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[330] carpenters, wagon-makers, wheelwrights, farriers, teamsters, and laborers in many departments.

The stables were long, well-lighted buildings with thousands of scrupulously clean stalls. From five to ten thousand horses were usually present at the depot, nearly evenly divided between serviceable and unserviceable classes — the latter class being again divided into convalescents and condemned animals. The condemned horses were those declared unfit for further military service, and unless afflicted with some incurable disability, were sold at public auction.

About fifty per cent. of the horses received from the field for recuperation were returned to active service, “fit for duty.” More than half of the remainder were recuperated sufficiently to be sold as condemned animals, while less than one-fourth of the unserviceable animals received, died at the depot or were killed to prevent further suffering.

The bane of the cavalry service of the Federal armies in the field was diseases of the feet. “Hoof-rot,” “grease-heel,” or the “scratches” followed in the wake of days and nights spent in mud, rain, snow, and exposure to cold, and caused thousands of otherwise serviceable horses to become useless for the time being.

Sore backs became common with the hardships of campaigning, and one of the first lessons taught the inexperienced trooper was to take better care of his horse than he did of himself. The remedy against recurrence of sore backs on horses was invariably to order the trooper to walk and lead the disabled animal. With a few such lessons, cavalry soldiers of but short service became most scrupulous in smoothing out wrinkles in saddle-blankets, in dismounting to walk steep hills, in giving frequent rests to their jaded animals, and when opportunity offered, in unsaddling and cooling the backs of their mounts after hours in the saddle. Poor forage, sudden changes of forage, and overfeeding produced almost as much sickness and physical disability as no forage at all.

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