there are no footnotes and thus no means to tell where Carter found his information or verify it.

Davis, Sidney Morris. Common Soldier, Uncommon War. Baltimore: Port City Press, 1994. This is my favorite reference, though Larson’s work is a close second. Davis enlisted at the beginning of the war, so he provides a first person account of the initial organization and training of a cavalry regiment. He served in every engagement until the Gettysburg campaign, when he was captured. He also provides a detailed account of his imprisonment in Belle Isle. Davis’ tongue in cheek writing style provides a very detailed and entertaining account from the viewpoint of the common soldier.

Hopefully this provides a good starting point. Any comments on other sources are certainly welcome, as always. And if anyone knows how to get Blogger to underline, PLEASE let me know.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for your thorough response on regular cav regiment history sources! I have Starr but none of the others. Since it is likey that few will have comprehensive accouts of action during the Maryland Campaign--there wasn't much action to talk about--I will probably not buy many but get them through my library.


Sarah said...


Firstly, I should say that I really enjoy your blog.

Secondly, to get Blogger to underline you are going to have to use HTML; (u)what you want to underline(/u), change the parenthesis to greater than/less than signs, and it should underline.

Hope that helps!

- Sarah (

Don said...


I haven't waded that far through the letters as yet, but I'm expecting a few decent observations on Antietam from Bates, since his squadron was still escorting McClellan during the campaign.

Other than Harper's Ferry, the cavalry wasn't too active (by whose fault may be another entry sometime, maybe next September).

Don said...


Thanks for the tip! I'm glad you're enjoying what you're reading.

HTML is up there on my "need to learn" list, but is still a ways off, I think.

You're off to a good start on your blog (now listed at left), keep those entries coming!

Mike Churchill said...


Thanks for the list - I just got "The Memoirs of Charles Henry Veil" (ordered after seeing it here) and it looks interesting.

Keep up the good work!

Don said...


I hope you enjoy it. Ironically, that's my least favorite of the whole bunch. 8^)