Table of Contents:
The contemptuous manner in which Sheridan speaks of our cavalry in the Valley is sufficiently galling to our pride; yet, if we will be content to profit by the hint he gives us, we may well afford to endure his contempt for the time being. It is evident that the Yankees have discovered our weak point, and that that weak point is our so-called cavalry, or rather the mounted infantry that does duty under that name; for cavalry, properly so called, we have none. They have discovered it, and they have taken advantage of the discovery by attacking us upon it. We have not been able to resist the pressure, and have been twice defeated in consequence of it. But a year ago their horse was like ours, a mere body of mounted gunmen, trained to fire off their carbines and revolvers from their horses, or to dismount and fight, like sharpshooters, from behind stumps, bushes and trees. They have seen that a force of this kind can be dispersed by a body of genuine cavalry, trained to charge horse to horse and man to man, for, in many instances, they have no swords, and nothing else, to receive a charge. They have acted upon this discovery. They have trained a portion of their force as cavalry,--bona fide, charging, cavalry,--and they have beaten us already on two important occasions. Two years ago we endeavored to demonstrate the necessity of having some cavalry that knew how to charge with the sabre. We were not attended to, or we were answered that our country was of such a description that cavalry could not charge here.--The Yankees have shown the preposterous character of this objection by training men in the style we proposed and by beating our mounted gunmen with it. That question is, therefore, settled. We must have cavalry, real cavalry, to confront the Yankees, if we do not wish to be beaten in every battle. It is late in the day to begin to provide ourselves; but we must have it, and the sooner we set about it the better. In the first place, we want a man who is capable of making a great cavalry officer himself; one who has the electric spark in him, and who can communicate it to his men; one who can head a charge amidst helmets cleft and sabres clashing. We have such a man in Hampton. We believe him, in fact, to be the very man to place at the head of a revolution in our tactics such as is absolutely necessary if we do not wish to be everlastingly defeated. In the second place, the Government must own the horses. Two years ago we pointed out the enormous error of trusting to the uncertain expedient of every man keeping himself provided with a horse. It has now been found to fail completely. It has already cost the Government more than it would have done to furnish horses out of the Treasury, and it has added so greatly to the list of desertions — leading, as it does, constantly to horse details — that the whole country unites in out against it. In the third place, those mounted troops which have been beaten so constantly in the Valley should be dismounted and distributed among the infantry regiments. In their place, men should be selected from the other branches of the service and thoroughly drilled to the use of the sabre' and the manner of charging with it. It is impossible to depend on troops who have been so often stampeded. Lastly, we should have camps of instruction for the cavalry, with men who thoroughly understand the use of the sword for instructors. In the ranks of our army, men, out of number, may be found who are capable of teaching the broadsword exercise. A dozen or so of those men could instruct a class of say a hundred, and these could each instruct a certain number, and so forth, until the whole body could be instructed. We believe all we have here said to be absolutely necessary, and that it has been shown to be so by recent events. It is still necessary to have mounted infantry; but their numbers must be greatly reduced. We have the finest horsemen in the world, and yet we have not had a charge of cavalry from the beginning of the war; and now the Yankees, who are the worst riders in the world, are routing our horsemen in every encounter. It is because our cavalry want wrong at first, not from their fault, but from the fault of others. It is important to have for officers men who understand the use of the sword, and who know how to drill the cavalry as cavalry ought to be drilled.--We understand that we have not one cavalry officer in twenty who can defend himself with his sword if attacked. This must not be any longer. Our officers must be taught to use the sword, and to drill as well as lead their men in the close and deadly charge, or they must be exchanged for other officers who can do it, or who at least can learn; or lastly, we must calculate on being shamefully beaten in every battle.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.