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[392]

The battle of fleet Wood.

Major H. B. M'Clellan.
The services rendered by the cavalry of the armies contending upon the soil of Virginia, have not been fully appreciated by those who have as yet attempted the story of the war. During the last two years of the war no branch of the Army of the Potomac contributed so much to the overthrow of Lee's army as the cavalry, both that which operated in the Valley of Virginia and that which remained at Petersburg. But for the efficiency of this force, it is safe to say, that the war would have been indefinitely prolonged. From the time that the cavalry was concentrated into a corps under General Pleasonton, until the close of the war, a steady progress was made in discipline, esprit du corps, and numbers. Nothing was spared to render this arm complete. Breech-loading carbines of the most approved patterns were provided; horses and accoutrements were never wanting, and during the last year of the war Sheridan commanded as fine a body of troops as ever drew sabre.

On the other hand, two causes contributed steadily to diminish the numbers and efficiency of the Confederate cavalry. The government committed the fatal error of allowing the men to own their own horses, paying them a per diem for their use, and the muster valuation in cases where they were killed in action; but giving no compensation for horses lost by any of the other casualties of a campaign. If a man's horse were killed, disabled, or worn out in the service, he must return to his home to procure another; and the strength of the command was constantly reduced below its reported

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