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 condition. The most brilliant exploit was the charge made by May's squadron of the Second Dragoons upon a Mexican light battery at Resaca de la Palma, May 9, 1846, which resulted in the capture of the battery and of General La Vega, of the Mexican artillery. This dashing affair was afterward to be repeated many times in the great struggle between the North and South. The sphere of action, however, which had the most direct bearing upon the cavalry operations of the war was that known as “the Plains.” The experience gained in the twelve years from 1848 to 1860, in frequent encounters with the restless Indian tribes of the Southwest, the long marches over arid wastes, the handling of supply trains, the construction of military roads, the exercise of command, the treatment of cavalry horses and draught animals, and the numerous other duties falling to officers at frontier posts, far distant from railroad or telegraph, all tended to temper and sharpen the blades that were to point the “path of glory” to thousands destined to ride under the war-guidons of Sheridan, Stuart, Buford, Pleasonton, Fitzhugh Lee, Stanley, Wilson, Merritt, Gregg, and others — all graduates of the service school of “the Plains.” At the outbreak of the Civil War, the military conditions in the two sections were very unequal. The South began the struggle under a commander-in-chief who was a graduate of West Point, had seen service in the regular army, had been a Secretary of War (possessing much inside information as to the disposition of the United States forces) and who, in the beginning at least, was supreme in the selection of his military lieutenants and in all matters relating to the organization and equipment of the Confederate troops. On the other hand the North lacked similar advantages. Its new President was without military training, embarrassed rather than aided by a cabinet of lawyers and politicians as military advisers, captains of the pen rather than of the sword, and “blind leading the blind.” Mr. Lincoln found himself
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