Valley Light Horse Cavalry

    this site is not yet complete, a number of resources will be added, from artifacts images to references.    

  Mission statement and background

The Valley Light Horse cavalry was formed in the mid 90’s by a number of like-minded individuals who were members of other so-called reenactment groups.  The lack of accurate history in reenactment groups brought these like-minded individuals together.  We were looking for a more worthwhile approach to living history rather than just playing army.   A number of us had worked in the museum and history field so we understood the importance of accurate history when presenting educational programs for the public.  We were not reenactors but history interpreters. 

   In reenacting the purist want to immerse themselves in the period, from material culture to mannerism, all aspects should reflect the time period.  There are several reason the purist (hardcores, campaigners,…) go to these lengths.  One is the educational value from the history aspect not only for the public, who maybe listening, but for ourselves.  Books often speak of campaigns, leaders, and politics, rarely do they delve into the common soldier and what his daily existence was.  My Grandfather was one of those guys so I wanted to know how he functioned, not just tactically but on a personal level.  He was born into a world Julius Caesar could have understood.  It's only been the past hundred years or so that things have changed so much we have lost touch, and understanding, with that world and the horse soldier.  We want that insight for our experience and understanding.  After years of reading books, we want to flesh out the horse soldier. To suddenly have a realization, “oh that’s why they did it that way, now I understand”! To be able to deliver that understanding to the public, well that’s education. We want that window through time to better understand what life was like then.  Better education, as well as providing a service to honor the memory of those soldiers.  

    The Valley Light Horse goes to great lengths to have saddlery or clothing made from the same type of materials, the same cut, construction, and dimensions,  Even the same kind of thread for sewing, and of course by hand.  For Saddlery, that would be 8 to 10 stitches per inch with saddler’s kit waxed linen thread.  On top of the material culture, we strive to understand the function of cavalry, sustaining you and your second-self out of the saddle, and then understanding and being able to employ the functions from Poinsette’s 1841 cavalry tactics.  This is all lost in today’s world!  How much of what they knew as commonplace is gone.  We dig deep to try and understand that lost world. 

    What is being thrown about as history by cavalry reenactors and Hollywood is simply wrong.  Furthermore, it is embarrassing.  It just belittles the memory of those real soldiers.  Soldiers who are no longer around to defend themselves.  In an immediate visual society where so many seem to get their facts from movies, we are here to try and set the record straight and give them something authentic to watch.  To dispel those myths and folklore. and present an accurate picture of the civil war cavalryman’s life.   They all say they are authentic, but after seeing some of them, we sure don’t want to be called reenactors! 

    We do lots of demos for historic sites, educational groups, Historic films, and the occasional quality ”reenactment”.  If you want to smell the powder and feel cold steel, if you want to feel the power and heart of your second self under you, If you want to ride hard and be self reliant, if you want to see what they saw, and if you want to experience what old world cavalry was, contact us.

Click on photos to enlarge




     One of the biggest mistakes made by today’s teachers and media outlets is the inability to understand another period’s perceptions.  Especially when most have some bias or agenda.  It is neither fair nor accurate to look back on yesterday from today's perspective, their lives and mindset were different.  Their whole world was different. 

    If one has to boil it down there are four basic causes for secession.  Though I've often heard another thrown about that the war was an extension of the Scots and Irish (Celts) and English problems.  Grady McWhiney's book, "Cracker Culture, Celtic ways in the old South" thoroughly examines this.  Here are the four.


