** This was originally a post on the Authentic Campaigner (Cavalry Discussion) Forum about 2005 then developed into a full length article for the Camp Chase published in the June 2009 edition.
WESTERN CS CAVALRY
ARMED & EQUIPPED AS INFANTRY?
Or, When the obvious, isn’t so obvious!
By Ken R Knopp
Confederate cavalry in the west armed and equipped as infantry? As knowledgeable reenactor-“historians” we say, “Oh sure, that’s obvious. Forrest/Wheeler, mounted infantry….!” Yes? Well, then why do most cavalry reenactors NOT reflect this fact? Sadly, today’s common western cavalry reenactor thinks himself quite authentic with his saber and saber belt, carbine cartridge box, pistol box with extra cylinders, multiple pistols and Sharp’s carbine. However, the reality was quite different.
Throughout most of the war the majority of the arms and accoutrements used by western Confederate cavalrymen were simple infantry type issue. The historical record from the numerous Inspection Reports in the National Archives, clearly show a preponderance of rifles and muskets in the ranks including Austrian Lorenz, Mississippi’s, .69 Muskets, Enfield’s, Springfield’s, etc. and some shot guns. Perhaps of greater importance is that there are a relatively small number of carbines, very few pistols and never a mention of extra cylinders. As for accoutrements, very few “saber belts” are noted, few sabers in the record and no mention of pistol boxes at all. Interestingly, accoutrements are noted separately and include a large percentage of “cartridge box belts”. Which suggests that cartridge boxes were often attached NOT on the waist belt like cavalry accoutrements but carried slung over the shoulder via the cartridge box “belt”….like infantry! Here’s the data: NOTE: For a relative historical perspective, the data below represents items found in each command and their percentage (%) to “effective” men. Effective men equates to those present at the time of the inspection report (mounted and dis-mounted) and able to take the field. Not included are the sick (present or absent), others absent and on leave. Weapon patterns listed are in order of frequency.
1. August 1863 inspection of Chalmer’s Cavalry (two Brigades, approximately 1,247 “effective” men). One of the earliest, most detailed reports on western cavalry available. With most of the Army of Tennessee cavalry in Georgia, Gen. James Chalmers had recently been assigned to the cavalry in north Mississippi to guard that vital granary region. 1.
Arms: (87% of effective men were armed with long arms)
34% Infantry weapons (57/58. & .54 Rifle Muskets; 69. Perc. Smoothbore Musket )
26% Shot guns
27% Sharp’s Carbines (The remainder of long arms were Hall’s & Colt carbines)
31% of effective men had pistols, 15% of these single shot “horse pistols”, a.k.a “holster” pistols)
*Ninety men in the brigade were completely unarmed.
Cart. Boxes 1,245 or 99% *
Cart Box Belts 1,141 or 91% (Most were obviously infantry type accoutrements)
Cap Boxes 1,310 or 105%
Waist Belts 890 or 71%
Saber Belts 230 or 18% **
Carbine Slings 393 or 32% (approximates the number of cavalry carbines)
* (As in all of the data, patterns are not noted so varied among Confederate and Federal)
** (ONLY 24 sabers noted in the entire command. By this time in the war in the west, sabers were generally considered a useless weapon and an unnecessary weight.)
2. In January 1864, much of the west’s cavalry was with the Army of Tennessee in Georgia and east Tennessee under Gen. Joe Wheeler. The remainder was in Mississippi in the Army of the West. This “Year End Inspection Report” details the weapons, accoutrements, ammunition and horse equipment for the cavalry commands of that army. Various sources suggest between 10,000 to 11,600 total cavalrymen or about 10,800 effectives. The government had recently consolidated some of these commands under S.D. Lee and N.B Forrest but each one is noted separately in this report including those under Forrest, “Sul” Ross, Chalmers, Richardson, Ferguson, Greer, Wirt Adams and Cosby. 2.
