The One Greatest Cavalry Ride...

The Greatest Ride of the Civil War...

  • CS J.E.B. Stuart: Ride around the AOP, 1862

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • US Ben Grierson: Ride through Mississippi, 1863

    Votes: 4 80.0%
  • CS Jo Shelby: Ride through Missiouri. 1863

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • CS Nathan Forrest: Ride through Tennessee, 1863

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • CS John Mosby: Greenback Raid, 1863

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • CS John Morgan: Ride to Ohio, 1863

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • US James Wilson: Ride through Alabama, 1865

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • US Phil Sheridan: Richmond Raid, 1864

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • US A.D. Straight: Mule ride to Georgia. !863

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Another: I know I missed some....

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    5
  • This poll will close: .

diane

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"the most feared cavalryman on either side."
Wong, he wasn't anything Cavalry like Hampton, or Stuart actually were. Too much is made of Forrest these days, he was just a good raider.

Kevin Dally
Well, hello! :D Nope, nope, nope. You might convince me he leaned to mounted infantry, but he was definitely cavalry. At least the CSA thought he was - Lt General in charge of all the CSA cavalry in the west. Best as a raider and on what I call lynch-pin skirmishes and fights - the kind of things that are not much by themselves but they are the nail in the shoe the horse lost that brought the kingdom down. He could start things - it was his men bumping into Minty that set off Chickamauga - and he could finish things - his rear guard action to save Hood's army after the Hammer of Nashville got done pounding on it was brilliant, just as great as Stuart's covering Lee's retreat from Gettysburg. Now Stuart was trained at West Point - to the manor born! - but both Hampton and Forrest were civilian volunteer soldiers who put their blood and money where their mouths were. (They were wrong as anybody could be, but that's another thread...) Both Hampton and Forrest had beefsteak raids (nobody yelled where's the beef after those!), spectacular charges, critical 'big' battles and were arguably the toughest s o b's on either side. Forrest killed 31 in personal combat, Hampton was right behind him with 18. (That count might possibly be higher.) Hampton and Forrest are so similar when you take away Hampton's aristocracy it's a little eery. Big, well trained in all combat, athletic, scared of nothing, full of romanticism and knightly ideals, both grew legendary reputations and fought fine battles. After the war - both engaged in politics and activities that advanced the cause of racism and oppression way too far. Forrest had the klan, Hampton had the Red Shirts. Why does Hampton not get the same criticism Forrest does? He's associated with Lee! Hampton gets to bask in the saintly glow of Robert E Lee...and Forrest gets to bask in the dim oily glimmer of Braxton Bragg!
 

rittmeister

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Nope, nope, nope. You might convince me he leaned to mounted infantry
all of your cavalry were monuted infantry (some of them leaning towards having been kicked by their horses way too often)

... but then, at least in my book, ride-arounds are a thing for mounted infantry hotte
 

diane

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JO Shelby would be in that category, too, then - mounted infantry. Shelby's ride is getting interesting! (I'm trying to educate myself on it - don't know much about JO!)
 

Sgt. Tyree

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I am of a divided mind about Forrest for two reasons: Author Eric Wittenberg and Forrest's enemies.

Wittenberg is a professional researcher and I am an amateur reader. And Wittenberg has done far more serious research than I will ever do casual reading so I have to take his conclusions seriously. Wittenberg considers Forrest a mounted infantryman who did not face first rate opponents until the end. He also comes down hard on Forrest for being insubordinate and not being good at the classic cavalry role of working for an army commander. I can not dismiss Wittenberg's viewpoint on Forrest.

The other side is that Forrest's enemies were scared of him. At least most of them were, although Wilson did not seem to be. So when Sherman speaks of then necessity of hunting down Forrest and killing him should it break the national treasury, I have to give that serious consideration as well. That's far more weighty than Lee saying Forrest was the best Confederate general, or even far more weighty than Forrest putting a whup on Sturgis.

So there stand I, somewhere between those two viewpoints about Forrest.

Back to topic. Does no one else reading all this have an opinion about the "greatest and glorious" Civil War cavalry raid or famous ride? Or, if you don't know how to define greatest and glorious, how about the "most effective?"
 

diane

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Eric Wittenberg definitely has strong opinions about Forrest, but I disagree with him. He's noted that he doesn't know a lot about Forrest and his antipathy toward that cavalryman even stopped him from writing about Grierson's raid...because he'd have to discuss Forrest! Certainly he knows what he's talking about - great stuff on Stuart and John Buford - but I like Ed Bearss' evaluation. He didn't particularly like or dislike Forrest - but evaluated him fairly. Forrest at Brice's Crossroads by Ed Bearss is small but powerful - great classic!

I like to see Forrest warts and all - if he is wrong, that needs to be seen; if he's right, that needs to be seen. A trip either way - hate or adoration - is a certain departure from the truth! One thing even folks who dislike him can agree on - he won't bore anybody!
 

