The Cavalry Bureau
Handling and Care of Federal Horses


     Due to a recognized habit of neglect with select officers towards the proper, care and management of the federal armies' horses, along with the proper training of the men who would ride them, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued General Orders Number 236 establishing the Cavalry Bureau on July 28, 1863 and in the proceeding order Number 237, the War Department appointed Major General George Stoneman as the chief of the new bureau.

     In the effort to correct such deficiencies in the cavalry arm, the government established responsibility upon the officers in command of the regiments and held them liable to correct these discrepancies or await dismissal from the service.

     Colonel James H. Wilson would provide administrative services, open up a working relationship with the Quartermaster's Department, and likewise assign and authorize qualified officers to purchase the best horse flesh available for the service. Charged with proper disbursements, the designated officers would purchase the horses and establish requisition points where the commanders of cavalry regiments could replace used up mounts with new ones.

     All cavalry regiments would be required to hold inspections of their companies on a monthly basis and report the results to General Stoneman in Washington City. These inspection requirements included, the general condition of the unit and mounts, service the unit had been engaged in since the previous inspection, mileage traveled by the horses themselves, treatment and shoeing of the animals, any deficiencies in the forage, and if so, who is responsible for it.

     It became departmental standard that the horses be categorized into four specific classes, those which are to be condemned as unfit for further services, those who are already unfit and could be used as draft animals, those which are now unfit, but, with proper care and treatment are liable to return to the active service, and lastly those who are good serviceable horses. Those horses falling under category two, being strong enough to be utilized as work animals were to be turned over to the Quartermaster's Department and accounted for.

     The demand for good cavalry was high during the third summer of the war, yet the supply was unable to meet it. The centralization of the newly established Cavalry Bureau would shape that branch of the federal army enabling it to meet any threat the southern horsemen presented to the armies in the field. Maintaining continuity with its serviceable livestock, the cavaliers presented a far better operational readiness in the overall intelligence gathering and protection of the main body.

     The Federal Cavalry in 1863 had been converted into a well organized and formidable fighting force. The days of federal scouting and outpost duty had come to an end. With renewed confidence, the federal horse soldier was able to remain in the saddle pressing forward at the army's beckoned call.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net