Arms: (11,890 total long arms or 110% of effective men. Obviously, extras were with the dismounted and sick)
93% Infantry arms (57/58. Rifle Muskets; 54. Rifle Muskets; 69. Per. Musket, various others)
4% Shot Guns
13% Carbines (Sharps, Burnside, Maynard, Halls)
18% Effective men had pistols (Colt Army, Colt Navy, Single shot US Holster pistols, Kerr, Lafaucheaux)
Cart. Boxes 10,148 or 94%
Cart Box Belts 5,234 or 48% (Note: At least one half infantry types- others varied)
Cap Pouches 9,589 or 89 %
Waist Belts 8,662 or 80%
Saber Belts Less than 1% (Virtually NO sabers reported)
3. A month prior to the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, the Confederate War Department ordered an inspection of Forrest Cavalry Corps which at the time, comprised a major portion of the west’s cavalry. Dated May 26, 1864, it was the most complete report of Forrest’s Cavalry during the war. He was at his peak in horses (9,500 serviceable) and men recently recruited to three divisions and a combined strength of 8,952 effectives plus artillery and his Escort (about 65 men). This very detailed report comprises his entire command including his artillery and the Divisions of Chalmers, Buford and, Gholston’s Brigade of Mississippi State Troops- some twenty-nine regiments and battalions and, sixteen guns. However, despite recent successes in Confederate supply requisitions and captures from the Federals in engagements at Okalona, Ft Pillow, Jackson and elsewhere, this report plainly exposes the reality that Forrest was sorely deficient in arms and equipment. 3.
Arms: (4,086 long arms & 1,327 carbines. Only 60% of Forrest’s command had long arms!)
45.6% Infantry arms (Austrians, Mississippi’s,.69 Muskets and assorted others)
14.8% Carbines (Sharps, Maynard, Burnside, Halls)
21.8% Effective men had pistols (36. Colt Navy; 44. Colt Army, French Lafachuaux, Horse pistols)
2 % Sabers (Most in Chalmer’s Division)
Cart. Boxes 3,936 or 44%
Cart Box Belts 2,425 or 27% (At least one-fourth infantry types- others varied)
Cap Boxes 405 or 45%
Waist Belts 3,721 or 42%
Saber Belts Less than 3% (Most in Chalmer’s Division) **Despite having nine thousand men and enough serviceable horses for all the report also shows that Forrest is so deficient in horse equipment he can fully mount only 3,500 men (40%) of his entire command!
4. After the remarkable success by Forrest at Brice’s Crossroads, the resulting capture of Federal arms and equipment certainly augmented supply to a great degree. For study, we turn to an inspection report of Rucker’s Brigade of Chalmer’s Division dated July 3rd, 1864 as a relative sample of what then might be typically found throughout Forrest’s Cavalry. 4. Consisting of 1,072 effective men from three regiments of Tennessee and Mississippi cavalry we find the following:
Arms: (1,018 total or 95% with long arms)
653 or 61% Infantry arms (Austrians, 69. Muskets, Enfield, Mississippi’s, and assorted others)
365 or 34% Carbines (Sharps, Maynard, Burnside)
461 or 43% Effective men with pistols (36. Colt Navy; 44. Colt Army, French Lafachuaux)
36 or 3 % Sabers (Most in Chalmer’s Division)
Cart. Boxes 1,130 or 105%
Cart Box Belts 701 or 65.4% (At least two-thirds infantry types- others varied)
Cap Boxes 1,073 or 100%
Waist Belts 1,042 or 97%
Saber Belts 41 or 4 % (Most in Chalmer’s Div., Duff’s 19th Mississippi)
* As an example of the impact of his captures, after the battle Forrest could now equip nearly 100% of these men with horse equipment.
5. The west’s other large cavalry command was with the Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joe Wheeler. All through the spring and summer of 1864 Wheeler’s cavalry fought almost incessantly. Literally under fire when inspected on July 31, 1864, this extremely detailed report of Wheeler’’s Cavalry Corps shows 6,734 effective men. 5.
Arms: (6,886 total long arms, 102% of effective men were armed) 5,777 or 84% infantry weapons. (Enfield, Austrians, Mississippi’s, .69 Muskets, Musket rifles, Colts rifle and assorted others)
1,109 or 16% Carbines (Sharps, Burnside, .57 Maynard, Smith, Merrill and Union)
Pistols: 3,391 total pistols or 50% of effective men (.36 Navy, .44 Army and Kerr)
Sabers: 1,302 total or 19% (Wheeler is known to have designated companies armed with sabers)
Cart. Boxes 7,233 or 107%
Cart Box Belts 2,411 or 27% (One-fourth had belts, a.k.a. “Shoulder Straps”)
Cap Boxes 7,299 or 108%
Waist Belts 5,052 or 75% (2,070 or 41% had “waist belt plates”)*
Saber Belts 1,243 or 18% (approximates the number of sabers in the command)
* Waist belt “plates” likely means the various CS patterns. Others were simply roller or frame buckle patterns.
