Troops usually manoeuvred in columns of fours, a small flexible formation, which could pass obstacles and deploy easily.
The charge was either made in two ranks, or in accordance with later manuals, a single rank. However, a charge could also be made in columns of fours or double columns of fours.
Despite popular belief a charge was not made over any and all ground. Wherever possible the ground was scouted first, and obstacles cleared. A charge delivered over rough ground, fences or hedges, would break the ranks of all but the best trained and mounted troops, and would have a worse effect on those delivering the charge than contact with the enemy !
Cavalry would fight dismounted when required, eg, to take and hold ground until the arrival of infantry; to cover gaps in a battle line, to cover a retreat, to force defended places or ground impractical for cavalry. Dismounted tactics were used extensively by General John H. Morgan on raids. Typical deployment in action is shown in the diagram below. The number fours and the Corporals in each troop acted as horse-holders in action, as sheltered as possible but near to the firing line.
The cavalry's role was primarily, and traditionally, that of scouting and flank protection for the main army. On outpost duty the idea was two-fold : to set up a flexible screen against infiltrating patrols, and watch and report on enemy
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CAVALRY REGIMENT IN ACTION DISMOUNTED
This is a typical deployment for a cavalry regiment. A: Skirmishers in open order in advance of the main body. B: The horse holders, number fours, are at C, in as sheltered positions as possible by taking advantage of any natural obstacles, eg, trees, rocks, hollows in the ground, but alvyays readily available for the dismounted troopers to mount up quickly. D: Mounted companies on one or both flanks.
movements. Half the patrols strength formed the grand guard. In front and to both flanks of this at a distance of some 500 yards were pickets and another 500 yards from these, single vedettes.
Patrols moved continually from grand guard to picket. Early in the morning patrols went at least two miles forward from the vedettes. Pickets and vedettes remained saddled and bridled ready for action. This type of duty was especially hard on men and horses. In addition, search and destroy operations were mounted in increased numbers, and used more and more troops as the war progressed.
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