John Walter, Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman (Osprey, 2020)
Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman is part of Osprey’s Weapon series. Its author, John Walter, has written many books on small arms, so you know he is going into the weeds in his latest work, and if you thought that the Civil War cavalryman carried just a saber, carbine, and pistol then think again; there was much more variety in their weapons than popular culture suggests.
Walter dives straight into his subject, discussing the weapons American soldiers carried in their conflicts leading up to the Civil War before continuing into an overview of weapons logistics, particularly their manufacture in the US and foreign suppliers. He expands on the developments of the various longarms – rifles and carbines – of both sides, and there were many different types. Walter follows that with similar discussions on revolvers, including French and British models, with a detour into the small derringers for personal use as a last resort, and bladed weapons. How the cavalry was raised, organised, and fought is summarized with some examples of their use in battle. Walter notes there was no standard issue for all of these because the Civil War was initially a volunteer war. Walter also teases out the debate between the classic saber and the revolver for close combat. He finishes with an appendix on patents and a useful little bibliography for further reading.
If you are familiar with Osprey books, you will know that it is the illustrations and photographs that make them worthwhile, without disregarding the obvious expertise of the author of course. Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman does not disappoint in that regard, including an illustration of the famous and futile cavalry charge with lances at Valverde in 1862. In addition, photographs of weapons are included on almost every page. Anyone interested in Civil War cavalry will appreciate this slim but interesting book.
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