Canteen

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Well, hello! :D Nope, nope, nope. You might convince me he leaned to mounted infantry, but he was definitely cavalry. At least the CSA thought he was - Lt General in charge of all the CSA cavalry in the west. Best as a raider and on what I call lynch-pin skirmishes and fights - the kind of things that are not much by themselves but they are the nail in the shoe the horse lost that brought the kingdom down. He could start things - it was his men bumping into Minty that set off Chickamauga - and he could finish things - his rear guard action to save Hood's army after the Hammer of Nashville got done pounding on it was brilliant, just as great as Stuart's covering Lee's retreat from Gettysburg. Now Stuart was trained at West Point - to the manor born! - but both Hampton and Forrest were civilian volunteer soldiers who put their blood and money where their mouths were. (They were wrong as anybody could be, but that's another thread...) Both Hampton and Forrest had beefsteak raids (nobody yelled where's the beef after those!), spectacular charges, critical 'big' battles and were arguably the toughest s o b's on either side. Forrest killed 31 in personal combat, Hampton was right behind him with 18. (That count might possibly be higher.) Hampton and Forrest are so similar when you take away Hampton's aristocracy it's a little eery. Big, well trained in all combat, athletic, scared of nothing, full of romanticism and knightly ideals, both grew legendary reputations and fought fine battles. After the war - both engaged in politics and activities that advanced the cause of racism and oppression way too far. Forrest had the klan, Hampton had the Red Shirts. Why does Hampton not get the same criticism Forrest does? He's associated with Lee! Hampton gets to bask in the saintly glow of Robert E Lee...and Forrest gets to bask in the dim oily glimmer of Braxton Bragg!
So what made him "Cavalry"? He rode a horse with others that road horses? Killed a few men? He wasn't CAVALRY, no matter how much folk worship him. BTW, he was almost worthless/ineffective after that retreat from Nashville. Sell him to someone else, not buying that he was "Cavalry".

Kevin Dally
 

diane

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Kind of hard not to acknowledge Forrest was a cavalryman unless you're just determined to! Commands held:

3rd Tennessee Cavalry
Forrest's Cavalry Brigade
Forrest's Cavalry Division
Forrest's Cavalry Corps
7th Tennessee Cavalry

March 2, 1865 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in command of the District of the Mississippi, which included the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama. He was in command of ALL the western cavalry - Wade Hampton commanded the eastern divisions.

I'd say the CSA military and its commander-in-chief Jefferson Davis were under that strange delusion that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a cavalryman. I don't know how so many people in that administration were so confused!
 

5fish

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JO Shelby would be in that category, too, then - mounted infantry. Shelby's ride is getting interesting! (I'm trying to educate myself on it - don't know much about JO!)
What you think old Jo was a better cavalry man....

I'd say the CSA military
My question Forrst never did what Stuart did with the NoAV. Show me where in history he was the eyes of the AoT...
 

diane

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Eyes of the AoT? That was Wheeler's job! Bragg didn't use Forrest properly, was the real problem. Forrest actually had more respect for Bragg than legend has it - it was just the two mystified each other. Both of them kept wondering, what's he doing anyway?

I've always thought comparing Stuart and Forrest was difficult because of the commanders they had, and the theaters they operated in. Lee had absolute and complete confidence in Stuart, gave him his independence right away and came to rely on him perhaps too much. Stuart operated with great precision and deadly efficiency. Forrest was even more precise and seldom gave a bad piece of information (not as perfect a record as Stuart on that!) His spy ring was more extensive and complex than Stuart's, which was eventually broken by the Union - Forrest's never was. Lee had a tremendous gift for analysis. Stuart was a West Pointer, too, and that made a very big difference in how he was perceived. No matter how competent Forrest proved himself to be, Bragg (and later Hood) could not accept him as anything other than a civilian volunteer who had a little talent. It wasn't until well after the war they acknowledged they had not understood Forrest or appreciated his talents enough.

JO was lucky he had his independent command almost from the beginning! He wasn't in conflict with his superiors nearly as often as Forrest, nor did he do much feuding with subordinates, which was a fault of Stuart's. Shelby's freedom gave him a lot of leeway to shine - Forrest would have been a real jewel if he had had either Shelby's situation or Lee for a commander. I believe Lee would have recognized what Forrest was and used him properly - and Forrest would have loved working with Lee. Lee encouraged his subordinates to think for themselves and be independent - that was right up Forrest's alley for sure!
 

Sgt. Tyree

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One that hasn't been mentioned and deserves to be considered is Van Dorn's Holly Springs raid. Van Dorn was a good cavalry commander. He made some blunders at higher levels and was relieved but he was a good cavalry commander. His Holly Springs raid combined with Forrest's simultaneous operation kept Grant out of Vicksburg for over year. Buying your superiors another year is about as good as it gets for a raid having a positive impact.
 

diane

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Van Dorn's raid on Holly Springs was a great success, combined with Forrest's West Tennessee raid and Morgan's raid into Ohio. Morgan succeeded in diverting Union forces from aiding Grant, Van Dorn destroyed Grant's supplies and Forrest made it impossible for him to get more. The interesting unintended consequence proved to be further down the road - Sherman's March. Grant was forced to send out foragers and confiscate goods and food in the surrounding countryside, and was amazed at the bounty. The planters were stingy about giving their stuff to the CSA army, which was an on-going problem throughout the war for the Confederacy. This surprising surplus of food and materiel for an army was the seed for Sherman's crowning achievement. He did a test run in the Meridian Campaign, seeing if he could march to Mobile or Selma - this was scotched by Forrest's hard fighting in central Mississippi when he turned back Sooy Smith at Okolona. At about the time of the Atlanta Campaign, the precursor to the march, Sherman's greatest fear was that Forrest would be sent to dog him. That he would have, too! After the war, Sherman and Forrest happened to meet on a Mississippi steamboat and had a chat. Sherman had to know what he would have done had he been sent after him instead of Wheeler. Wheeler did everything as he was taught to do at West Point. Forrest was not a West Pointer. He explained to Sherman that he would have continually harried the Union army, pushed it into the harshest, most barren and most difficult marching country there was to be had - in short, made it so miserable and hard that Sherman may well have been forced to abandon his objectives. A taste of this ability to do just that, to work on the psychology as well as the stamina of the regular soldier, had already been demonstrated by Forrest's pursuit of Streight and of Sturgis after Brice's Crossroads. It was like having the Ringwraiths after you! That's sure what Sturgis thought - he was so mentally shattered by the pursuit that he was never again useful in the army and eventually took a desk job.
 
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