The Cavalry Journal was begun in 1888, and was a bi-monthly magazine published at Ft. Riley, Kansas, by cavalry officers. Continued today by the U.S. Cavalry Association in various forms, the Journal has proven to be a terrific source of Civil War reminiscences alongside other similar publications. I’ve had copies of several articles that appeared in the run of the magazine through the 1920’s, but a few weeks ago I put my researcher on the job of combing through them all and copying anything of interest. Both former Federal and Confederate officers wrote pieces for the magazine, and I figured a lot of material would turn up that I could use in my writing.
Today I received a large packet of copies from just the first few years of the magazine, and there is indeed a wealth of interesting material. Among articles that are both specific (battle and campaign pieces, biographies, etc.) and general cavalry-related in nature, I found a series of articles written by former Confederate officer Thomas T. Munford.
Munford was a prolific writer after the war. An 1854 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Munford joined the Confederate army in May 1861 and served first as an officer of mounted infantry, then as colonel of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry.
In 1891, Munford began his series of articles on war reminiscences for the Journal. His first submission contains a couple of paragraphs that give great insight into the early armaments and equippage of southern cavalry, and adds even more to the appreciation for the southern horsemen’s ability to whip their northern counterparts, nearly without exception, for the first couple years of the war:
In those days, yes, so late as 1862, we were glad to get a double-barreled shot-gun – a muzzle loader at that – and a saber resembling a grass scythe blade, with a leather scabbard, as such were the only arms issued to us. The belt of the scabbard ran over the shoulder; our percussion caps were carried in the vest or trousers pockets and our paper cartridges of buckshot in small haversacks of cloth. A leather socket was attached to the stirrup-leather by the side of the right foot to steady the gun. Our saddles were generally of the old English pattern, to which additional rings were stitched to attach the coat or blanket straps. Thus equipped we started to the army in May, 1861.
Later in the article, I also found a little tidbit in which Munford describes a bit of a rift over how Jeb Stuart designated the first couple regiments of Virginia cavalry after First Manassas (Bull Run) that I had never picked up on before:
[Munford’s 2nd Virginia Cavalry] was the oldest regiment of cavalry in the Army of Northern Virginia. It went into the service in May, 1861, as the Thirteenth Regiment, Virginia Volunteers (mounted). No other cavalry regiment in Virginia was fully organized until after the first battle of Manassas. Colonel R. C. W. Radford, of the old Second Dragoons, U. S. Army, was its colonel, and never forgave General Stuart for designating his (Stuart’s) command First Virginia Cavalry, and Radford’s the Second.
Interestingly, Stuart was a lieutenant colonel at First Manassas, while Richard Carlton Walker Radford was colonel there, having previously been a 2nd lieutenant in the Second U.S. Dragoons (the pre-Civil War term for regular cavalry), then transferring to the 1st Dragoons. Like Munford, Radford attended VMI then graduated from West Point in 1845. Radford wasn’t popular with his men since he had disdain for volunteers, and had high regard only for regular soldiers.
Munford later continues:
Just before the battle of the first Manassas General Beauregard had promised to Colonel Radford, the senior cavalry officer, the command of all the cavalry; but General J[oseph] E. Johnston promoted General Stuart, which soured Radford so that upon the reorganization he determined to leave the army.
And leave he did. Radford was not re-elected colonel of the regiment in April 1862, so he left the army and became colonel of the 1st Virginia State Line troops that August, where his service record ends.
The little conflicts and politics one finds among otherwise standard reminiscences are often very interesting and quite revealing.