afoot, and the whole cavalry service rendered inefficient and almost useless.
As an evidence of the lack of discipline and of the ignorance of things military, which marked those early days of the cavalry service, it may be mentioned that many credulous troopers purchased so-called invulnerable vests, formed of thin steel plates and warranted by the makers to ward off a saber stroke or stop a leaden bullet.
Dents in the armor were pointed out as evidence of this remarkable quality.
Of course the vests were sooner or later discarded, but while retained they added about ten pounds to the burden of the already overloaded horse.
It is stated that the first time the Confederate
cavalrymen, who rode light, met some of these remarkably equipped troopers, they wondered with amazement whether the Union
horsemen were lifted into the saddle after the latter was packed, or whether the riders mounted first, and then had the numberless odds and ends of their equipment packed around them.
An anecdote is related of a humane Irish recruit, who, when he found his horse was unable to carry the heavy load allotted him, decided as an act of mercy to share the load with his charger.
So, unloading nearly a hundred pounds from the horse, he strapped the mass to his own broad shoulders; and remounting his steed, rode off, quite jubilant over his act of unselfishness.
But it did not take long for cavalrymen in the field to learn with how little equipment the soldier may live and fight efficiently, and with how much greater zest the horses can withstand the long marches when the load is cut down to the limit of actual needs.
There was danger then of the opposite extreme, and that absolutely necessary articles would be conveniently dropped and reported as “lost in action” or as “stolen.”
The net result, however, was that after one or two campaigns, the Federal
cavalrymen learned to travel light, and, better than anything else, learned that quality of discipline