Post by 11texascav on Feb 21, 2006 22:31:41 GMT -5
For being really intriested in the ACW and the cavalry of that time period, Iv read alot about cavalry battles to, and did the cavalry actually "charge" enemy infantry head long? I know they were used to fend off other cav and skirmishers and sometimes the occasional "Farnsworth's Charge" in to infantry. Were that used in that way during the ACW or had that faded by the ACW?
The Charge never went away. As long as men rode horses into battle there has been a Charge right up to the Poles charging German tanks in 1939.
From my reading, the small unit quick rush with sabres seems to have been a favorite tactic with the Federal cavalry - both East and West. Often facing another small party, infantry or cavalry in terrain where you come upon something sort-of suddenly, a fast aggressive reaction before the other side can get it's wits is usually decisive.
In other cases, such as the 8th PA at Chancellorsville - a charge against infantry on a road was the only way out.
I'm not aware of any grand charge against infantry in the Civil War on the scale of the French cavalry charges against the center at Waterloo. Those sorts of charges occured a few times cavalry v. cavalry, such as at Brandy Station.
Farnsworth's charge I don't think was the broad sweeping thing movies might portray, but more of a brigade sized mob.
By doctrine, the charge is a tactic used against faltering targets, routed or broken infantry, surprised targets, and soft targets, and other cavalry. It's a quick thrust and if the target is firm, ready, and steady - the results for the cavalry can be pretty bad.
Post by AZReenactor on Feb 22, 2006 10:46:29 GMT -5
Garrett, Advances in technology made charges by massed cavalry largely ineffective by the time of the Civil War. A notable exception I'm familiar with are the engagement on December 17, 1861 at Green River, Kentucky. There the 8th Texas cavalry charged the 32nd Indiana and forced them to form square to survive the attack. While the the charge was generally regarded as successful the Rangers paid heavily with the life of their commander, B. F. Terry and the battle resulted in a draw with the Federals holding on to their foothold across the river at the end of the day.
A more successful engagement with infantry occurred on April 8, 1862 at Fallen Timbers immediately following the Battle of Shiloh. Where the 8th Texas Cavalry and elements of Forrest's Tennessee regiment, Adam's Mississippians, and Morgan's Kentuckians (300 men total) charged upon the 77th Ohio Infantry supported by the 4th Illinois Cavalry. The infantry regiment broke and the cavalry became disorganized and both retreated back to Sherman's main body of two infantry brigades. This is the famous engagement where Forrest rode too far forward, was severely wounded, and had to scoop up a Federal soldier behind him to use as cover as he retreated.
Another noteworthy engagement occurred at Bardstown, KY on October 4, 1862 where the 8th Texas Cavalry led a charge against the 12t Kentucky Cavalry, 4th Kentucky Cavalry, 3rd Ohio Cavalry, and 3rd Indiana cavalry in order to break through after being cut off from Bragg's army.
I could list more charges by Terry's Rangers but it is important to keep in mind that they were equipped and utilized as a "charging regiment" and were the exception rather than the norm.
It was used, but seldom successfully. During the Peninsula Campaign, for example, the 5th US Cavalry charged to attempt to stop a breakthrough in Union infantry lines by Hood's brigade and save several batteries of artillery. They were decimated, and only two memebrs of the regiment reached the enemy, to be bayoneted.
The charge at Winchester is one time it worked, though the best example that I can think of would be Wilson's charge near in 1865.
It was definitely not a wise tactic at any time during the war. Infantry weapons had become too lethal at too great a range for a charge to be effective against unbroken lines.
Union medical records list only 1,000 saber caused wounds in entire war. None of volunteer units were ever trained in effective use of saber. Effective use of saber requires learning proper "seat" & proper control of mount. In regular cavalry this training this was a two year process.
The rifled musket made a charge upon an infantry unit near suicide as the the time to travel the distance in a charge would allow a company to fire some 230 rounds and at least 4 to 8 artillery rounds.
The image of charging sabers in civil war is more romance than fact and in cavalry on cavalry pistols and short barrel weapons were primary weapon , saber's were weapons of last resort and in hands of untrained they were nothing more than sharp clubs. Many cavalry on cavalry engagements were dismounted actions, again survival and use of most effective weapons to do that were of primary importance to the men.
I also noted in another post that the author indicated Union troopers were paid a per diem for "horse rental" Only the south used this practice . As Union volunteer cavalry units were mustered in early in war the Quartermaster purchased the animal and tack from any men bringing their own at that time.
The "technology" really had little to do with it. The rifled musket required proper training in range estimation to be effective and the average Civil War soldier on either side didn't get marksmanship training - he was trained to load and fire quickly - if he was trained at all.
Statistically, most shooting fights took place inside 100 yards and even then the ratio of rounds fired to casualties inflicted is amazing - something like 20-50 rounds per hit! If you compare Gettysburg to Waterloo, you'll find the casualty rates nearly the same per the number of troops engaged even though a much higher ratio of Gettysburg troops carried rifled muskets. The average range of the fighting was also nearly the same.
True - horsemanship and saber use was not trained - and wouldn't be to the enlisted right into the 1920's. The sabre was also not sharpened - a point lamented in writing by several old cavalrymen after the war who also pointed out the lack of man-to-man sabre training (fencing).
The "charge" didn't go away - there are a great many instance right through the end f the war of mounted charges of various sized units in many situations. A lot of these charges though, didn't make contact. Either the charge was repulsed, or the target didn't hang around to see how it would end. As occurred a couple of times, at least, the threat of a charge could have an effect, causing the target to move away or even form square.
Technology did change the tactics of warfare. The rifle in the hands of troops trained in estimating range was very deadly. Range estimation is critical because the rifled musket is a lower velocity weapon than the smoothbore and therefore fires at a higher arced trajectory.
The tactics responded by putting more space between elements of a formation; a column of companies, instead of being a near solid mass was now spaced out with gaps between the companies making it harder to hit with rifle fire at range.
These were the "Napoleonic Tactics" you hear about in regards to the Civil War, but they are of Napoleon III, not Bonaparte.