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Preface

To the public at large, the volume prepared by General Rodenbough and his associates will be not only instructive but decidedly novel in its view-point. In the popular conception the cavalryman figures as the most dashing and care-free among soldiers. He is associated primarily with charges at a gallop to the sound of clashing sabers and bugle calls, and with thrilling rescues on the field.

Adventurous, indeed, are the exploits of “JebStuart, Custer, and others recounted in the pages that follow, together with the typical reminiscences from Dr. Wyeth.

The characteristic that stands dominant, however, throughout this volume shows that the soldiers in the cavalry branch were peculiarly responsible. Not only must they maintain a highly trained militant organization, ready to fight with equal efficiency either mounted or on foot, but to them fell the care of valuable, and frequently scarce, animals, the protection of the armies' supplies, the transmission of important messages, and dozens more special duties which must usually be performed on the cavalryman's own initiative. On such detached duty there was lacking the shoulder to shoulder comradeship that large masses of troops enjoy. Confronted by darkness, distance, and danger, the trooper must carry out his orders with few companions, or alone.

The discussion of organization and equipment is most important to an understanding of the cavalryman as he actually worked. The Federal methods, described at length in this volume, naturally involved a larger system and a more elaborate growth than those of the South with its waning resources. In other respects, however, the Confederate organization differed from that of the Union. The feeling for locality in the South manifested itself at the beginning of the war through the formation of companies and regiments on a geographical basis, and the election of officers by the men of the companies themselves. Thus, in spite of the want of military arms and ordnance stores, and the later disastrous scarcity of horses, the Confederates “hung together” in a manner that recalls the English yeomen archers who fought so sturdily, county by county.

Altogether it was a gallant and devoted part that the American cavalryman, Federal or Confederate, played on his hard-riding raids and his outpost duty, as well as his better-known battles and charges, from 1861 to 1865.

The publishers.

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