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October 3, 2022

Civil War Faces: Vintage Photos of Cavalry Soldiers in the 1860s

The American Civil War saw cavalry tactics move largely away from the offensive towards the defensive, with the emphasis on screening, raiding, and reconnaissance. Development of the rifled musket had also rendered the cavalry charge both impractical and detrimental.

In the first half of the war, the Confederates enjoyed the advantage in cavalry, as southern men were more accustomed to the riding and shooting life, and most of the experienced cavalry officers from the regular army had chosen to side with the Confederacy.

By the second half, from 1863 onward, the Union Army had gained an equal cavalry capability, through Benjamin Grierson’s brilliant deception tactics in the Mississippi valley, and Philip Sheridan's aggressive movements, while in command of the Army of the Shenandoah at the end of the war in Virginia.

Cavalry units proved highly expensive to maintain, and unscrupulous agents would often exploit shortages by supplying defective animals at exorbitant prices. Here is a set of vintage photos from The Library of Congress that shows portraits of cavalry soldiers during American Civil War.

Unidentified soldiers of 5th Ohio Cavalry Company with horses and mountain howitzer, 1861

John E. Cummins of the 50th, 99th, and 185th Ohio Infantry regiments in Union uniform next to a horse, 1861-65

Private Levi F. Hocker of Co. F, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, in uniform with pistol and sword, on horseback, 1862-65

Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms; African American soldier on left in frock coat and slouch hat; soldier on right sitting on horse and wearing shell jacket and slouch hat, 1863-65

Unidentified cavalry soldier in Union uniform with saber, revolver, and cap box atop horse with saddlebags in front of boots, shoes, and gloves shop, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union cavalry uniform, on horse, with cavalry saber, in front of encampment with winter chimneys, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union first lieutenant's uniform and kepi with cavalry saber atop horse in front of fence, building, and woods, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union officer's uniform on horse, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union sergeant's uniform with sword seated on a horse, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform atop horse blowing bugle while unsheathing sword, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform sitting on horse with revolver and saber, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with cavalry saber standing next to horse fitted with McClellan saddle, 1861-65

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with saber and horse, 1861-65


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