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"Confederate Cavalry Weapons 1863-64" Topic

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Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2020 8:39 a.m. PST

Ryan T's great response to the posting by Trajanus on Federal cavalry armament on Sheridan's Richmond raid, link motivated me to post my rather random notes on Confederate cavalry weapons in the Eastern theater during the period 1863-1864. These are all rather disjointed.

Generally it seems that at least during the Gettysburg campaign few CS cavalry units would have had anything like every man armed with a shoulder weapon. I get the idea that those carbines and muskets they did have were usually used to arm what they termed sharpshooters who would be in one or two companies. There were exceptions, of course. A few are noted below.

If anyone has any more information on this topic, it would be most appreciated.

Jenkins' CSA cavalry brigade armed with short English Enfield rifles, sabers and pistols. Nye, Here Come the Rebels, p. 145; Brooke Rawle, "The Cavalry Fight on the Right Flank at Gettysburg", in Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, p. 828

Most of Jenkins' men were armed with Enfield rifles and pistols. Longacre, The Cavalry at Gettysburg, p. 94

At Gettysburg, the 34th Virginia cavalry Battalion, like much of Jenkins Brigade, was armed with the US 1841 Mississippi rifle and some confederate Richmonds and Enfields, plus revolvers instead of carbines, pistols, and sabers. Nosworthy, Roll Call to Destiny, p. 172

CSA. Breech loading carbines were only in limited quantities, never more than enough to arm one, or at most two squadrons in a regiment. The deficiency was made up, generally, by Enfield rifles. Robertson's two North Carolina regiments which joined Stuart in May, 63, were armed with sabres and Enfield rifles. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J.E.B. Stuart, p 260.

Fleetwood Hill. 13th VA Cavalry had at least three squadrons dismounted. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J.E.B. Stuart, p 283

Fleetwood hill. Munford arrived with the first, second, and third regiments of Virginia cavalry. He utilized three squadrons of sharpshooters from those regiments. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J.E.B. Stuart, page 283

Stevensburg. 2nd SC had at least some Enfields. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J.E.B. Stuart, page 286.

Aldie. 2nd and 3rd VA Cavalry each dismounted a squadron of sharpshooters. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J.E.B. Stuart, page 299

Stevensburg. 4th VA Cavalry dismounted all but two squadrons. How many squadrons did it have? How were they armed? Wittenberg, The Battle of Brandy Station, p. 172.

Pistols. At Aldie it appears that Confederates dismounted on each side of the Snickersville Pike and fired into the Federal column in combat on the pike. As their sharpshooter squadrons had already been dismounted elsewhere, they were probably firing pistols.

1864 Shenandoah. Early: "Lomax's cavalry is armed entirely with rifles and has no sabres and in consequence they cannot fight on horseback, and in this open country they cannot successfully fight on foot against large bodies of cavalry…" Crowninshield, A History of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers, p. 28

CSA Cavalry arms. The Confederate, instead of arming the entire regiment with rifles or carbines, had sharpshooter companies, thus leaving a part of the regiment with only pistol and carbine (sic?). Until towards the end of 1863, their carbines and rifles were muzzle-loading. By that time they had captured enough breech-loaders to largely arm their reduced numbers with them. Crowninshield , A History of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers, page 35.

CS Cavalry arms. They were armed with sabres of all sorts…They had usually Colt's revolvers…They had sharpshooter companies in a regiment, often two, while the balance of the companies was armed with pistols and sabres. Some of their regiments had English Enfield carbines, and some were armed with a carbine made in Richmond, like a short Springfield rifle, made to sling; while some had long rifles slung across the shoulders. The carbines were, in 1862, the Smith – a poor weapon- condemned in February, 1863, and replaced by the Sharps, which was the weapon in most general use in the United States cavalry. Crowninshield, A History of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers, p. 295.

CSA Cavalry weapons. The Richmond made breechloader carbine was not accepted by the men as the first ones received in March 1863 had a high percentage burst. Lee asked that muzzle loading carbines be manufactured. Rifles were to be provided to a number of cavalrymen. Few were issued and those that were had been returned or thrown away. They were a major encumbrance for mounted troops and made the men feel they were mounted infantry, not cavalry. Trout, After Gettysburg, p105, n 28.

Richmond carbines received by four companies of the Third Virginia Cavalry on or about September 26, 1863. Trout After Gettysburg, p. 163.

Aldie. The CS sharpshooters behind the stone wall north of the Snickersville Pike were only 16 men of the 2nd Va. Cavalry under a lieutenant. McClellan quoted in Crowninshield, A History of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers,p. 154, 155.

Aldie. Walton's 2nd Va sharpshooters were relieved by a squadron of sharpshooters each from the 2nd and 3rd Va Cavalry. They had a stone wall on their front, a post and rail fence on their right, and another fence on their left. The fence behind them had been removed to allow access for the cavalry. Ibid. pages 155, 156.

Upperville. …Federal dismounted squadrons with their carbines delivered successive volleys, to which the Confederates with their pistols made but an ineffective response. McDonald, A History of the Laurel Brigade, p. 150.

Stuart General Orders Number 25, July 30, 1863.… The pistol should never be used in a charge, excepting when the enemy is beyond an impassable barrier near at hand, or by a man unhorsed in combat… Trout After Gettysburg, p 50.

CSA Weapons Shortage. Early August 1863, Lee had 1700 men without weapons. Trout, After Gettysburg, p 65

Gettysburg, 2nd VA Cavalry. Letter from COL Munford 2nd VA, says Companies C and D were sharpshooters. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers II, p. 120

CS cavalry regiments had one squadron armed with carbines to fight dismounted. Coddington , Gettysburg, A Study in Command, p. 681.

