The 1st Virginia Cavalry began the war as a group of independent companies of horse from the Shenandoah Valley, organized into a regiment by J. E. B. Stuart, later of course to become a major general. At the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, they achieved renown as the dreaded "Black Horse Cavalry," though the origin of the sobriquet is obscure. For the remainder of the war they performed outstanding service with the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Stuart's horsemen wore chiefly homespun clothing of plain gray or butternut, with black facings on their short jackets. Broad-brimmed black hats with a black plume completed their attire. They were well-armed and carried Sharps carbines slung by leather shoulder belts, the standard model U.S. cavalry saber of the time and Colt Navy .36 caliber pistols. As with most Confederate cavalry units, many of their weapons were captured from the U.S. Cavalry.
One of the toughest mounted outfits in the Confederate Army was recruited from the rugged plainsmen of Texas, men for whom the Civil War was little more than the continuation of a struggle they had been waging for years, against Indians, Mexicans, or Free-Staters. They went into battle under their distinctive "Wigfall" flag, named for a leading Texan politician, Louis T. Wigfall, which bore the regiment's name and the motto, "God Defend the Right." To help in that defense, the sergeant in the foreground carries a rare Dance revolver, a Confederate-made copy of the Colt .44 Dragoon. Indicative of the disdain with which most cavalrymen regarded the saber as a weapon, these two do not even carry them. They sit on Hope saddles, and carry the minimum of gear, adhering to the dictum to travel light and fast. Several men, like the one carrying the banner, wore a silver star on their hats, symbolizing Texas.
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