  1. Interpretation of the constitution.  This is an easy one.  The South saw the country as a loose association of states with the power held by the states and the federal government limited in power by the constitution and the 10th amendment.  Therefore, they felt they had the right to leave if they were no longer felt represented in congress.  The North saw the constitution as an un-breakable bond with the federal government overseeing all.  Before the war the country was referred to in plural form, these United States.  After the war it was referred to singular, the United States.
  2. The balance of power in congress.  The expansion of the country threatens that balance when territories in the west apply for statehood. Whether these new states will enter the union as free or slave is the issue. The two sides in congress, north and south, voted together as blocks but being near equal they balanced each other out.  Issues such as; tariffs on imported and exported goods  (the South being a world trader and the north being an isolationist), and Internal improvements (railroads, canals, and macadamized roads).  Much of this goes back to the culture, the South was an agriculture and environmental culture, and the North was industrial. For example, Rather than improve roads and rails the South often used the free flowing rivers for transportation of goods, whereas the North wanted money from the federal government directed towards internal improvements The South saw those internal improvements as an issue for local government (states) for they know best what was needed in their area, while the north wanted a standard national system to transport their goods over.  The South’s mindset was, why should they pay for a railroad going across northern states!  Similar too much debated today, the issue becomes the amount of power the federal government is to hold over local issues.
  3. The inability to compromise.  The great compromisers were gone.  Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and other great statesmen were no longer in Congress to work out deals.  No real leaders in congress stepped in to fill this void.  With the inability to compromise, the issue of free or slave state was side stepped in the national debate and became local with the adoption of popular sovereignty.  This meant the territory would decide for its self how the state would enter the Union.  It was a disaster, as Kansas exploded in civil war among the factions.
  4. Rise of stereotypes.  Thanks to a little book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the north began to see everyone in the South as a Simon Legree.  After John Brown’s raid everyone in the South saw everyone in the north as John Brown, who wanted to kill them and incite a race war.  The South couldn’t understand why, what had been a political issue now became a personal attack.  The South thought everyone in the North must be an abolitionist since this group was so vocal (Some Southern docks were piled high with anti-slavery pamphlets sent by abolitionist groups.). In reality they were a small fringe group and Harriet Beecher Stowe had never been in the South.  It is comparable to the Abortion issue today, most people are somewhere in the middle, with two very vocal opposing groups on each side declaring there is no middle ground, you are either for us or against us.


    While we recognize slavery as a catalyst in these issues at the same time one must be aware that 80% of the South never owned a slave!  When the northern states abolished slavery they did not free them but sold them South.  It was Virginia that had the largest population of free blacks, not a northern state.  Illinois even passed a law stating no free blacks could cross their borders. The living conditions of factory workers in the north were often worse than any slave in the South, so to the South these attacks were often hypocritical. 

     With the minority election of Abe Lincoln, who did not want to abolish slavery but wanted to limit the extension of the slave power into the territories.  The Deep South saw their position in national affairs as compromised beyond repair and seceded. The election of 1860 was split between 4 candidates Northern and Southern democrats, constitutional union, and republican.  Don't let the two parties of yesterday be confused with the modern namesakes, as in the early 20th century they switched positions.  Today the Democratic Party supports a strong federal government, while the Republican Party supports less federal government and more states rights.  Though if viewed through 19th century eyes both would be considered tyrannical.

   It was Lincoln's call for volunteers to put down the rebellion that forced the war.  Virginia sent delegates to ask him to wait, but now the upper South had to choose sides.  Now you were either for us or against us.  With the mindset of the day, your state was first, the Unitied States second. The best answer to why 3 out of 4 southern men served can be summed up by the story of a lowly captured confederate.  When asked by his captures why he was fighting, for he obviously wasn't a man of means who had a care about politics, he answered simply, " Because you're down here".    

            It cost the south, of those 3 out of 4 that served, one out of that three never came home and another came home crippled to a farm and economy in shambles.


 Harpers Ferry


What every cavalryman should know!

    We will try and post the text of these manuals but for now here is the link to them.  Located on a website from a 9th Virginia in Washington state.


1.  1841 cavalry tactics, aka, Poinsette's. 

     North and South, this is the manual , or one based on this (Gilham's, Patton's, Davis'), most used during the war.  A double rank system based on the French manual.  Need we say more, ok...  Cooke's, a manual written for cavalry proper only, not dragoons, was immediately recalled at the outreak of the war.  The 1841 manual was in use well after the war.



    Written by a Federal major during the war, it says how they are doing things in the field. 1st hand insight! It is the only manual that directs how a McClellan saddle by properly saddled and the effects placed, besides a score of other essential facts.  It also says NEVER attach the canteen to the saddle!  One must consider this detailed information similar to what is being done on the Confederate side.  Though maybe with a different type of saddle.


