During the first two years of the Civil War
, the Federal
cavalry was subordinated in every way to its true role, and one of the common mistakes in those early days of the war was to use cavalry with infantry support, so that the latter used to shout derisively: “There's going to be a fight, boys!
The cavalry's coming back!”
One of the early cavalry actions which excited attention, took place during the Peninsula
campaign, at the close of the battle of Gaines' Mill
, June 27, 1862. General Fitz John Porter
with his Fifth Corps was covering the communications of the Army of the Potomac on the Chickahominy
line with the base at White House Landing
on the Pamunkey
The Confederate army had made four desperate assaults on the Union
lines, and every available infantryman had been brought into action, so that there was not a single reserve in rear of the line of battle, save the cavalry and some artillery.
The day was fast drawing to a close, when the Confederates
made a final effort to force Porter
's left flank and cut it off from the bridge.
The cavalry commander, General P. St. George Cooke
, directed the artillery to hold its precarious position, and ordered Captain Whiting
, commanding the Fifth United States Cavalry, to charge the advancing infantry.
Numbering but two hundred and twenty sabers, the little force moved out under heavy fire, and striking the foe intact with a portion of its line, the charging troopers were only stopped by the woods at the bottom of the slope.
The casualties of the charging force were fifty-five, with twenty-four