View Full Version : Question for the history buffs

Doc Hoy
October 12, 2010, 10:15 AM
Was there such a thing as a field manual for cavalry at the time when the Walker was a popular cavalry pistol?

If so, did it encourage troopers to be careful to time their shots according to the horse's gate so as not to drill the horse in the back of the head?

In another post I read that this happened to one trooper and I was surprised that it was only one. Seems like carelessness and the heat of battle might have produced more occurrences than just one.

Tommy Vercetti
October 12, 2010, 10:30 AM
I've heard only one instance of a trooper shooting his horse and I heard it was because he had a terrible temper and wasn't much of a horseman, he got so mad at the horse he deliberately shot it

October 12, 2010, 10:31 AM
If so, did it encourage troopers to be careful to time their shots according to the horse's gate so as not to drill the horse in the back of the head?

LOL, I could see that happening. I have heard that some of the Cavalry horses got an ear lopped off from the troopers sabre, don't know if it's true or not but I can see it happening.:eek:

Doc Hoy
October 12, 2010, 10:55 AM
Can you imagine the level of discipline that the horses would have to develop to do cavalry work!?

I don't know much about horses but I think they are naturally spooky animals. I was told that is true because of the shape of their eyes.

Trying to keep even the most devoted of animals calm in the din of battle must have been a triumph.

In peacetime country living during the Civil war era, the loudest sound would have been the passing of a wagon unless one lived near a mill or a town. A battlefield must have been a terrifying place not only because of the conflict, which would not mean much to a horse, but because of the noise.

October 12, 2010, 11:09 AM
There are available on Google Books and perhaps elsewhere some fascinating early manuals and standing orders, including a couple about cavalry. The ones I've printed out are all British but I suspect there may be American ones. The differences between 1800 and today is in some ways amazing and in other ways, not so different at all. Did you know that in 1800 if a soldier were allowed to marry, his wife lived with him in the barracks. They got a corner of the room with a curtain strung up for some privacy. The wife was expected to carry her weight by doing things like washing and so on. She was essentially taken on strength.

Unfortunately, revolvers came later and there is little information about small arms, at least in the ones I've been studying. However, cavalry troopers spent a great deal of their time in stables taking care of their mounts. That never changed as long as there were horses in the army, any army. Supposedly, during WWI, more tonnage of animal feed was shipped to France from Great Britain than tonnage of ammunition. Even as late as WWII, it is entirely possible that more horses were in use during that war than during the Napoleonic Wars.

You don't get this impression from the movies but you can easily imagine how horses became casualities in action, they being such large targets.

October 12, 2010, 11:31 AM
There are literally countless stories from our history that one could post on here. One that I refer to during our classes, is the safety issues with multiple loads in a muzzleloader. After the battel of Gettisburg, they found literally thousands of M/L's that had multiple loads. Obviously in the heat of the battle, souldiers just loaded, forgot to prime, pulled the trigger and reloaded again, repeating the process, several times. I would have probably done the same thing. .... :eek:

You have literally hundreds of shooters to your right and left as well as what's going on behind your back and more guys in front of you, trying to kill you. ..... :eek:

How about some more stories ???

Be Safe !!!

Doc Hoy
October 12, 2010, 01:33 PM
It was not uncommon for spouses to accompany some rates in the Navy on board ships in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Children born to such unions were delivered at times during gunnery practice or even during battle, the loud report of the guns hastening the event. Hence the term; "son of a gun".

Admiral Nelson, killed during the battle of Trafalgar and his remains were preserved to be carried home for burial in a barrel of spirits. The story goes that the barrel contained port wine. When HMS Victory returned to England bearing this barrel of wine with Nelson's body, the officers of Victory celebrated his memory at a party on shore during which they consumed the contents of the barrel (only the wine, of course). The tradition lives on in both the British and United States Navies, under the title of "The Dining In." Only officers attend. Ladies or guests are strictly univited as the behavior always degrades to an embarrassing state. The only beverage permitted is Port Wine. No limit is placed on the quantity.

October 12, 2010, 06:35 PM
Wasn't the Walker Colt purposely designed to knock down the other guys' horses as a cavalry battle technique?