    Written by Lewis Nolan, the man who carried the orders at Balaclava.  It is horse communication before the 21st century made it fashionable.  He was a Baucherist, the famous trainer of the early/mid 19th century.  Read it, and others, and learn something more than just hang on with your hands like the reenactor rubes.


The Cavalryman, fact and fiction

    Through primary documents, artifacts, surveys, and studies the picture of a cavalryman in the eastern theatre can be pieced back together.  We can tell you it isn't what is seen at reenactments, in film, or most art!  The average enlisted cavalryman wore a non-descript issued hand-sewn uniform; often the same as the infantryman, made out of a wool/cotton mix with shoes not boots.  He often relied on a muzzle loading long arm of some sort, even a three-band musket.  Often he carried a sabre, though lack of supply at times limited the numbers in a regiment.  He was lucky if he had a pistol at all, much less two.  Some regiments, for lack of weapons, divide their companies into sabre or sharpshooter co.'s, one is able to fight mounted while the other to fight dismounted.  Riding little jaded horses with the saddle you rode from home on or a Confederate issued Jenifer saddle.  The whole idea of  using captured federal everything is a little out of the norm.  Throughout this site we have tried to paint the picture, in this section we will work to get many of the primary documents and studies posted.  When trying to solve the puzzle of what the soldier looked like one must remember to consider time period, unit, and location.  As all have a bearing on the whole picture.  


    The first stop to flesh out how a cavalryman looked and what he used is; Les Jenson's, A survey of Confederate central government quartermaster issue jackets.  Produced for the Journal of the Company of Military Historians.  It is the most in depth study of how the Confederate soldier was clothed.  Here is the link to the article;

  Arms.  Below we will list a number of primary documuments, they speak for themselves.  It is clear from the these documents that the Confederate cavalryman was rarely equipped with multiple revolvers but more often lucky if he had one and that the sabre was not throw away but recommended all the way to the end.  The issue of ammo is a nightmare, as all regiments have such a variety of long arms.  Listed are Shotguns, 1841 Mississippi rifles, Springfields, Enfields, Richmonds, smoothbores, Sharps, Burnsides, Merrills, Smiths, Spencers, among others.  It does become clear that the muzzle loader is the most common weapon among cavalry, and of these, they could be long or short making it difficult to carry or load on horseback!

Ord Offe.

Sept 5 1863


The cartridge boxes supplied to the cav are much complained of as too small and narrow in the apertures for holding the cartridge. They are too shallow for the .52 cal. cart.i.e., causing a portion to rub off and split and too small altogether for the cal .58, which is now the cal most used in the division..." Very respy.  Jno. Esten Cooke

He goes on to say a slight modification should take care of the problem.`He was J.E.B.'s chief of ord at this point.  What this tells us is the most common weapon is a muzzle loader!




the new English muzzle loading carbine lately issued to this div. gives great satifaction. It is an excellent weapon at 300 yds, and effective at 4 or 500 the men and officers both speak of them in high terms. The only fault found is in the sight which is too coarse, and would be much more effective by being made finer.

The Robinson Carbinbe Manufactored in Rich. continues to work badly, and at times burst it's stock, from defective junction of the parts.I am directed by Gen Stuart to return them to the ord. dept. at Rich.

Very respy.Jno. Esten Cooke"

.The cav carbine is mentioned by Caleb Huse in a report in Feb 3, '63, states that only 354 have been imported, as compared to the thousands of rifles and rifle muskets. However, in later cargo manifest ('63-'64) there are quite a few cases coming in from the Bahama warehouses, although many more are just labelled carbines or rifles. It is unclear if these were the artillery or cavalry carbine but from unit inspections it shows tons of Enfields long and short, among a variety of other weapons.


Here is an early report of imports, as you can see very few carbines compared to others.

Savannah, Ga., March 27, 1862.