ARMS AND ACCOUTREMENTS, FEDERAL OR CONFEDERATE? Folklore often tells us that the Southern Cavalry equipped itself at the expense of its adversaries. Captured Federal patterns certainly accounted for a significant but unknown amount of all arms and equipment for western cavalry under Forrest and Wheeler. Studies have shown most of the imported long arms were infantry weapons as were apparently, the majority of the captures by Forrest however, there can be little doubt “Confederate made” patterns also account for at least some portion of the accoutrements in use. 6. Beginning in 1862, Ordnance Department records how no distinction between Confederate cavalry and infantry accoutrements patterns (validating the historical consensus that cavalry patterns were not generally made). Yet, Confederate manufacture was prolific. It should be noted that in addition to those arms and leather equipment run through the Blockade, the west’s “first class” arsenals at Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Columbus, Selma, Montgomery as well as numerous depots were quite successful in their ability to manufacture accoutrements. For example, in the twelve month period ending June 30, 1863 the Atlanta Arsenal fabricated in house or under contract 47,993 cartridge boxes; 28,101 cartridge box belts; 52,263 waist belts and 53,459 cap boxes. 7. More were made at the other ordnance locations and still more were “refurbished” (recycled). Clearly, there were plenty available to supply the western armies. While transportation difficulties hindered issues, given the requisitions no doubt many of these Confederate manufactured infantry accoutrements made it to the cavalry.
SUMMARY: The reports above are a sampling but statistically consistent with all of the other inspection reports for western cavalry. The things to note from them are the large numbers of infantry type accoutrements utilizing cartridge box slings; the scarcity of sabers and saber belts; no mention of pistol boxes or extra cylinders (a clear “reenactorism”); the relative shortage of pistols in the ranks, the widespread frequency of infantry type long arms and, the relative shortage of carbines.
CONCLUSION: No doubt, some will argue various references made by the veterans and even photographic evidence but these are as much anecdotal as they are circumstantial. The facts as found in the inspection reports are inarguable, the truth inescapable. The cavalry of the western Confederacy was armed and equipped a lot like infantry. Therefore, the arms and equipment found on many of today’s cavalry reenactors are at best, a misrepresentation of history or, at worst erroneous “reenactorisms”. As a “Western Cavalry Reenactor Historian”, if you really want to honor these men, to look, live and fight as they did, if you want to IMPROVE your impression and be Plain, Everyday Common (PEC) for most events and periods of the war then here are some tips…….
SIMPLE IS BETTER….LESS IS BEST!
1. For most, leave the saber and the pistol at home. On average only about 32% had pistols. Not three pistols, not two with extra cylinders….None!! Only one in three reenactors (privates) should even carry them. Even fewer carried sabers (never popular in western cavalry).
2. Most of the west’s cavalry carried infantry long arms such as the Austrian Lorenz, Mississippi, two-band Enfield and .69 cal. Muskets. Sharp’s carbines are way overdone! On average only about 25% had a carbine of any type. So, think about using a Burnside, Maynard or a shot gun. Better yet, trade your Sharp’s for a rifled long arm and sling it across your back….just as they did.
3. Lose the saber belt and buy an infantry cartridge box with shoulder belt (Federal or Confederate). One might also consider a plain, simple waist belt rig with an infantry (not a carbine box) cartridge and cap box or, occasionally going without either (use your pockets or haversack like they did)!
– It was rare indeed for the typical Confederate cavalryman to have more than one pistol. In fact, on average two of three troopers in most regiments were entirely without. Only the later records of Ross’s Texas cavalry brigade (Sept. 64) show higher percentages (90%). The records of the 8th Texas (Terry’s Texas Rangers) in particular show multiple pistols however, these are exceptions.
– Officer’s arms and equipments were private purchase and therefore varied widely.
– Surviving inspection reports are generally rare before 1863. Yet from examining those available and other contemporary military sources we can see an evolution both in arms and in numbers of certain equipment which suggests early war arms generally included more muskets, shot guns, horse pistols, sabers and fewer fully accoutered troopers. Late war, more and better weapons, equipment, few sabers but large numbers of deficiencies due to lost and worn out equipment and simple supply/transportation. However, variances were extremely widespread.