Tom's Brook. Lomax's division had not a saber or a pistol in the whole command, thus no weapons to resist a mounted charge. Miller, Decision at Tom's Brook, p 145

Stuart's regiments usually had one company designated at sharpshooters. They were armed with rifles or carbines. Many men only had saber and pistols. When contact was made, they would dismount in a position of advantage from which they could assist their comrades. O'Neill, The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, p 40. I have also read that an entire squadron would be so armed and dismounted.

Second and Third Virginia each had one squadron of sharpshooters deployed at Aldie. Ibid, p. 50.

Robertson's brigade, the 4th and 5th North Carolina, were armed with sabers and Enfield rifles. They totaled about 900 men. It was the first fight for most of them. The extent of their armament with Enfields is unknown. Ibid pp. 72, 127.

On June 18? As Rosser was opposing Buford near Pot House, the absence of Boston's company of sharpshooters hampered Rosser. This would indicate that only Boston's men were armed to fight on foot. Ibid, p. 111

1st SC dismounted 200 men at Rector's Crossroads near Goose Creek. Must have had carbines. The others did not. Ibid, p. 125

Other than Robertson, Stuart's regiments would have had only a couple of companies armed with a combination of carbines, rifles or shotguns. Ibid, p. 127

Reference made to sharpshooters of the 11th Virginia. Ibid, p. 134

Brandy Station. Reference is made twice: "our dismounted sharpshooters " and "Jones' dismounted sharpshooters". "the sharpshooters of Jones most advanced regiment". Von Borcke, The Great Cavalry Battle of Brandy Station, pp. 84, 85, 86

From documents at 1St NC Cavalry Living History site, it appears the 1st NC was armed similarly to the Virginia Cavalry regiments.

3rd VA Cav dismounted Companies A and D as skirmishers. Those companies did their usual good fighting but the mounted portion of the regiment was not actively engaged. Pvt. R. H. Ingram 3VA Cav. Tends to support that two companies were used as skirmishers and armed for that purpose. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers III, pp 1336-1338.

R. H. Ingram is right about the Mecklenburg and Charles City companies (A and D) fighting on foot. They were the sharpshooters of our regiment. T. H. Vaughn Orderly Sergeant, Co. H. 3D Va. Cavalry. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers III, p. 1416

Evidence obtained so far indicated: McGregor 4 guns; Breathed 2; Louisiana Guard Artillery 2 on the back of Rummel's. Three guns, probably, from Jackson's near the George Trostle house. H. B. McClellan. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers III, p. 1420.

Sharpshooters from Jenkins, Chambliss, Hampton, and Fitzhugh Lee extended a broken line from the Confederate right to the road which leads southeast from the Stallsmith farm H. B. McClellan. Extending a line composed of sharpshooters from all of these brigades indicates they are probably all the men from these brigades with carbines or rifles. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers III, p. 1420.

14th Va. had five companies dismounted. Five were kept in reserve. 500 men of Jenkins Brigade dismounted in the fight. 17th Va. and at least part of the 16th were guarding prisoners. Capt. E. E. Bouldin 14th Va. Cavalry. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers III, p. 1440.

Fitzhugh Lee's brigade sharpshooters were detailed to the command of Col. Morgan. He had about 130 men in line. It seems from the context they were dismounted. 130 men from a four regiment brigade would average 34 per regiment. Horse holders were presumably in addition to this number. Col. William Morgan 1st Va. Cavalry, Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers II, p. 1278.

1st Va. Cavalry had one squadron of two companies D and K as its regular sharpshooters. Sgt. Elliott G. Fishburne 1st Va Cavalry. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers II, p. 1284.

Jenkins Brigade was simply mounted infantry. Lt. Col. Vincent A. Witcher, 34th Virginia Cavalry. Ladd and Ladd, The Bachelder Papers II, p. 1296


Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2020 1:58 p.m. PST

I might have added a few comments.

While I have no hard facts to support this, I believe by 1864 the Confederate cavalry had more carbines and rifles per regiment than in 1863. From what I have read it seems that the Army of Northern Virginia cavalry dismounted perhaps nearly entire regiments in 1864. They would fight dismounted against large numbers of Federal cavalry. The latter, of course, were heavily armed with Spencers by this time. Those without Spencers would have breechloaders. I cannot see the Confederates doing this if the bulk of their men were armed with only revolvers.

The Confederates obtained many of their carbines from captured Federal cavalry. The longer the war went on, the more they would have captured. By its very nature, mounted cavalry actions resulted in a high percentage of the losses being prisoners captured. I think this would lead to a higher percentage of Confederate cavalry having carbines of some sort in 1864 than they did in 1863..



RudyNelson15 Feb 2020 10:05 p.m. PST

One weapon omitted was the shotgun. It was popular among early war troopers and may have still been a primary or secondary weapon of choice. Soldiers often picked them up at local training camps while they were home recovering from wounds or leave. I read a unit history in Randolph/Talladega county where one infantry LT reported to the muster amp and requested to be transferred to the cavalry as a private. He brought his own horse and weapons.

Personal logo Buckeye AKA Darryl Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2020 6:57 a.m. PST

Moving to the western theater, Morgan's command preferred the two band Enfield, with a pistol or two. However, they were also mostly used as mounted infantry, so logically it made sense to have a weapon that could out-range Union carbines, yet still be able to hold up against an opposing infantry force.

donlowry17 Feb 2020 10:50 a.m. PST

Forrest preferred revolvers to sabers, and said he didn't want "nary a saber" in his command (except officers, I assume). Ironically, he was almost killed by one himself (at Selma, I believe), and he later told Wilson "If that boy had had the sense to give me the point instead of the edge I wouldn't be here to tell about it."

huevans01110 Aug 2020 7:31 a.m. PST


Not sure if this new Osprey will help with these topics?

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