 Brig. Gen. A. R. LAWTON,
Commanding Department of Georgia:

GENERAL: In reply to your verbal order of this morning I have the honor to make the following report of the arms, &c., received from Smyrna and how they have been distributed:


Description of arms.    No. boxes.    No. arms.    Marks on boxes.(*)

British muskets, rifled     118            2,360    

Smooth-bore muskets 12            240       

Short Enfield rifles      8            160       

Do                            4            80        

Do                            6            120       

Long Enfield rifles      37            740       

Do                            3            60        

Do                            2            40        

Do                            31            620       

Do                            1            20        

Do                            3            60        

Do                            10            200       

Artillery carbines            9            180       

British muskets, rifled     24            480            No marks taken.

Long Enfield rifles          8            160            Do.

Short Enfield rifles          4            80            Do.

Artillery carbines            2            40            Do.

Total                         282            5,640    


From this statement it appears that I received 31 cases, or 620 Enfield rifles, marked J. E. B.; 38 cases were received of which the marks were not taken; only 8 of the 38 were long Enfield rifles, so that as all the others marked J. E. B. were of this description it is fair to presume that no more of the 38 boxes were the property of the State of Georgia than 8 boxes long Enfield rifles--probably not more than 4 of the 8. To make it plainer: Guns which I know to be marked J. E. B., 620 long Enfield rifles; guns about which I am in doubt, 160 Enfield rifles. The guns were issued as follows, without reference to the original marks: To Col. C. M. Avery, New Berne, N. C., 500 long Enfield rifles; to General Earl Van Dorn, Jacksonport, Ark., 1,600 British muskets, rifled; to General A. S. Johnston, Decatur, Ala., 1,200 British muskets, rifled; Colonel Chalmers, Corinth, Miss., 440 short Enfield rifles and 360 long Enfield rifles; Col. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, Richmond, 220 artillery carbines, 40 English muskets, rifled, 240 smooth-bore muskets, 40 long Enfield rifles. Retained here by order of General Lee, 1,000 long Enfield rifles.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



These wartime correspondences come from Wade Hampton’s narrative written for Lee, c. 1867, in response to Lee’s request for information pertaining to the last year of the war.  It was uncovered by the fine research of Thomas Neil Rose in the South Carolina Library.


“War Department,

Ordinance Bureau,


   Please to represent to General Lee, the impossibility of arming the cavalry with carbines, sabres & pistols, owing to the paucity of our resources.  Request him to arm the cavalry brigades & divisions some with sabres & carbines & others with sabres & revolvers.  We will do our utmost to supply him with two arms for each cavalryman.  Beyond that it will be delusive to promise a supply.  Assure Genl. Lee besides that every effort is being made to get the best character of repeating & breech loading arms from abroad.

    It would be well to offer every inducement to the bringing in of Spencer Carbines & others.   There should be aggregated in one brigade, or division.  We will undertake to supply the peculiar ammunition in time for the campaign of next year.  All these things, with a decimated force of mechanics tax our utmost energies.  But we will not falter in our endeavors.

Very respectfully,

Yr Obt sr.,

 J. Gorgas Chief Ordnance”

“Head Qtrs. A. N. V. 6th decr. 1864

Respectfully referred to Genl. Hampton for his information & action.  I suppose this as all that can be done at present.  It would be well to arrange the armament of the cavalry as proposed and to commence it at once.

R.E.Lee General”

Note; they recommend all have a sabre!  So much for , "they threw the sabre away" non-sense.


Next is an extract from “Armament Report of the Cavalry Corps, December 15th 1864”.  Hampton included this extract in his narrative.  The source is the same as above. 

I will list regiments, number of men in Command, number of men unarmed, number of men with out sabres, number of men with out long range guns, number with out pistols, and then the totals.  These are quoted from the narrative; I have abbreviated to fit the page.

Reg.        men                         unarmed                 w/o sabres    w/o Long range guns                w/o pistols   

4th S.C.    183                          3                                                                                                          102

5SC         353                          122                          222                                                                        209         

6thSC     227                          27                            83                            ?                                              144

Cobb Legion223                   79                            53                            77                                            186

Jeff Davis 228                       39                            94                            67                                            141

Phillips  130                           26                            12                            59                                            87           

10th Ga.   80                            23                            *                              26                                            80

8th Ga.     135                          62                            105                                                                        181

Hinton Co. 22                        4                              3                                                                            22

4th NC     485                          4                              ?                              4                                              461

16th Batt.294                           15                            100                          19                                            235

1st NC      462                          127                          119                          15                                            389

2nd NC     489                          109                          195                          127                                          437

3rdNC     402                          42                            59                            109                                          402

5th NC     437                          75                            ?                              75                                            ?

