The Cavalry During The Civil War Essay

, Research Paper

The Cavalry During The Civil War

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The Civil War played a crucial role in American history. Many different types of soldiers

fought in this war, such as Cavalry soldiers, who fought on horseback. The Cavalry

played a strong role in the fighting and used many different weapons and tactics.

One type of Cavalry weapon was the revolver. Only one hand was needed in the firing

of this type of weapon. This was very important since the soldier’s other hand was

used to manage the horse. The Colt was the most popular brand of revolvers during the

war. The Army and the Navy were the two main models. The Army model was the most

popular of the Union Army. It was a six shot, .44 caliber revolver that weighed two

pounds. “This weapon accounted for 40% of all handguns bought by the Union

Ordinance Department” (Weapons of the Civil War 2). The Navy model was very similar

to the Army. It had a round barrel instead of an octagonal barrel and held .36 caliber

cartridges. “38,000 were produced during The Civil War and 15,000 of those were

produced within the Confederacy” (Weapons of the Civil War 2).

The most famous foreign pistol of the war was The Le Mat, produced by Dr. Le Mat in

France. It was unique in that it had two barrels, like a small shotgun. The upper barrel

shot .40 caliber rounds while the lower barrel shot .63 caliber rounds.

Starr was the third largest producer of revolvers. Starr was known for it’s six shot

double action revolver that weighed three pounds and was used mainly by the Union

soldiers. It was very convenient because it held combustible cartridges and could also

be fired by the old ball and powder method. Since Colt had a patent on its firing

procedure Starr was forced into coming up with its own. To fire this pistol a soldier

would pull the trigger, which unlocks then rotates a hammer that then snaps back and

fires the cartridge.

Another company was Savage, which produced the well-known “Figure of Eight” which

had a very odd shape. “11000 were bought by The Union” (Commager 284). After it’s

trigger was pulled the cylinder would be cranked forward to make a gas tight joint with

the barrel prior to its firing.

The next most popular to The Colt was The Remington. Popularity is not everything

though, some experts believe the Remington was better mechanically. Remington made

two models, an Army and a Navy. The Army was .44 caliber’s while the Navy was .36.

“125,000 were bought total in the Union” (Commager 283). That amount was only

limited by the amount actually produced.

The next type of weapon used was the Carbine Rifle. These rifles were made for

mounted troops, like the Cavalry. These guns had short barrels for easy handling. They

were also made to be able to be loaded on a moving horse. In addition, they held

moisture proof cartridges that were much better than paper. One brand was Spencer.

This company sold their carbines to the Union and rarely was found in the South. This

company’s cartridges were especially good because they were built in primer and

became more durable and waterproof. Spencer’s rifle could also be a rapid-fire weapon.

“The best soldiers could shoot fourteen rounds per minute” (Weapons of the Civil War


Another popular brand was Sharps. 80,000 were produced during the war. This gun had

a unique shot process. Before the trigger was pulled a block was lowered and a paper

cartridge was released into a chamber. When the block closed the paper was slit

exposing the gunpowder. Then, when the trigger was pulled, it would snap back into a

percussion cap, which produced a flame that passed into a vent and struck the

exposed powder.

The last type of weapon used by a Cavalry soldier was a saber. This was a type of

sword, deadly in the hands of a trained soldier. In the early years of the war many

soldiers were untrained though and many horses of untrained masters lost ears. These

sabers had either a 42-inch or 36 inch blade. “Out of 250,000 total people wounded in

Union hospitals approximately 922 were due to saber wounds” (Boatner 260). This

weapon did become useless in the later years of the war due to modern rapid-fire


The cavalry had many uses in the war. One use was observing and reporting

information about the enemy. This was a job given to the cavalry because they could

get back and forth the quickest because of the horses’ speed. Another job was

screening the movements of their own force so that the enemy could not see what

they were doing. Also, they always remained a constant threat to the opposing Army’s

rear. Other jobs were striking suddenly at detected weak points and turning exposed

flanks. The last job was pursuing and demoralizing a defeated enemy.

The Civil War Cavalry used many different weapons and tactics. The Cavalry was the

most expensive branch, but the importance of it overrode any costs. These mounted

soldiers played a strong role in the warfare of their day and helped both the North and

the South to win battles.


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