the collapse of the war. Under most discouraging conditions the Confederate cavalry disputed every inch of territory and won the sincere admiration of their opponents. Major McClelland, of Stuart's staff, thus impartially summarizes the situation:1
During the last two years 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 until the close of the war, a steady progress was made in discipline. Nothing was spared to render this arm complete. Breech-loading arms of the most approved pattern were provided; horses and accouterments were never wanting, and during the last year of the war Sheridan commanded as fine a body of troops as ever drew sabers. 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 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 other casualties of a campaign. . . . Toward the close of the war many were unable to remount themselves, and hundreds of such dismounted men were collected in a useless crowd, which was dubbed “Company Q.” The second cause was the failure or inability of the Government to supply good arms and accouterments. Our breech-loading arms were nearly all captured from the enemy and the same may be said of the best of our saddles and bridles. From these causes, which were beyond the power of any commander to remedy, there was a steady decline in the numbers of the Confederate cavalry and, as compared with the Federal cavalry, a decline in efficiency.