9TH VA   600                          229                          228                          229                                          336

10th VA   450                          96                            91                            90                                            380

13th VA   322                          22                            2                              22                                            226

 TOTAL  5552                        1100                        1369                        925                                          4079 


"Strength of the charge is in the straightness of the line".  During the war most cavalry, North and South, used a double rank system, based on the 1841 cavalry tactics- Poinsette's.  AT this demo the rear rank, comprised of greenhorns, and had a bit of difficulty in maintaining their order!
 The Horse
Texas saddle, civilian, with a wartime connection. Horn is broken. Typical low cantle and slight forward horn branch. web Girth.
Another Texas saddle, attributed to Bradley Johnson. Very High end, only a master saddler would make this! Hooded bent wood stirrups. The hoods had pigskin pattern and an ornamental insert.  Brass trim.  Double skirt and quarter strap rigged.  Entire quilted. Cotton web Girth.  Typical civilian saddle bags can be seen under, 2 buckle.




A group of mid war cavalrymen captured in June of ’63.  Try and find reenactors who look like this!  Indications are these are men of the 1st Brigade, possibly Boston’s squadron, along with some local civilians rounded up by the federals during the week of fighting around Middleburg, Virginia, prior to Gettysburg. 


  An enlargement  of the center of that image.  This is a good example of what the confederate cavalryman looked like during the mid part of the war.  Notice some men wear matching, so-called, Richmond depot type 2 jackets (epaulets in clear view) and trousers.  Others appear to be Type 2’s of a different material or shade.  While a couple men are in a frock or a sack coat.  The civilians are easily picked out.  Nary a boot among the enlisted men, cavalry was being issued shoes not boots!  No cowboy hats, No chin strings, No feathers, no yellow trim, and Kepis that don’t look like baseball caps!  Try and find that in some J. P. Strain print or other so-called historical art!   Some can be seen carrying their canteens, and they are not attached to any saddle as reenactors often do!  It was prescibed in some manuals to never carry them on the saddle.  Nothing fancy about these fellows except their attitude.

 Another image of these men.  Soldiers and civilians can be easily picked out.  A soldiers motto may be, why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lay down.

Slouch hat


Enlisted Kepi, Jean cloth
Boots, Private purchase, Very rare over the knee riding boots.  Note, from the side the toe appears to almost come to a point.  The toe is Not blocked as the modern boots are! Napoleon style- Seam up the back and at the foot, waxed flesh, and pegged.
Boots,wellington style- one piece front, side seem. note the toe again pointed. Pegged sole. Possibly the federal issue boot.  Originally black and waxed flesh.
Boots, Bradley Johnson's, Slight cuban heel, napoleon style, sewn sole, very light fine leather, holes where heel fixing spurs were. This is a very high end boot!
Guantlet, Turner Ashby, None are made like this today. note the seems, the light weight, the welting , and pieced fingers.  Very fine.
Braces, buckles not friction adjusters.
Issued CS Sword belt.  There are several variations.  Most associated with Richmond depot come with a spear point stitch. Possibly early war as hardware appears for a shoulder strap, though I'm not sure if any surviving belt still has the strap.  Flesh out , black.  Late in the war they even produced these in cotton as leather was scarce.
Virginia Button, 12th cav
Great coat, jean cloth
Great coat close up.  Virginia staff button.
Saddle, British 1856 U.P. saddle.  A fair number of these were imported for the South. Turner Ashby owned one, which indicates they were coming in early, as Ashby dies June 6 of '62.
Officer's Jenifer, NPS, Pommel, The stuffed panel can be seen under.
Jenifer, single billet. Good view of the panel.
boots from the river boat Bertrand. shaved or cuban heel.
 mock eagle head saddle, early/mid 19th century.
 mock eagle head saddle early/mid 19th century