Doc Hoy
October 12, 2010, 06:52 PM
....In Napoleonic times, cavalry was more often used for the shock that attached to a heavy rider on a heavy horse or a long weapon like a lance used by a smaller man on a smaller horse. So shooting the horse effectively neutralized the trooper. It was pure convenience (and, of course, bad luck for the horse) that the horse made a better target than the man.

By the time of the civil war, the tactic of dismounting the cavalry and using them more like infantry was popular, so I have read. So shooting the horse may have reduced the mobility of the formation while doing little to the effectiveness of the firepower.

Ideal Tool
October 12, 2010, 09:59 PM
Hello, Doc Hoy, The most famous horse killer was no other than George A. Custer, who after riding out ahead and alone except for his hounds from a hunting party, he came upon a buffalo and gave chase, horse stumbled just as he was about to fire his Colt 1860 army, hitting horse in head. It's a wonder he didn't break his neck, going full tilt like that. Had to walk several miles through hostile territory, carrying saddle. Just another one of his ill thought out schemes.

October 12, 2010, 10:30 PM
I don't know about you guys, but it sounds to me like Doc is considering buying a horse . . . . but then, who can blame him. I'd want something to help carry the weight of his new Walker too if I were him. I just hope the SPCAA doesn't hear about it . . . . unusual cruelty . . . expecting a hoss to carry a man AND a Walker besides! :D

Actually Doc, I think you've brought up an interesting subject in regards to the horses and possible injuries. When you consider the level of noise that a battle during the Civil War produced . . . not only musket fire but artillery fire as well, I'm sure that more than one horse suffered from "shell shock" the same as men. I'm in AZ and my books are back in MI, but I do remember that there is a period photograph showing a well trained cavalry horse laying down to provide cover for its rider. Cavalry horses were trained the same as Troopers. Unfortunately, Troopers were "human" and I'm sure that more than one horse was wounded as a result of the excitement caused by battle. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for a man on a horse - a man much smaller than we are today - trying to control his horse and aim and fire a pistol the size and weight of a Walker. You told me a while ago that you had to buy the .36 Remmie because you'd purchaased a .36 mold. I think you should tell your better half that now that you have the Walker, you need to get a horse to do some scientific experimentaqtion. An added plus is that you could keep her well supplied with fertilizer for her flowerbed! :D

In regards to the comments by the gentleman about Custer . . . . unfortunately for the horses AND his men . . . . his quest for glory and adventure cost a lot of men (and horses) their lives. My g-g-uncle was in the 7th Michigan - he survived Gettysburg - was taken prisoner on July 6th in pursuit of Lee's army in Maryland - imprisoned and paroled - returned to the 7th and was killed near Winchester, VA in October of 1864. He was shot in the chest and suffered for 10 days before dying. He and my g-g-aunt were married on Jan. 1, 1863 in Tecumseh, MI - they had one day together as man and wife before he left to be mustered in - she never saw him again. I had another relation who also was in the 7th Cav. but a number of years after the Civil War - he died at the Little Bighorn. I guess you could say that when it came to my family, Custer wasn't much of a good luck charm. An interesting man to study though, as is his brotheer, Tom. :)


October 12, 2010, 11:44 PM
I read that during the assault on Aqaba Lawrence of Arabia accidentally shot his camel.
I saw a picture of a mid to late 19th Century British cavalryman taking cover behind his prone horse, the caption mentioned that a big part of the training
was getting horses used to gunfire and I suspect a horse that was too skittish
and who could not be accustomed to loud noises would be relegated to wagon only use.

Dr. Strangelove
October 13, 2010, 03:21 AM
I suspect a horse that was too skittish
and who could not be accustomed to loud noises would be relegated to wagon only use.

Or... traded to locals or even used to make a tasty chili...

Doc Hoy
October 13, 2010, 05:03 AM
Thanks for the info guys. I did a little surfing and found a 1938 version of a U.S. Army field manual that spoke about horses in cavalry units. A 1943 version spoke only of vehicles in the cavalry.

October 13, 2010, 06:50 AM
I have or used to have a few books about cavalry published by the Military Service Publishing Company that were quite thorough.

