even their supposed fitness to command, and these, by their incapacity or unwillingness to learn their duties, fell under the contempt of their commanders.
The enlisted men were the very best material, and these furnished non-commissioned officers of intelligence and peculiar fitness for their offices' Of the company officers, many had been wisely chosen, and were willing to both learn and practice their duties.
The condition of the horses in many of the camps was as bad as possible.
Of these, many when received were totally unfit for cavalry service, having been taken without inspection by competent examiners, from dishonest contractors, or from government corrals, superintended by dishonest examiners.
With some exceptions, whatever care was given the horses, was at such times as best suited the convenience of the individual trooper, and as the horses generally stood in mud to their knees, unless their masters were prompted by exceptionally humane feelings, the intervals between feedings and waterings were distressingly long.
In many of the regiments, when their condition was the worst possible, the well-intentioned subordinate officers and enlisted men asked the War Department or their State authorities to detail young, but experienced, officers of the regular cavalry, or the appointment of civilians who had served in European
armies, to command their regiments.
This was done; and the officers so selected, on taking command, were from the first encouraged by the hearty spirit in which officers and enlisted men entered into the work of reform and improvement.
Schools for instruction in tactics and in the rules and articles of war were established; officers, as well as enlisted men, were drilled in the school of the squad and upward, the camps were changed, better police and sanitary regulations enforced, strict discipline maintained, inefficient officers were discharged by the examining board, and their vacancies given deserving non-commissioned officers.
When the Army of the Potomac moved, in the spring of 1862, to the Peninsula
, it was accompanied by a cavalry force, the volunteer regiments of which were in a surprising state of serviceability, considering the short time and the unfavorable circumstances under which their real organization had been effected.
The regular regiments were in their habitual state of efficiency.
During this campaign the cavalry won for itself no particular distinction.. The volunteer regiments were distributed among the different corps of the army; the country was very generally heavily wooded, or covered the with dense undergrowth; the armies were in close proximity, and ordinarily intrenched; the space between the lines obstructed by