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"Best Cavalry Commanders of the ACW." Topic

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Old Contemptible04 Jul 2024 12:57 a.m. PST

Top five from this list and any I might have left out.

Turner Ashby
William W. Averell
John Buford
Louis Henry Carpenter
Philip St. George Cooke
George Armstrong Custer
Ulric Dahlgren
Elon J. Farnsworth
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Lot Smith
David McM. Gregg
Benjamin Grierson
Wade Hampton
John D. Imboden
Jesse James
Frank James
Albert G. Jenkins
William E. "Grumble" Jones
Judson Kilpatrick
Fitzhugh Lee
W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee
Lot Smith
John S. Marmaduke
Wesley Merritt
John Hunt Morgan
John S. Mosby
John Pelham
Alfred Pleasonton
William Quantrill
Beverly Robertson
Thomas L. Rosser
Joseph O. "Jo" Shelby
Philip Sheridan
David S. Stanley
George Stoneman
J.E.B. Stuart
Alfred Thomas Torbert
Earl Van Dorn
John A. Wharton
Joseph Wheeler
James H. Wilson
Cole Younger

Murvihill04 Jul 2024 4:21 a.m. PST

Not sure I could name the top five, but I'd have to give the win to Nathan Bedford Forrest. Kind of bittersweet, because in the end all he did was extend the misery.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2024 5:36 a.m. PST


Murvihill, would have to agree. He could lead all aspects. But not an easy man to get along with and have as a subordinate.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2024 6:27 a.m. PST

Tough to name top five but Stuart, Mosby, Forrest and Hampton spring to mind – and Buford if for no other reason than his central importance in determining where and how Gettysburg was fought

As a note, Kilpatrick's troopers called him "Killcavalry" for a reason

donlowry04 Jul 2024 8:30 a.m. PST

For leading a raid, countering an enemy raid, or actually fighting in a battle, you couldn't beat Forrest. He was not so great, however, in serving as the eyes and ears of his army. Stuart was better at that.

For a good, all-round, very reliable, unspectacular cavalry commander, it would hard to beat Gregg. If you want all that plus spectacular, go with Custer.

Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2024 10:09 a.m. PST


Jesse and Frank James were not cavalry leaders. They rode with Quantrill and Anderson but never commanded. Plus, they were guerilla fighters not cavalry.

TimePortal04 Jul 2024 11:22 a.m. PST

Forrest, Wheeler, Wilson

smithsco04 Jul 2024 3:17 p.m. PST

Forrest, Mosby, Grierson, Buford (he was always good but Gettysburg is too important to leave him off), and Sheridan.

Stuart is overrated.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2024 3:24 p.m. PST

Stuart, Hampton, Forrest, Custer, Buford. But a very different five might be just as defensible.

TimePortal04 Jul 2024 8:15 p.m. PST

My list was primarily CSA since they did more with less resources. Wilson was a raider in Alabama who operated without support from Sherman.

HMS Exeter05 Jul 2024 2:07 a.m. PST

Does ACW "Cavalry" really meet the definition? I had always operated under the sense that it fit more under "mounted infantry."

Not wanting to set of a row or flame war, but I don't think European experts of that day would consider them cavalry, in the purest sense.

Bill N05 Jul 2024 5:05 a.m. PST

Yes ACW cavalry does meet the definition. The better question might be whether some of those were leaders of cavalry specifically v leaders of mounted troops generally. To my mind Wade Hampton was the best "cavalry" commander in the Confederate army. For "mounted troops generally", no question it is Forrest. Ashby, a sentimental favorite, doesn't last long enough. On the U.S. side, Buford for either.

My match thrown on gasoline: I don't see Sheridan as a great commander of mounted troops. His successes in the Valley were as commander of an army composed primarily of infantry.

Cleburne186305 Jul 2024 5:11 a.m. PST

Sure are a lot of nobodys on this list to choose from.

cavcrazy05 Jul 2024 6:37 a.m. PST

George Armstrong Custer was the best cavalry commander in the Civil War, from beginning to end.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2024 10:27 a.m. PST

Still go #1 with Forrest.
Hampton was as said, good with cavalry.

For the North, seems almost like a draw between, Buford, Gregg, Wilson and Custer, (depends on the scenario of what you wanted to accomplish).

Mosby, Morgan and those like them, were more raiders. Although good at what they did.

Stuart, I can't put up there. His successes were more when Union Cavalry was at best, poor. He deteriorated as a war progressed and Union cavalry became better. Reminds me a lot of Prince Rupert.

Would have been interesting to see how Farnsworth would have turned out, if "Kill Cavalry" had not stupidly wasted his life and others at Gettysburg.

But like everyone else, only opinion. 🙂

doc mcb05 Jul 2024 2:07 p.m. PST

Wilson very nearly got his division wiped out on the Southside Raid. By Hampton. And Custer nearly had his last stand at Travilian Station.

TimePortal05 Jul 2024 2:17 p.m. PST

I have read several late 1800s books on Sheridan. IMHO, many felt that Sheridan got the cavalry commander label from the Indian Wars, not ACW.

cavcrazy05 Jul 2024 3:31 p.m. PST

GAC was the first Union commander to capture a Confederate battle flag. Custer actually captured more battle flags, more supply wagons, and more prisoners and artillery than anyone else. Was he impulsive and brash? Most definitely, but all great cavalry commanders were. He would have been spectacular in the Grande Armee

cavcrazy05 Jul 2024 3:34 p.m. PST

Let's not forget that the table that Lee signed the Confederate surrender on was sent to Elizabeth Custer with a note saying, "That no one man was more responsible for the outcome of this war than your gallant husband."

Cleburne186305 Jul 2024 6:02 p.m. PST

William "Red" Jackson

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP06 Jul 2024 7:45 p.m. PST

Hampton, Buford, Grierson, Mosby, Morgan – I am fond of the raiders, Grierson was both a good commander and famous for his raid.

marmont1814 Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Jul 2024 4:02 a.m. PST

Nathan Bedford Forrest without a doubt

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