Friday, September 26, 2008

Horse Artillery, Part III

The most important component of the horse artillery was its horses. Without horses, the guns couldn’t move, and might as well have been so many pieces of siege artillery. These batteries were just as dependent on their horses as the cavalry units they supported, and they were also their greatest liability.

Artillery horses were a prime target for enemy fire – disable the horses, and the guns were that much easier to capture if they couldn’t get flee. They were also as vulnerable as the crewmen themselves to the rigors of disease, poor rations, and the often squalid living conditions of army camps. There were always sick horses requiring care. I am not sure if the horse artillery batteries also drew their remounts from the various cavalry depots established in 1863, but I strongly suspect that this was the case.

As their lives and guns so often depended upon their horses, horse artillerymen were generally disposed to accept the requirements for their care without excessive grumbling. Just as with the cavalry units they supported, the bugler would sound stable call after reveille and morning formation, and water call after breakfast. The same routine for the horses would be repeated late in the afternoon. Morning and afternoon drill also meant a workout for the horses, after which they needed to be walked to cool down, curried, and probably watered again.

One driver was assigned to each pair of horses, riding the on (left) horse and holding reins for it and the off (right) horse. Skilled riders were required for this service, which combined the daring of cavalry troopers with the precision teamwork expected of artillerymen. Drivers were issued a leg-guard, an iron plate encased in leather and strapped to the right leg to prevent the limber pole from injuring them.

Civil War artillery not being one of my strong suits, these posts depended heavily on a few excellent websites for the majority of its facts. Its mistakes are of course my own (and yes, some might argue that they are one of my strong suits). Those seeking additional information are encouraged to visit the following sites.



Anonymous said...

Horse Artillery was considerd to be part of the Cavalry Corps and an important part of the combined arms team then in its infancy.

Don said...


For the Army of the Potomac this was true. Things were a little different in the western theater, as neither side used it initially.

I agree that it was the beginning of the combined arms team for the American army, but I don't think they realized it at the time.