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Thread: Symposium on US Cavalry from ACW to WWI held by Army War College

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Symposium on US Cavalry from ACW to WWI held by Army War College

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1VoauPESPw

    Lecture by Dr. John Bronin, Colonel (retired), US Army. Enjoy!
    Last edited by Triple C; 23 Dec 14, at 18:31.
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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Interesting lecture.


    Dat 1950s racism...
    Last edited by troung; 28 Dec 14, at 17:38.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple C View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1VoauPESPw

    Lecture by Dr. John Bronin, Colonel (retired), US Army. Enjoy!
    John and Mike both regularly speak to my class. Hope you guys enjoyed the video.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    It's interesting that many commentators (not of the conference) assert that the cavalry arm was rendered ineffectual by rifles in the American Civil War, even though cavalry plainly had a huge impact as both a raiding/recon force and a "mobile striking arm" capable of destroying large formations.
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    Triple C,

    Other than Van Dorn at Holly Springs, Grierson at Vicksburg and Walker at Chattanooga, where in the American Civil War did raiding have a signifiant impact on combat operations?

    What did Price's 1864 Raid accomplish other than losing men & horses?

    Raids normally had short term gains but no long term impacts. Recon/Counter Recon was a valid mission for the entire war. And many of the "great" raids stripped the force commander of his eyes and ears....see Lee at Gettysburg and Grant in the Overland Campaign.

    And for every Cedar Creek or Selma I can show you dozens of examples of cavalry charging lines of Infantry was suicidal.

    Cavalry offered tactical and limited operational maneuverability...but then both sides dismounted to fight effectively.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Triple C,

    Other than Van Dorn at Holly Springs, Grierson at Vicksburg and Walker at Chattanooga, where in the American Civil War did raiding have a signifiant impact on combat operations?

    What did Price's 1864 Raid accomplish other than losing men & horses?

    Raids normally had short term gains but no long term impacts. Recon/Counter Recon was a valid mission for the entire war. And many of the "great" raids stripped the force commander of his eyes and ears....see Lee at Gettysburg and Grant in the Overland Campaign.

    And for every Cedar Creek or Selma I can show you dozens of examples of cavalry charging lines of Infantry was suicidal.

    Cavalry offered tactical and limited operational maneuverability...but then both sides dismounted to fight effectively.
    Albany (and others more learned on this subject), what is your opinion in regards to Grant's use of Cavalry in the Overland? I am somewhat conflicted. On the one hand Grant's lack of cavalry to screen his movements resulted in Warren and his 5th Corp blundering into an enemy of unknown strength at the Wilderness while also helping to prevent the AotP from getting to Spottsylvania Courthouse first. On the other hand was not one of the primary purposes of the majority of the AotP cavalry conducting raids to keep Stuart and his cavalry out of the way so to speak? Do you think that the AotP cavalry raids in the Overland deprived Lee of his eyes and ears and kept the ANV cavalry tied up sufficiently and if so was it worth it for Grant to lose his eyes and ears while also doing the same to Lee, or were the raids a waste of men, time, material that hurt more than helped?

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    AR, point well taken. It seems however that the cavalry mission was far from dead. When deployed appropriately they could fight as a high mobility arm that is capable of winning tactical or even operational results, like when Sheridan fought in Saylor's Creek or Wilson's Raid in Alabama. It appears that corps-size cavalry units can give effective pursuit to a retreating army and help with crafting encirclements.

    Jimbo, I think the criticism is that, if the object was to deny the Confederates cavalry their ability to gather information and disrupt their small level attacks on Union lines of communications, there were more effective ways to do it that didn't involve robbing Grant of his eyes and ears. And there were several reconnaissance battles that Sheridan lost where the Confederates did obtain the intelligence they rode out to get.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Albany (and others more learned on this subject), what is your opinion in regards to Grant's use of Cavalry in the Overland? I am somewhat conflicted. On the one hand Grant's lack of cavalry to screen his movements resulted in Warren and his 5th Corp blundering into an enemy of unknown strength at the Wilderness while also helping to prevent the AotP from getting to Spottsylvania Courthouse first. On the other hand was not one of the primary purposes of the majority of the AotP cavalry conducting raids to keep Stuart and his cavalry out of the way so to speak? Do you think that the AotP cavalry raids in the Overland deprived Lee of his eyes and ears and kept the ANV cavalry tied up sufficiently and if so was it worth it for Grant to lose his eyes and ears while also doing the same to Lee, or were the raids a waste of men, time, material that hurt more than helped?
    Jimbo,