Cavalry changed a lot over the years and, except in the US, came in a big variety. Some cavalry were dragoons, who in theory dismounted to fight. Cavalry who fought from horseback were call "horse." Infantry was called "foot." The various kinds of light cavalry came later. American cavalry (on both sides) during the Civil War was supposedly highly thought of by Europeans and that tended to be what cavalry was from then on. Around the turn of the century there arose a form of horse soldier called "mounted infantry," which was basically an on the spot response to the Boers, who were mostly mounted and made up all their own rules about how to fight a war. But the concept of mounted infantry was apparently confusing to the old soldiers and it faded.

The 7th Cavalry was not formed until after the Civil War, I think.

Good stories, Doc Hoy. Here's another one. It has to do with drinking (by officers!).

One British cavalry unit captured a coach belonging, I think, to either Napoleon or one of his relatives that he had installed as a monarch. Among the loot was a silver chamber pot. The descendent army unit today retains possession of said silver chamber pot who use it for drinking toasts on appropriate occasions, which ones I do not know. But for this reason, they have the nickname "the Emporer's Chambermaids." Naturally, this is in the officer's mess.

October 13, 2010, 10:36 AM
I don't know about you guys, but it sounds to me like Doc is considering buying a horse
Certainly wouldn't put it past him and keep in mind that he is Ex-Navy. ... :eek:

A Buckskinner friend of mine really wanted to get into the "Thing" so he bought himself a horse. Had and the horse all decked out in the garb of the day and trained the horse to accept him shooting his sidelock on his back. Trained the horse for side shots and loads up to about 70 grains and all was well. Then one day he decided to take a front shot. Muzzle was well ahead of the horses nose and when My buddy woke up, he was on the gound, looking up at his horse. He may but, I sure hope he doesn't read this reply.. .. :)

Be Safe !!!

Doc Hoy
October 13, 2010, 11:17 AM

I have been on a horse two times in my life. Both of those times turned out bad. I would rather have a sister working in brothel than ride a horse. To me, horses are almost as bad as chickens which have to be the dumbest animal (apart from a California politician) on the face of the earth.

October 13, 2010, 02:36 PM
Now see here. You've just insulted chickens by comparing them to California politicians. Have you no shame?

October 13, 2010, 02:47 PM
Wasn't Reagan a California politician? He rode horses, too. In fact, he was actually a cavalry officer.

October 13, 2010, 03:26 PM
I visited Gettysburg recently and in conversation with a tour guide I found out the horses could be trained to accept the noise of battle but mules could not. Mules were used to draw supply wagons and not much else. Cav horses were carefully selected to screen out those which may be skiddish.
A horse is a large target but also an animal that can take a great deal of punishment including several musket minie balls before going down. A WALKER is a big gun but it will not take down a horse with one or two rounds unless it is head shot. The best way to take down a horse is a well placed round to a front leg which will break it and the horse is down.
During a charge two things come into play, first is the herd instinct which tends to keep them together and second the fact that the formations were usually tight and that kept the from breaking to the side.

October 13, 2010, 03:56 PM
BlueTrain - my g-g-uncle was in the 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry which was part of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. Custer had a home in Monroe, Michigan - north of Toledo. In Monroe, there is a nice statue of him on horseback - usually covered in pigeon droppings but nice nevertheless. His home there is now owned by an aquaintance of mine who is actually a "Custer impersonator" - he actually looks like he could be a twin for good old George. He has been a technical advisor on several shows/films on Custer. Many of the men in the 7th Michigan Cavalry were from Lenawee County, Michigan and Monroe County, Michigan. I have a scrapbook that was kept by my great-grandmother who lived in Lenawee County during the Civil War. It has a number of newspaper articles glued in to it that were in the paper at that time in relation to the 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. Some are quite interesting - one relates to a Captain who had returned home on a leave and the presentation of an engraved saber to him by the community in appreciation of his service. I think you are correct on the formation of the 7th U.S. Cavalry being formed after the Civill War. Years ago, I had an opportunity to purchase a number of letters written by officers of the 7th U.S. Cavalry in regards to Custer and his actions at the Little Bighorn. This was in the 1960's and if I remember correctly, there were 15 or so of them - alas though, I couldn't come up with the $200 the party was asking for them. I can only imagine what they would be worth now.

