While researching recently the topic of cavalry depots (remount camps) for an article I’m working on, I’ve been getting quite an appreciation for the subject. Over the years I’ve run across the topic of the depots and camps in my study and reading, but never anything indepth until now. My researcher has been pulling all the information he can find on the Federal Government’s cavalry depots during the war – and is now scouring the National Archives. I hadn’t realized, until now, the depth of the scheming, bribery, and profiteering that took place. I’d long known that the camps provided yet another opportunity for the unscrupulous to profit from the war, but I had no idea of the scope of criminal activity that was taking place.
I’ve been finding many examples that are quite shocking. One administrator of Geisboro Point near Washington DC, in fact, only lasted a few weeks after he was found to be collaborating with the ne’er-do-wells that were supplying substandard horses. Literally, horses near death were branded as fit for service. The most run-down nags were being sold to the government at many times the going price for a quality horse.
But by the final year of the war, especially with the arrival of chief of the Cavalry Bureau Gen. James H. Wilson, the depot and quality control was finally straightened out. Supplying Sheridan’s cavalry corps with quality mounts was a monumental task. Because the Federal cavalry, in both the east and west, played such a major role in the ending of the war, the cavalry remount camps turned out to be an indispensible service and one that is rarely appreciated today.
I hope to be ready to begin writing this article in the next two weeks. Besides the logistical information regarding supplying mounts to all the branches of service, it will also give readers a good idea of the problems faced in ’63 and ’64 – both logistical and the criminal activity. Like just about everything else, the Cavalry Bureau was afflicted by the political and profiteering machine. Wherever there’s a buck to be made, someone will want it and find a way to make it.
Things change little over time, eh?