Camp in the Tennessee mountains, 1863: a pleasant interlude for the western cavalryman.
The soldiers leaning on their sabers by the mountain path would have smiled in grim amusement at the suggestion that a life like theirs in “the merry greenwood” must be as care-free, picturesque, and delightful as the career of Robin Hood, according to old English ballads.
These raiders of 1863 could have drawn sharp contrasts between the beauty of the scene in this photograph — the bright sunshine dappling the trees, the mountain wind murmuring through the leaves, the horse with his box of fodder, the troopers at ease in the shade — and the hardships that became every-day matters with the cavalry commands whose paths led them up and down the arduous western frontier.
On such a pleasant summer day the Civil War photographer was able to make an exposure.
But the cavalryman's duty called at all hours and at all seasons; and the photographer could not portray the dreary night rides over rocks made slippery with rain, through forests hanging like a damp pall over the troopers rocking with sleep in their saddles, every moment likely to be awakened by the bark of the enemy's carbines.
It is undoubtedly true that there is something more dashing about the lot of a cavalryman, but on account of his greater mobility he was ordered over more territory and ran more frequent if not greater risks than the infantryman.
But this was the sort of day the cavalryman laughed and sang.
Though the storm-clouds and war-clouds, the cloud of death itself, lay waiting, the trooper's popular song ran: “If you want to have a good time, jine the cavalry.”