Saturday, August 29, 2009

Horse-holders (3)

Above: 1st Maine Cavalry skirmishing during the fighting near Middleburg, Va., June 19, 1863. Pencil and Chinese white drawing by Alfred Waud. Library of Congress.

The narrative below, penned by Lt. Col. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards, in his book, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), describes a large skirmish near Franklin, Tenn., on June 4, 1863. The Confederate troops engaged belonged to Martin’s Division. It is clear from Fremantle’s account that the tactics employed were previously unknown to him.

“It was very curious to see three hundred horses suddenly emerge from the woods just in front of us, where they had been hidden--one man to every four horses, riding one and leading the other three, which were tied together by the heads. In this order I saw them cross a cotton-field at a smart trot, and take up a more secure position; two or three men cantered about in the rear, flanking up the led horses. They were shortly afterwards followed by the men of the regiment, retreating in skirmishing order under Colonel Webb, and they lined a fence parallel to us. The same thing went on on our right.”

And a little later …

“The way in which the horses were managed was very pretty, and seemed to answer admirably for this sort of skirmishing. They were never far from the men, who could mount and be off to another part of the field with rapidity, or retire to take up another position, or act as cavalry as the case might require. Both the superior officers and the men behaved with the most complete coolness; and, whilst we were waiting in hopes of a Yankee advance, I heard the soldiers remarking that they `didn’t like being done out of their good boots’--one of the principal objects in killing a Yankee being apparently to get hold of his valuable boots.”

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