Doc - when I was a kid, we had horses and ponies on the farm and I have to admit, I did enjoy riding them - but, I spent about an equal amount of time on the ground from being thrown as I did in the saddle. I have fond memories of them and also of colts being born - but - I also have less fond memories of being on the end of a pitchfork mucking out the stalls and the barnyard! Last year out here in Arizona, I mentioned to my wife that we ought to go horse back riding at a stable sometime . . . at which point, she quickly reminded me of the neighbor who did and who came home with a broken arm! Then she also threw salt on the wound by reminding me of how prolific the prickly pear cactus is and how large they get and how long the needles are! Sigh! Somethings are best left to a person's memories I guess? Now . . . . where did you say your sister worked? :D

Doc Hoy
October 13, 2010, 04:38 PM
For Mykeal,:)

To all Chickens:

You have my most humble and heartfelt apology. In a recent post in this public forum, I made a statement which was clearly an insult and I do regret it. In spite of the fact that you have wings and can't fly and spend most of your life eating bugs and dirt, I should not have reduced you to such a low state by comparing you to politicians. My judgement was clouded by my preoccupation over the scarcety of truly pure lead.

For Blue Train,:)

You know that it is said that 99 percent of politicians give the rest of them a bad name. Reagan was clearly among the one percent who was besmurched by the others.

October 13, 2010, 07:20 PM
Horses ain't so bad and you can train them to shoot off of. They do have the mental aptitude of a three year old child so take that into account when dealing with them. Oh and the rear end, they don't realize it's back there and that gets them in trouble sometimes.:D

October 14, 2010, 06:13 AM
My experiences with horses is limited to some riding classes while was in college and that didn't include the use of sabers or carbines. But I have met some WWII horse soldiers, not American. That was 30 years ago and they were all old then. It was Christmas and we weren't talking about WWII, however. Of course I don't spend much time talking about what I was doing 40 years ago either (except on this forum) but I probably will later.

Horses came in all varieties and some were considered more suitable as a cavalry mount than others that were better used as draft animals. Not many are still in use but the training is still the same. It is interesting to speculate whether or not recruits new any more about horses, back when the army still used a lot, than they do now. The joke is that farmboys never joined the cavalry or the artillery because they knew the work horses entailed and that's every day. It is equally interesting to speculate if recruits knew any more about small arms than they do now, too, a subject that comes up now and then.

In the early days of armies, in the 1700s, including in this country, waggon drivers tended to be civilian employees, sort of like a contractor (sound familiar?) but that system had its drawbacks and generally the waggoneers were soldiers eventually.

It was mentioned earlier here how cavalry developed into a kind of soldier that rode but sometimes dismounted to fight. Among other things, that reduced the available manpower because the lost the men that were "horse holders," something like one out of every four or five men. In the 20s and 30s, the US cavalry received heavier weapons like "machine rifles," as they were termed, and both light and heavy machine guns. The so-called machine rifle were variations of a BAR. There was a certain amount of inter-branch rivalry over who got to use certain new weapons like tanks. As a way around official rules, the tanks the cavalry used were called "combat cars." I kind of like the sound of that term but they only had machine guns.

In looking over old photos of the US cavalry troopers, you sometimes see things you never thought about before and naturally were never in the movies. Cavalry had radios after then came out, just like everyone else but they were carried on horseback. Can you picture a big bulky tube set mounted on top of a pack saddle, the aerial waving back and forth? And finally, the troopers in their khaki uniforms, Smokey the Bear campaign hats and boots somehow manage to look like nothing but Americans with their facial expressions, grins, smiles and gestures.

Doc Hoy
October 14, 2010, 07:57 AM
Horses are used today by police forces. I would be willing to bet that some of the techniques used and some of the knowledge gained by mounted officers that are not part of the training manual but rather part of the unpublished body of knowledge would be inteesting to a person trying to learn more about cavalry horse behavior a hundred and fifty years ago.

October 14, 2010, 08:37 AM

I have been on a horse two times in my life. Both of those times turned out bad. I would rather have a sister working in brothel than ride a horse. To me, horses are almost as bad as chickens which have to be the dumbest animal (apart from a California politician) on the face of the earth.

One more thing we can agree on!!!