    The cavalry was part of the AoP and not Grant's per se. What you saw at the Wilderness was the fact that Wilson was new to cavalry command and blew his assignment by going too far. Wilson was one of two generals that Grant brought out east (Sheridan was the second, and both had been infantry commanders). For the approach march to Spotsylvania, this was part of the growing pains of a new command team (Grant as the general-in-chief and Sheridan as the AoP cavalry commander). Sheridan's vision of being in today's terms a heavy cav vs. a light cav and orders "passing in the night" due to battlefield circulation set the stage for the delay at Todd's Tavern, although the burning woods also helped in allowing Anderson's corps to barely win the race. Next, Grant's decision to "encourage" Meade to allow Sheridan to "whip [Stuart]" was a mistake. Infantry reconnaissance was too slow to allow foot soldiers to mass and then exploit intelligence. Given that the U.S. Army had an advantage in numbers and the goal was the offense enroute to the destruction of the Confederate Army, the lack of cavalry hurt the AoP.

    However, by Cold Harbor, the cavalry was ready to be more nimbly employed under Sheridan's personality / the heavy cav role, and by the Valley Campaign, they had created a combined arms team that would develop the TTPs that would successfully crack Lee's lines at Petersburg with Five Forks in April 1865. It was the speed of this combined arms formation and Grant's decision to pursue Lee operationally rather than tactically that spelled victory at Appomattox Court House.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Shek,

    Where have I heard those words before?

    The antebellum US Cavalry were dragoons. See the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Dragoons in the Mexican War. That is how the US Army employed cavcalry in conventional combat. That is NOT how the cavalry was used in the intervening years in the Indian Wars.

    As for the cavalry of the AOP...in my opinion, it was horribly misorganized in MAR 1864. That Sheridan grew into a competent corps commander there is little doubt. But with the exception of the Yellow Tavern raid, he was bested by Hampton's cavalry time and again. Wilson was as taff officer with no cavalry experience; Torbert had comamndd the Jersey Brigade as an infantry officer. Between Sheridan, Wilson and Torbert, there was a total of 3 months of cavalry command time....Sheridan comamnded the 2d Michigan Cavalry Regiment for 3 months in the summer fo 1862.

    Who was overlooked in all of this reorganization was David McMurty Gregg. Gregg was an experienced cavalry commander who would serve well until he resigned in JAN 1865. I believe he would have been a much better choice as the corps commander over Sheridan. And I would have given Merritt & Custer diviosn commands earlier. Were I Grant I would have left Sheridan in the west and see that he got an Infantry Corps in the reorganized Army of the Cumberland.

    In one of the great 'what if's" of the Civil War, what would have happened to the cavalry arm if John Buford had not died of typhoid the previous December?

    I believe he would have ended up with the Corps.

    If you wish to know more I highly recommend Eric Wittenberg's extensive writings.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
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    Last edited by Triple C; 01 Jan 15, at 06:28. Reason: Found the answer with Google-Fu
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Shek,

    Where have I heard those words before?

    The antebellum US Cavalry were dragoons. See the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Dragoons in the Mexican War. That is how the US Army employed cavcalry in conventional combat. That is NOT how the cavalry was used in the intervening years in the Indian Wars.

    As for the cavalry of the AOP...in my opinion, it was horribly misorganized in MAR 1864. That Sheridan grew into a competent corps commander there is little doubt. But with the exception of the Yellow Tavern raid, he was bested by Hampton's cavalry time and again. Wilson was as taff officer with no cavalry experience; Torbert had comamndd the Jersey Brigade as an infantry officer. Between Sheridan, Wilson and Torbert, there was a total of 3 months of cavalry command time....Sheridan comamnded the 2d Michigan Cavalry Regiment for 3 months in the summer fo 1862.

    Who was overlooked in all of this reorganization was David McMurty Gregg. Gregg was an experienced cavalry commander who would serve well until he resigned in JAN 1865. I believe he would have been a much better choice as the corps commander over Sheridan. And I would have given Merritt & Custer diviosn commands earlier. Were I Grant I would have left Sheridan in the west and see that he got an Infantry Corps in the reorganized Army of the Cumberland.

    In one of the great 'what if's" of the Civil War, what would have happened to the cavalry arm if John Buford had not died of typhoid the previous December?

    I believe he would have ended up with the Corps.

    If you wish to know more I highly recommend Eric Wittenberg's extensive writings.

    Ah yes, Eric's works are on my to do reading list. He used to post on another forum I visit and his posts were very informative there. Shek, thanks for the reminder that the AotP was still under Meade, it is something that I too often forget with Grant staying so close.

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    Jimbo,

    "...that the AotP was still under Meade, it is something that I too often forget with Grant staying so close."

    No worries....its something Grant forgot from time to time as well!
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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