– Interestingly, a few (very few but some) knapsacks and bayonet scabbards are also occasionally noted in the records of some CS cavalry ranks. 8.
** In a future issue we will look at other cavalry “reenactorisms” including haversacks and canteens and how the eastern (ANV) cavalry was armed and equipped!
AUTHOR’S THANKS TO: David Jarnagin of C & D Jarnagin, Myers Brown of the Tennessee State Archives and Bill Rambo of Confederate Memorial Park. For more information on Confederate cavalry and these inspection reports go to www.confederatesaddles.com
FOOTNOTES: Inspection Reports and Related Records, Inspection Branch, Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office, Roll #4, M935, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records. Includes dozens of separate 1863, 1864 and 1865 inspection reports of Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas cavalryman under Wheeler, Forrest, Ross, Chalmers, Ferguson, Armstrong, Wirt Adams, Cosby, Jackson and individual regiments. The inspection reports used in this study are a goldmine of data and their wonderfully detailed for arms, accoutrements, horse equipment, ammunition, horses, wagons sometimes clothing even percussion caps and gun tools. They are often accompanied with comments by the Inspecting Officer detailing additional conditions, needs and issues.
1. Ordnance Return by Lt. John T Buck, August 1863 of Fifth Military district, Dept. of Miss and East Louisiana, Chalmer’s Cavalry, Hdqrtrs. Grenada Miss. Original report found in the service file of J.T. Buck, Ordnance Officer to Gen. James Chalmers, National Archives Military Service Records, General and Staff Officers, Micro film M331, National Archives, Wash. D.C.
2. Kennard to Gorgas, Jan. 1, 1864, Year End Inspection Report, Army of the West, Ordnance Records, Mississippi Archives, Jackson Miss. Year end report sent by Col. Jassel M Kennard, Chief of Ordnance, Army of the West to Col. Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance in Richmond, Va. Includes Inspection Reports of the entire Army of the West including cavalry under Forrest, Ross, Chalmers, Ferguson, Wirt Adams, Cosby, Jackson and others.
3. Maj. George B Hodge, Inspection Report of Forrest’s Cavalry Corp’s, May 26, 1864, Inspection reports and related records, Inspection Branch, Adjutant and Inspector Gen’ls Office, Roll #4, M935, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records.
4. Inspection of Chalmer’s Division by James Overton Jr. AAIG, Quartermaster Brig., July 3rd, 1864, at Verona Miss. Inspection Reports and Related Records, Inspection Branch, Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office, Roll #4, M935, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records.
5. Consolidated Monthly Report of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores, July 31, 1864, By S.P. Kerr, Chief Ordnance Officer, Wheeler’s Corps Cavalry. Original report found in the service file of S.P. Kerr, Ordnance Officer to Gen. Wheeler, National Archives Military Service Records, General and Staff Officers, Micro film M331, National Archives, Wash. D.C.
6. Huse, Caleb. Supplies for the Confederate Army, How They Were Obtained in Europe and How Paid For. Boston: T.R. Marvin & Son Press, Boston, 1904; Houston Tx: Deep River Armory, Inc.1970.
Jordan & Pryor, The Campaigns of Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest and of Forrest’s Cavalry, New Orleans and New York, 1868.
7. Wright to Gorgas, June 30, 1863, Atlanta Arsenal Year End Report, Atlanta Arsenal Records, Records of the Ordnance Bureau, Chapt IV, Vol. 8, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records.
8. Inspection Reports and Related Records, Inspection Branch, Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office, Roll #4, M935, National Archives, RG 109, War Dept Collection of Confederate Records. Includes many separate 1863, 1864 and 1865 inspection reports of western cavalry under Wheeler, Forrest, Ross, Chalmers, Ferguson, Armstrong, Wirt Adams, Cosby, Jackson and others.
Ross’s Cavalry Brigade, Jan. 1, 1864, Aug/Sept, 1864; Wharton’s Texans, April 1863, IBID.
|Bird Carridine, Co C, 8th Miss Cav.|
NOTE: Pvt Bird Carridine’s infantry equipments. Carridine’s 3-band rifle even hosts a bayonet which was not common but still occaisionaly found in the cavalry ordnance reports. Carridine was wounded in the arm at Brice’s Crossroads.
Ken R Knopp