October 15, 2010, 12:21 AM
.......I have owned two high performance horses for several years. The blue-ribbon-barrel-champ was an awsome packhorse as well. First impressions tend to last a long time especially if they are negative. If you ride a good high performance horse every day for years in the wildest country you become joined together both in mind and body. Still, I never felt the need to play cavalry and never fired my guns from horseback. I valued my horses' hearing as much as my own. Unless your horse is deaf, I think it's inconsiderate to the animal to do so. There was a time when it was neccesary, but not anymore. I wear earplugs when I shoot. Do they make earplugs for horses? I read somewhere, (I think on this forum), where someone had posted a copy of an instruction manual on the use of the then new 1911 Colt .45ACP for mounted cavalry use. There were some instructions on getting a horse aquainted with gunfire. I couldn't help but think that by the time the horse got used to it to the point of never being startled by it, the poor horse would be more than half deaf. Deafness is a handicap no one needs. However the history of horses in warfare is quite fascinating. Apparently, horses being used as beasts of burden is a fairly recent notion. In more ancient times the horse is clearly an instument of warfare. Ask any Hittite.

Doc Hoy
October 15, 2010, 05:34 AM
Good post.

I didn't put any smiley's in my posts when I insulted horses and chickens. I should have because, of course, I was kidding and I hope no one was offended.

I actually admire folks who can make a horse do the things you are talking about. I like your comment about mind and body.

I studied Napoleonic era warfare for some time and was impressed by the many different horse breeds that were applied either on or in support of the battlefield. There were at least three different categories of cavalry horse and the were not interchangable.

October 15, 2010, 06:00 AM
I think it is worth repeating what Doc Hoy said about the unpublished body of knowledge. That's true of everything of course. In the army that knowledge exists in the minds of the NCO corps. It's handed down over the years, not necessarily entirely unchanged or complete but that's how things work. It is also a form of institutional memory, so to speak. In fact, that's how knowledge was transmitted since the first man learned how to build a fire, I suppose.

Sometime the memory outlives the facts and the facts turn into myths and legends, not entirely true, not entirely false. Supposedly, when the Corps of Discovery of Lewis and Clark prepared to go west, they were told by Indians of the existance of mammoths somewhere in the West. So they went armed for elephants (they took air rifles, too). Of course the mammoths were long gone by then but in a manner of speaking, the mammoths were still within living memory. Jefferson must have been terribly disappointed.

October 17, 2010, 09:09 AM
Doc, I was about to give you heck for bad mouthing chickens, but then saw your apology. I'm glad you came to your senses.:D

Uncle Buck
October 17, 2010, 09:18 AM
The United States Air Force Security Police used horses at Clark AFB, Philippines. I remember seeing them in 1986 when I was there on a temporary duty assignment. I do not know how they were trained (Used just for patrolling) or if any of the SPs could shoot from their backs.

I used to ride and break horses for riding. Maybe that is why I raise chickens now....

October 17, 2010, 04:22 PM
I was at Clark AFB from 1977 til 1980 and got to meet the mounted SP's on several occasions. I worked in the emergency room and they often brought us people they caught on base illegally. One rider was a tall blond lady from Minnasoda(as she pronounced it) who rode a large white horse and had trained it to stand on it's hind legs with her on it, she was known as the white devil by the locals. She shatched up more than one local, by the back of his shirt and threw them across her saddle then took them to us to be checked out before turning over to the local police for release.

October 17, 2010, 05:08 PM
I'm lovin' reading these posts! As I read them today, I got one of "them brainstorms"! Doc - you know what would be a good experiment for you to try? Find one of those bars that has a "mechanical bull" and see if they'd let you take your Walker and experiment to see if you'd "kill the bull" while it is a buckin'. It couldn't be too much different than ridiin' a horse when it's excited and bucking! Better yet . . . you could put a chicken on the bull's head and see if you could get the fixin's for a chicken pot pie at the same time! Of course . . . I'd only try this after you had a couple of brews under your belt . . . . domestic or foreign . . . doesn't matter . . . heck . . . the chicken won't know the difference! And just think . . . it wouldn't matter if you did shoot the bull as you'd probably hit a "bull's eye"! :D I know . . . I'm warped! Can't help it. Sometimes my mind runs on overdrive. :D