The horses with no names: lessons from the U.S. Civil War
Boynton, Frank Robert
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Historians have paid insufficient attention to horses in the study of military history. The US Civil War is no exception. Horses were central to the conduct and outcome of the Civil War. They provided the essential motive power for both armies. Without them, no military strategy was feasible. They carried the charging cavalrymen. They pulled the artillery through fields and mired roads with mud so deep the horses risked drowning in it. They supported command and control as they carried leaders and their staffs. They pulled the ambulances that carried stricken men from the battlefield to hospitals. They pulled the supply wagons that supplied the armies. The horse required a universe of support to sustain it. The frequent inability of armies to provide simple hay and grain caused thousands to starve to death. The time and distance imperatives of war often strained horses beyond their capacity -- thousands died from simple exhaustion Much like the soldiers who died in the thousands from diseases, horses died by the tens of thousands from diseases for which they had no defense and for which the men charged with their care had no ability to treat. Lastly, much like the human soldiers they shared the risk of the battlefield with horses were ripped by shot and shell. This is a highly interdisciplinary study and therefore I use material from beyond history. Papers in veterinary medicine provide information on equine disease and the 1860's understanding of it. Studies into equine nutrition and about the recovery of horses from prolonged malnutrition or starvation, on the effects of sleep deprivation and others inform understanding of the horse at war. The 1860 Census and US Department of Agriculture crop reports provide insights into the ability of the Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia area to support large numbers of horses. This material is integrated into a framework which I use to assess the probable condition of both Union and Confederate horses. I use that assessment as a means take a fresh look at specific Civil War events and other military episodes through the lens of the condition of the horses supporting the armies.