President Lincoln Conducts Spectacular Review of Cavalry

April 6, 1863

A grand review of the Army of the Potomac was again postponed  because of weather.

Although the weather made a review of the Army of the Potomac impractical, President Lincoln greets army officers in the morning before saddling up to review the cavalry units of the army.  Journalist Noah Brooks , who was part of the presidential party, wrote that “on the 6th there was a grand cavalry review by the President and General Hooker.  The entire cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac is now massed as a whole, instead of being distributed among each of the corps as formerly, and is commanded by Major General Stoneman, the best cavalry officer in the service, Brigadier General [Averell]], the hero of Kelly’s Ford, being the second in command.  The cavalry force is probably the largest ever known to warfare, being now about 17,000, larger than the famous force of Murat, who is esteemed the pattern of al cavalry officers.  This arm of our service has been of little account heretofore, owing to the mismanagement and imbecility of [General George B.] McClellan, but now, educated by experience, and allowed a latitude of operations by the present commander of the Army of the Potomac, it promises to make a brilliant record for itself when the time comes, and already the gallant Averell, one of the most modest and quiet officers in the army, has inspirited the whole cavalry corps with a feeling of emulation which will tell when they are called into action.”

Brooks wrote: “Arrived on the ground, the President was greeted with the usual salute of twenty-one guns, which was the first intimation, by the way, that most of the army had of his presence among them.  The troops were drawn up in squadrons on the long swells of the rough country where we were, and the cavalcade rode through all of the splendid lines at race horse speed, colors dipping, drums rolling and trumpets blaring wherever the President appeared.  It was very muddy and also windy, and the sacred soil flew in all directions, making the gala clothes of the military big-wigs and their train appear as though they had been bombarded with mud shells; occasionally a luckless wight got thrown and ran a narrow chance of life among the rushing feet of the cavalcade.  In the midst of all rode little ‘Tad,’ the President’s boy, clinging to the saddle of his pony as tenaciously as the best man among them, his gray cloak flying at the head like the famous plume of him of Navarre.   The President had the glorious privilege of riding bareheaded, while common folks could cover their nobs from the raw and gusty weather.  It is a nice thing to be distinguished.”

The tour of the cavalry in line being finished, the party took position and the columns were set in motion, marching past the post of the President and party.  It was a grand sight to look upon this immense mass of cavalry in motion with banners waving, music crashing, and horses prancing, as the vast columns came on and one, winding like a huge serpent over hills and dales, stretching far away out of sight.  Never before upon this continent was there such a sight witnessed, and probably never again will there be in our country so great a number – seventeen thousand – assembled together, men and horses, and all looking in excellent condition and admirably fit for service.

Historian John J. Hennesey wrote: “Just as the view gave Lincoln the chance to see the army, it also gave the army the chance to see him and, equally important, itself.  The experience stimulated intense reflection on the war, the army, and the nation’s leader.  One of the officers present ruminated, ‘Who would have thought, five years ago, that such a sight as this would ever be possible in a democratic, republican America?’….A New York cavalryman noted that the president ‘looks thin and careworn, as if his strength would scarcely carry him to the end of his term.’  Thousands of others made similar comments.”

Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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