Edward G. Longacre
University of Oklahoma Press, 2012 Paperback, 470 pp. + 16 pp. introduction, $21.95
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While the cavalry has been studied at length in Civil War studies, Edward G. Longacre’s Lincoln’s Cavalrymen stands as one of the major analyses in the history of the mounted forces. Many histories of the cavalry deal with the strict adherence to battle plans and scouting movements which made the cavalry famous but Longacre takes a different approach. In the flowing narrative style which he has made himself known for, Longacre takes the reader through the complete process and life of what it meant to be a cavalryman during the Civil War. Through the text, it becomes clear to the reader that the wealth of knowledge in its pages is rarely matched in modern Civil War academia.
Edward G. Longacre is the author of many books on the Civil War and some of his works have become the standalone studies of their subject. The Cavalry at Gettysburg is still the standard reading for students who wish to know more about the campaign and the role which the cavalry took part in. He is also the author of the new work on the Battle of Manassas, The Early Morning of War which is the best book written on the campaign which started the war. Along with Lincoln’s Cavalrymen, Longacre also wrote Lee’s Cavalrymen as a companion book to this one on Union cavalry. He is also the winner of the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award for his book Gentleman and Soldier: A Biography of Wade Hampton III.
As stated before, this book on the cavalry is much different than many other studies of the mounted forces during the war. This book begins with the very fabric of the cavalry including the men and the horses which were brought into the conflict. I was expecting a way right into the analysis of the battles and the campaigns but instead I got an analysis of what the expectations and numerous duties of a cavalryman during the war. Longacre looks into the way in which cavalrymen were chosen through the ranks and that only men of certain body type were chosen for the positions. Longacre also states that though many Confederate cavalrymen were accustomed to the practice of horse-riding, many in the Union were not so lucky in the heavily industrial north. After the duties of the cavalrymen were analyzed, Longacre takes the reader into the analyses of the battles and campaigns and the major effects which they had on the outcome of the fighting. Accompanied by both maps and pictures, there was never any question as to what Longacre was saying in his narrative.
There are many microhistories or multi volume histories on the cavalry during the Civil War. This book handles the entire war of the cavalry in the Army of the Potomac and it is handled well without being too detailed that it takes away from the research and the writing. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the cavalry. Not only the narrative of the battles and campaigns were interesting, but the way in which he explained the process of enlisting in the cavalry and the training and duties which came with the job were a great explanation to an otherwise process not usually explained. Along with his book on the Confederate cavalry, this book should be in any Civil War library, especially one with an interest in the cavalry.