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This page is dedicated to images of cavalry leaders who proved to be important to the outcome of the war.
Inevitably there will be disagreement over who should be on this page. These men may have been the subjects of the VIP page, or they may figure prominently in the histories of the host units. Lesser known, but equally important, cavalry leaders can be found inside the Complete Site. Use your back button. Updated on June, 2006.

Federal Cavalry Commanders:
Federal Cavalry Commander Philip H Sheridan (1831-1888) [on the left] with some of his young Cavalry Generals
  • James W. Forsyth
  • Wesley Merritt
  • Thomas C. Devin
  • George A. Custer [on the right].
  • Philip St. George Cooke - "The Father of the United States Cavalry" (1809-1895)
    The tactical master of modern 19th-century mounted forces was Philip St. George Cooke. Cooke wrote a cavalry tactics manual just prior to the Civil War that became the training and fighting textbook for American troopers from both sides. Cooke's manual would be used in conjunction with an instruction manual titled "Instructions for Officers on Outpost and Patrol Duty," required reading for all cavalry officers as early as September 1861.

    General John Buford, USA (1826-1863)
    On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg only the Cavalry of Buford's command was available to make a stand against the oncoming Confederates. Buford dismounted his cavalrymen, positioned his horse artillery, and kept the Confederates from occuppying the high ground south of the town. Many historians consider Buford's holding action on the first day to have been the key to the battle for the Federals. Buford was portrayed by Sam Elliott in the movie "Gettysburg."
    General Wade Hampton, CSA (1818-1902)

    General Wade Hampton is our VIP Mounted History subject of the month. Enter the Cavalry Home page entrance to learn more about him, OR CLICK ON HIS IMAGE AT THE RIGHT. The book is available on Kindle.

    By any measure the choice of Wade Hampton as Stuart's replacement as Cavalry Corps Commander in 1864 was inspired. As Stuart was very nearly the perfect leader in the days of attack, so Hampton was almost perfectly fitted to command in the days of defense. Although Hampton was a frequent and successful hand-to-hand combatant, he brought to the position of corps commander a practical knowledge of some of the changes that were taking place in the tactics of cavalry warfare. He also immediately showed a willingness to incorporate these ideas into his operations. After 1864 Hampton's horsemen would fight dismounted so often that his opponents frequently thought that he had infantry support. In dismounted fighting, performed skirmish style and from cover, muzzle loaders and smaller numbers of troops were not at such a great disadvantage against Federals with repeating weapons. His greatest victory was the Battle of Trevilian Station where these tactics helped him outfight a more numerous opponent.


    Confederate Cavalry Corps Commander James Ewell Brown [JEB] Stuart, (1833-1864)

    It can be argued that Stuart was the finest cavalry commander of the war. He rode around the Federal Army three times during the course of the war. On the 1863 raid, he failed to meet with General Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, PA, and has been held responsible, by some historians, for Lee's defeat. He was killed at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864 by a pistol bullet fired by Private John A. Huff of Co. E, 5th Michigan Cavalry. His loss was a blow to the South.
    General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA, (1821-1877)

    Uneducated but not illiterate, Nathan Bedford Forrest was a natural tactician who earned the praise of his enemies. Both Grant and Sherman feared this man ("that devil Forrest") who entered the Confederate forces a private and left a general. The stories of him are legend. Historian Shelby Foote noted, "In his first fight... the forty year old Forrest improvised a double envelopment, combined it with a frontal assault -- classic maneuvers which he could not identify by name and of which he had most likely never heard." Forrest is said to have killed more men in single combat (26) than any other general officer of the Civil War. He had 29 horses shot out from under him in battle. His unfortunate involvement in the massacre of Black Federal soldiers at Fort Pillow and his founding of the Klan have considerably tarnished his well-deserved military reputation.

    Cavalry Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. General Alfred Pleasonton, USA (1824-1897)
    A graduate of West Point in 1844, Pleasonton served in the Mexican War and on frontier duty.
    In August 1861 he was a Captain in the 2nd US Cavalry. He was promoted Major for the Peninsula campaign, and in July 1862 was appointed Brig. Gen. of Volunteers. He commanded 2nd Bde./Cavalry Divn. of Army of the Potomac, commanded the Cavalry Corps at South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and commanded 1st Divn./Cavalry Corps at Chancellorsville. In June 1863 he was promoted Maj. Gen. of Volunteers and commanded the Cavalry Corps at Brandy Station and in the Gettysburg campaign. While in command of the District of St Louis he suppressed Scott Price's raid and ended all resistance west of the Mississippi. He resigned in 1868.
    Brevet Brigadier General George A. Custer, USA (1836-1876)

    Custer graduated West Point in 1861 and immediately entered war service. As a Lieutenant he carried despatches at First Bull Run, served on the staffs of McClellan and Pleasonton, and distinguished himself at the battle at Aldie. In June 1863 he was appointed Brevet Brig. Gen. of Volunteers in command of 2nd Bde/3rd Divn/Cavalry Corps. He fought an important action against Stuart in the Gettysburg campaign, was at Yellow Tavern and Trevilian Station. He commanded the 3rd Cavalry Divn in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, Fisher's Hill, and Five Forks. It was Custer's men who cut off the Army of North Virginia's last escape route at Appotomattox. In April 1865 he was promoted Brevet Maj. Gen. of Volunteers, but reverted to his permanent rank of Lt. Colonel after the war. He died fighting indians at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.


    Major General Thomas L. Rosser, CSA (1836-1910)

    Rosser entered West Point in 1856, but resigned before graduation in April 1861 in order to join the Confederate Army as an artillery instructor with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He fought at First Manassas and in the Peninsula campaign. In May 1862 he became Colonel of 5th Virginia Cavalry. He was wounded at Mechanicsville and in September 1863 was promoted Brig. General in command of the Laurel Brigade which contained many of the best cavalry regiments in the south. He fought in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign and was made Maj. General. He raided into West Virginia for the rest of 1864-1865, and escaped the surrender at Appomattox.

    Maj. General George Stoneman, USA (1822-1894)

    Stoneman graduated West Point in 1846, served in the Mexican War and the Indian wars. In May 1861 he was a Major in the 1st US Cavalry. He served on McClellan's staff in West Virginia and as chief of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac. In August 1861 he was appointed Brig. Gen. of Volunteers for the Peninsula campaign. He commanded II Corps at Fredericksburg. Promoted Maj. Gen. of Volunteers, he led a cavalry raid that cut Lee's rail lines during the Chancellorsville campaign. He was later chief of the Cavalry Bureau in Washington and commanded the cavalry in the XXIII Corps in the West. He was captured during a raid in July 1864, exchanged after 3 months, commanded the Dist. of East Tennessee. In Spring 1865 he raided in North Carolina and southwest Virginia. This raid was a powerful one meant to destroy rather than fight battles. A force of 6,000 men destroyed uncountable tons of supplies and miles of railroad tracks, shocked the local citizens with the reality of war, traveled more than 600 miles through enemy territory, and assisted in the capture of Jefferson Davis.

    Stoneman, one historian appraised, had utilized the slash and burn methods of Gen. Wm. T. Sherman in a "splendidly conceived, ably executed attack upon the war potential and the civilian population of the South." Another wrote, "Even as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, a vengeful Union cavalry horde... made southern civilians pay dearly for the war." Stoneman's raid was a last brutal lesson in the concept of total war whose aim was to demoralize an already beaten people.


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