Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Cavalry Soldier


The cavalry soldier is apt to look with some contempt as he rides by the weary footman carrying his knapsack; but he should bear in mind how much he is dependent upon him, and how much of the confidence with which he rides to the front is due to the staunch columns of infantry he leaves in his rear, and how soon he may be compelled to seek refuge from the enemy’s sharpshooters and artillery in the rear of the same columns of infantry.

A cavalry soldier should not exceed in weight one hundred and sixty pounds, should be active and strong, physically sound, with a natural fondness for horses and experience in handling them. His duties are more arduous and severe than those of the footman. His first care should be his horse at all times. The two are inseparable, and one is of little account without the other. A dismounted cavalry soldier, leading a broken-down horse and trudging wearily along in the rear of the column, is a pitiable and ridiculous sight; whilst the perfect cavalry soldier, neatly dressed, arms and accoutrements in perfect order, his horse well fed and thoroughly groomed, and riding with ease, grace, and self-possession, is always an object of admiration.

The general duties of the cavalry soldier are the same as those of the infantry soldier, varying only on account of his horse and the difference in the character of the service.

Great care and attention are necessary to keep the horse in condition for service. The following hints are offered: —

The horse should always be used moderately, having much additional weight to carry. The habitual gait of cavalry is a walk, and it should not be increased, unless necessary or acting under orders.

Horses should never be watered or fed when heated, nor should they be used violently.

Immediately after watering or feeding. Heating food, such as corn or wheat, should not be fed in large quantities at a time, but divided into two or more feeds; and this is particularly necessary when hay or grass is scarce. They should be fed salt two or three times a week.

The horse should be carefully groomed. When heated, in cold or chilly weather, particularly in the open air, if required to stand still he should have a blanket thrown over him until he is cool; nor should he be washed or drenched with water, except when cool. If covered with mud, it is better to let it remain until the horse is dry, and then let him be groomed as soon as he is dry: it should not be permitted to remain any longer than necessary. If the mud is rubbed off when wet, it causes the sand to be rubbed into the skin, and is much more difficult to remove afterwards.

The back should always be examined after riding. Any evidence of soreness should be arrested by a judicious folding of blanket and care in adjusting the saddle, by shortening or lengthening the crupper. Any swelling or scalding from the saddle should be frequently washed in cold water, to check inflammation.

When halting on the march, horses have a disposition to roll, that frequently injures the saddle and accoutrements. This may be in a great measure prevented by removing the saddle and rubbing the horse’s back with currycomb, brush, or a whisp of straw or twigs. During such halts, every opportunity to let the horse graze a little, or feeding him on a handful of hay or grass, or other feed, gathered by the way, should not be neglected: the horse’s stomach is small in proportion to his size, and such care of him will keep him in good condition where without it he would break down.

When a horse gets sick, the veterinary surgeon should at once be consulted. Soldiers are not permitted to prescribe for their horses without permission from their company commanders.

The horse has been found to be demoralizing to the habits of the soldier. The cavalry service removes the cavalry-man more from the immediate control of his officers; he is enabled soon to become more familiar with the surrounding country, on his duties as messenger, orderly, foraging, reconnoitering, picket and outpost duty, his temptations to straggle and commit depredations are much greater, the chances of detection are less, and the violation of orders is attended with much less personal fatigue and inconvenience; and hence the irregularities peculiar to the cavalry service.

Cavalry-men, however, should bear in mind that these facilities are no excuse for misdemeanors or irregularities; and every soldier should have the interests of his own corps too much at heart to aid or abet in misconduct that gives to his arm of service such a disagreeable notoriety. He should labor to give his own corps as high a reputation for good conduct as the foot-soldier. He should not allow himself to be excelled in propriety by the infantry-man.

The arms and accoutrements of cavalry, being more numerous and subject to more wear and tear, require more labor and attention than those of infantry, but should not for that reason be any more neglected. This care is equally important, and the beneficial results of cleanliness and order are quite as satisfactory, as in any other arm.

Every article that is issued to the man has its use and importance. The articles should be frequently overhauled, and kept in repair. The sabre should be kept sharp, the arms clean and in order, the ammunition close and compact, to prevent rubbing, and secure against moisture. The straps should be kept repaired, well cleaned and oiled. The nose-bag and lariat-rope are not sufficiently appreciated. The health of the horse is dependent upon his being taught to eat his feed from the nose-bag, as feeding from the ground causes the horse to take up with his food great quantities of gravel and sand, thereby injuring his digestion. The lariat-rope is important for the purposes of forage— either for the transportation of forage, or picketing the horse out at night to enable him to graze, the opportunity for which should never be neglected.

An important article is a forage-bag, made like a saddle-bag with a slit in it. It should be at least a yard long and a foot wide, in which to carry one or two feeds, so that accident or delay will not deprive the horse of his regular feed. It can be readily made by any soldier out of an ordinary grain-sack.

Source August V. Kautz, Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1865), 55-60.


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