20 July 2010 by Published in: Union Cavalry 2 comments

Brig. Gen. William W. Averell left behind this excellent description of the traditional role of cavalry:

Reliable information of the enemy’s position or movements, which is absolutely necessary to the commander of an army to successfully conduct a campaign, must be largely furnished by the cavalry. The duty of the cavalry when an engagement is imminent is specially imperative—to keep in touch with the enemy and observe and carefully note, with time of day or night, every slightest indication and report it promptly to the commander of the army. On the march, cavalry forms in advance, flank and rear guards and supplies escorts, couriers and guides. Cavalry should extend well away from the main body on the march like antennae to mask its movements and to discover any movement of the enemy.

Cavalry should never hug the army on the march, especially in a thickly wooded country, because the horses being restricted to the roads, the slightest obstacle in advance is liable to cause a blockade against the march of infantry. Moreover, in camp it furnishes outposts, vedettes and scouts. In battle it attacks the enemy’s flanks and rear, and above all other duties in battle, it secures the fruits of victory by vigorous and unrelenting pursuit. In defeat it screens the withdrawal of the army and by its fortitude and activity baffles the enemy. In addition to these active military duties of the cavalry, it receives flags of truce, interrogates spies, deserters and prisoners, makes and improves topographical maps, destroys and builds bridges, obstructs and opens communications, and obtains or destroys forage and supplies.

Good stuff.

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  1. James McCorry
    Wed 21st Jul 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Eric: An excellant post. I hope you will do a biography on Averell. It is badly needed. James

  2. Thu 22nd Jul 2010 at 7:18 pm


    Where can that quote be found, may I ask? It is the best summary of cav ops that I’ve ever seen.

    Dave Powell

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