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"Best ACW Battlefield Cavalry Commander?" Topic

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04 Apr 2018 2:50 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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930 hits since 15 Sep 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian15 Sep 2017 9:24 p.m. PST

Who was the best commander of cavalry on the battlefield?

BW195916 Sep 2017 3:45 a.m. PST

John Buford, his actions at Gettysburg were excellent and he never lost sight of the main objective. He wasn't one to go off seeking glory.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 4:54 a.m. PST


beausant Inactive Member16 Sep 2017 5:14 a.m. PST


M C MonkeyDew16 Sep 2017 5:18 a.m. PST


cavcrazy16 Sep 2017 5:33 a.m. PST

In the heat of battle, it is Custer.

Ferd4523116 Sep 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

Wade Hampton -but it breaks my heart to admit that.

Onomarchos Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 7:03 a.m. PST

Buford at the Division level. Most would pick Sheridan as the best Corps commander, but I believe James Wilson and Forrest were even better.

Lots of great Brigade level commanders … hard to pick the best.


foxweasel16 Sep 2017 8:17 a.m. PST

Forrest, only because he's got a cool name "that devil Forrest!"

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian16 Sep 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

Another vote for Wilson

donlowry16 Sep 2017 8:38 a.m. PST

Custer if you mean "real" cavalry, fighting mounted (mostly); Forrest if you include mounted infantry.

Trajanus16 Sep 2017 8:42 a.m. PST

As always its a matter of how you define "best" and at what level of command you are talking about.

However, I'd put a vote in for Thomas L. Rosser who always seemed to get his Brigade in the right place at the right time and make life difficult for more numerous and better equipped AoP units.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Another related question might be: " what was the single best handling of cavalry during any battle or Campaign of the ACW?"

It go with Buford for the battle -'Gettysburg

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 10:36 a.m. PST

Mounted troops as a catch-all? Wilder, especially at Hoover's Gap and Chickamauga.

John Miller Inactive Member16 Sep 2017 12:33 p.m. PST

Custer. John Miller

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 2:36 p.m. PST



Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2017 3:39 p.m. PST

Another vote for Forrest.

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 4:04 a.m. PST


Personal logo Dances with Clydesdales Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 8:17 a.m. PST


Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 8:53 a.m. PST


donlowry17 Sep 2017 9:20 a.m. PST

I'd put a vote in for Thomas L. Rosser

Custer routed his old friend (from West Point) Rosser -- I believe it was at the Opequoan (3rd Winchester) wasn't it?

blwestern17 Sep 2017 3:14 p.m. PST


Wolverine17 Sep 2017 7:05 p.m. PST

Don, that would be the Battle of Tom's Brook, VA. Fought October 9, 1864.

Another vote for Custer.

Normal Guy17 Sep 2017 8:11 p.m. PST

A year or so ago, my son Thomas, a couple of friends, and I toured the Sones River National Battlefield. We had a chance encounter with Jim Lewis, the Park Historian and writer of the "Blue & Gray" magazine issue, Volume XXVIII, #6, issue dedicated to Stones River. When we asked him about the Confederate Cavalary in the West he said that you had to make a very clear distinction, that the commanders out there were more raiders than cavalry that was doing what cavalry were supposed to do. That has certainly changed the way i look at that. With that in mind, I would probably lean toward George Armstrong Custer.

Bill N17 Sep 2017 11:09 p.m. PST

The use of cavalry fighting as a mounted shock force on a traditional battlefield was not that common during the ACW. If that is the question there is a good argument for Custer. If the question was intended to be broader than that, Custer is not even close.

donlowry18 Sep 2017 9:09 a.m. PST

Phil Sheridan said, "Custer is the ablest man in the Cavalry Corps." Not a bad endorsement.

donlowry18 Sep 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

Normal Guy: David Powell's book Failure in the Saddle illustrates your point, showing that Wheeler and Forrest were not geared to the roll of screening the army and reconnoitering the enemy. But on the battlefield (the original question) Forrest was quite good; he was also excellent at raiding. Wheeler wasn't even all that good at that.

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

I voted for Custer and still stand by that.

However, I am surprised that no one said J.E.B. Stuart.


Bill N18 Sep 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

I would suggest Tom it may in part be due to the difference between being best cavalry battlefield commander and being best overall cavalry commander. Stuart beats Custer in my overalls, but so do other cavalry commanders.

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2017 5:44 a.m. PST

Thanks for the comments in reply, Bill.


KimRYoung Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2017 6:14 a.m. PST

Tom and Bill,

I can go with JEB. His poor showing at Gettysburg should not take away from an otherwise stellar performance in command.

JEB's performance at Chancellorsville when he took over command of Jackson's Corp showed he was more than capable of handling large infantry formations as well as cavalry.

In fact he was lobbing to be given a promotion to that position after Jackson's death and may very well have been a better choice then what Lee made considering how poor Ewell and AP Hill performed at Gettysburg.

He was also outstanding protecting the CSA left flank at Antietam and their right flank at Fredericksburg and showed skill in handling artillery as well.

John Sedgwick, said that Stuart was "the greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America."

Only Phil Sheridan showed the same capability to command large cavalry or infantry formations with the same effectiveness.


donlowry19 Sep 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

Yes, the question concerned performance on the battlefield, not overall. On that basis, I stand by my votes for Custer and Forrest.

Some generals were good at one level but not at others. For instance, J. H. Wilson, while nothing special as a brigade or division commander, proved to be an excellent corps commander.

Hampton was pretty darn good at all three levels.

Blutarski19 Sep 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

It is tough making a comparison such as this. The Union cavalry started well behind the curve at the beginning of the war (especially so in the East) due to the lack of men with the necessary horsemanship and husbandry skills and to the relative lack of horses suitable for cavalry operations.

On the other hand, a now seasoned Union cavalry arm had not only learned its lessons well by 1863, but was being rapidly outfitted with breech-loading shoulder arms soon to be followed up with efficient repeaters, which made it by far the best armed cavalry on the battlefield fully capable of taking on infantry units toward the end of the war.

These factors should be taken into account when weighing the accomplishments of the various cavalry commanders.

Strictly my opinion, of course.


Normal Guy19 Sep 2017 11:39 a.m. PST

Donlowry is correct about David Powell's book, "Failure in the Saddle". It is very well done about a topic that is not discussed much.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2017 3:12 p.m. PST


Clays Russians21 Sep 2017 6:27 a.m. PST


John Miller Inactive Member21 Sep 2017 5:31 p.m. PST

Well, I was remiss in my comment it seems. As called to my attention above, I certainly should have included that most dashing of cavaliers, JEB Stuart, along with Custer on my list of my opinion of best cavalry commanders on a battlefield. Genr'l Stuart, my apologies Suh!

John Miller

Old Pete21 Sep 2017 6:44 p.m. PST

Stuart for the south and Buford for the North.

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