The Union cavalry at Gettysburg.
In considering the importance of the part taken by the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, in the Gettysburg campaign
, it will not be amiss to refer briefly to the circumstances under which the volunteer cavalry was organized, and the difficulties and hindrances which were met, and had to be overcome, in bringing it to the high state of efficiency that characterized it at the opening of that campaign.
During the fall of 1861, and the winter following, there had been established in camps about Washington
, regiments of men with horses, intended for the volunteer cavalry service.
These regiments had been formed hastily by uniting companies of men from different parts of the same State, and after this the organization was completed by the appointment of the field officers by the Governor
of the State
. . Naturally enough, very many improper appointments were made, and the result was the failure of many of the regiments to make any progress in preparing themselves for the duties of cavalry in the field.
The absence or laxity of discipline, inattention to police and sanitary regulations, ignorance of their duties on the part of officers, and dissensions producing discontent and insubordination (growing out of the claims of rival candidates for appointments), unfortunately obstructed too many of the regiments.
In some instances, the colonels were aged men of local influence, whose patriotic zeal, associated with an imagined dash of character, led them to enter an arm of service, the fatigues and hardships of which compelled an early return to their homes; in others, they were men who had been selected for any other reason than